I hate to say it, but it needs to be said: Michal Handzus is over the hill and needs to be benched. Now. Handzus has been a good player for much of his career. His presence helped the Chicago Blackhawks in last year’s Stanley Cup Final. But that was last year. This year has been a completely different story, as Handzus’s weaknesses — particularly his slow pace — have come up front and center (no pun intended).
It should be noted that Handzus is not the main reason for all of the Hawks’ problems. But his presence is slowing the team down … literally. When paired up with Handzus, Patrick Kane went scoreless in 300 even-strength minutes. In fact, looking at the numbers, it becomes obvious that Handzus is holding the team back. For example, Ben Smith has a 43.9 CF% with Handzus. Without him, he has a 51.4 CF%. When not on the ice with him, the team tends to play faster.
And that speed is what the Hawks are going to need to beat the St. Louis Blues in this first-round series. Handzus committed a major defensive lapse that allowed the first Blues’ goal of the game. One good pass and reliability isn’t going to mask the fact that Handzus is the weak part in the Blackhawks’ machine.
Unfortunately, Joel Quenneville‘s stubborn insistence on using Handzus is a big problem. Peter Regin would be a better fit at center than Handzus in this playoff series. Instead, he’s languishing in the press box. The same with Jeremy Morin. In fact, I still blame Handzus as the reason the Hawks traded Brandon Pirri. The Hawks need to be going for the kill against a banged-up Blues team. Keeping Handzus in the lineup is preventing that.
Handzus has had a great career. Unfortunately, he’s well past his prime. The longer he stays on the ice, the more he harms the Blackhawks’ chances.