Ted Knight

Well, We’re Waiting – The Committed Indian.com’s Season Preview: The 2nd Line

Let’s keep this ship rolling right along. We get to the first “hole” the Hawks have, and that’s the second line center. They have wingers who fit here, Marian Hossa and Viktor Stalberg (and before you start, 21 goals without a PP one makes you a second line winger on most if not all teams). You could have Brandon Saad here as well, because I think this is where he’s ending up. We know Kane will end up here at times, and that Patrick Sharp probably should but won’t. But for now, let’s go with how it pretty much looked like last year, and that’s Stalberg-Kruger-Hossa.

Right, to it.

Viktor Stalberg (aka Vik Rattlehead): 79GP – 21G – 22A – 43P – +6 – 10.2 SH% – 0.12 Behind The Net Rating

Oh Stals. Yet another player I get hoarse defending. I understand most people’s complaint about Stalberg. You see the speed, you see the size to go with it, combined with a decent nose for the net, and you want to see him dominate games. Well, he’s not going to. That doesn’t mean he’s not a fine complimentary player who combined with his contract is one of the more valuable around. Stalberg could actually end up on the third line, you may remember he and Bickell making life hell for defensemen on the forecheck at times last year. He’s also been playing in Sweden, so he should be pretty sharp. There’s also a free agent period dangling out front of Rattlehead. You combine all that, and I think you’ll see another highly effective season out of the easy-on-the-eyes-Swede.

What’s hanging over Stalberg is disappearing in the playoffs the past two years (if you take out setting up the two OT winners the Hawks managed last year by hounding defensemen on the forecheck). Until he does that Hawks fans will never warm up to him en masse. We can also look for Stals to be bounced up and down the lineup, because when Q gets the blender out it’s always Stalberg that’s the first in it. We also probably won’t see Stals on either special teams unit, though I still maintain he could at least be a weapon on the kill. Because what opposing point-man wouldn’t be sweating and hesitating, knowing that any fumble will see Stalberg off and impossible to catch?

I think we’d all like to see Stalberg use his frame a little more, but if it were in him we probably already would have. He’s far from a perfect player, but that doesn’t mean he’s a useless one. Not by a longshot. Keep in mind that he was third best in CORSI for the Hawks last year, behind only Sharp and Toews.

Marcus Kruger (aka Dream Warrior aka Freddy): 71G – 9G – 17A – 26P – +11 – 10.1 SH% – 0.68 Behind The Net Rating

One of the apples of both Stan Bowman’s and Joel Quenneville’s eye. And it’s easy to understand why. Kruger is a very smart, responsible player who doesn’t seem to do much wrong. He’s unafraid to get dirty along the wall or in front of the net, even though he’s not much heavier than a box of Kleenex.

But we know what Kruger can’t do. He’s not a playmaker, at least not yet. He gets knocked around. He can’t win an important faceoff. Which makes him a tweener. I think he’d be an awesome 4th line center, because his buzzing style of play would fit in well with a energy line and his scoring would be considered glorious from the bottom unit. But seeing as how the Hawks don’t have a real #2 center (or one they’ll play there), he has to fill in.

What makes it hard to read Kruger is his very ho-hum play in Rockford. He started on fire, but has seriously become just part of the scenery later. Is it because he was bored? Saving himself? Just afraid to stick out at whatever level he’s at? Struggling with a purely offensive role? None of these questions make you feel any better.

It’s not that Kruger does anything badly. He just doesn’t make you get out of your seat. You’ll look at him and just want more. But he won’t hurt you except for at the dot. And we’re probably in for more of that and only that.

Marian Hossa: 81G – 29G – 48A – 77P – +18 – 11.7 SH% – 0.93 Behind The Net Rating

It’s been so long I forgot Hossa was the Hawks’ leading scorer last year. Though I haven’t forgotten how many times he made our jaws drop with his sheer power. There’s nothing couth about Hossbollah’s game. It’s straight-lines, through whatever might be in the way. And for a majority of the season, it was purely devastating.

But now we have all the questions for Hossa that we have for Toews, plus his age. While the time off allowed Hossa to fully recuperate, anyone who tells you they know what eight months off will do to a player is lying. Even when he missed his first two months of his Hawks career, that was five months off. Secondly, that major of a concussion could cause a hesitation or tentativeness in his game, at least to start. We don’t know, and neither does Hossa.

The other thing is that Hossa faded a bit toward the end of last season, and wasn’t much of a factor in the first two playoff games before the lights went out. How are his legs, which have been driving this monster truck for almost 1,000 regular season games (he’ll pass that this season) going to handle a compressed schedule? Will there be anything left when it matters? I don’t know, and you probably don’t either.

It’s a safe bet to say that there will be games when he looks like something out of the world of Marvel. There will probably be more nights than we’d like where he’s not noticeable. To save his legs, if Q were smart he’d get Hossa off the penalty kill, at least for a while. Yes, he’s a weapon there, but it’s the best place to shave some of his minutes down. Couldn’t Stalberg do some of what Hossa does on the kill? I wonder.

  • pstumba

    I love Kruger, but he did take some stupid penalties last year. They may just stick out in my head, but I think they are really because he is used to being able to use his stick more which the NHL chooses not to like when it feels like it.

    One thing I worry about with him is his durability. He is on the concussion horse as well which some people forget and he is small to boot. His game hasnt seemed to change though, which is what worries me. He still puts him self in front of the crease and gets dirty along the boards. That might put in him in the “quiet room” for a while…

    • 10thMountainFire

      Talk about Marcus Kruger that way again and I’ll kill this kitten.

    • Joe Banks

      My gut feeling is that Kruger will become noticeable this year.

      • 2883

        He’s David Bolland -lite without all the trolling and getting into the head of the Sedins. Maybe 35 pts from him (in a full 82) so figure maybe 20 from him this season.

    • ahnfire

      that’s why I call him “Frogger” – he keeps running out to play in traffic even though he’s so small.

  • pstumba

    also great point with the Hossa/Stalberg pk

  • Waylon

    Stals is one of my faves, and I’m going to hate to see him go – but the way Q uses him drives me nutty. I thought he made great strides last year, but you’d
    never know it by listening to the relentless hate that Foley and No – Check dish out to him daily. Eddie should know by now that crapping on a player for not being physical enough is the worst kind of hypocricy.

    • Joe Banks

      THIS. In my opinion, Stals has continually improved on his checking and physicality… although he’ll never strike fear into opponents, he’s giving 100%. Speed kills, and that’s what he brings.

      • raditzzzz

        i am a stalberg apologist, but the one thing that concerns me is his game during the playoffs. during the season, when the ice is open, he is a great threat and i liked seeing him on the top two lines, opening up space for hoss, kane and sharp. but when the post season hit, and that space to play disappeared once defenses tighten up greatly, he all but vanished in the offensive zone.

        so, to me, he is a very difficult player for a coach. you want those offensive skills racking points during the season, but if none of that translates into the playoffs, he might be best relegated to the 3rd line to let him carve out that niche with his teammates, up his defensive abilities and be a threat on breakaways. even though all last year i wanted him on the top lines constantly, i am conflicted in that i just don’t think his offensive game is built for the post season, when you need it most.

  • 10thMountainFire

    The very idea of being afforded the luxury to watch Marian Hossa play hockey another year is making me twitch in my seat. Get the fucking puck dropped already, fuckers.

    • Accipiter

      This.
      Marian Hossa Please !!

  • red palace

    Sam, I mostly agree with you on each of these players. Especially Stals, despite his streakiness, I like the grinder in him and want to see him more on the PP and 4v4.

    But I just don’t see this trio playing together a whole lot. Come to think of it, I don’t see any line playing together a whole lot. Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha …. Ha .. Ha …… hhah……….

  • Sparky_The_Barbarian

    I think I’d prefer Sharpie to center this line with Stals on the first line at LW. But I’m sure I will change my mind.

  • Sparky_The_Barbarian

    Just curious if anyone has crunched numbers for Stals against teams that aren’t based in Ohio.

  • Joe Banks

    Second line Center
    How many years has it been?
    I wish we had one

  • cliffkoroll

    Nice write-up Sam. Stals has definitely earned top-6 ice to start the season, and I expect he’ll earn the right to stay there.
    A year later, and Freddy is still the #2 center. Guh. Any young ‘uns poised to make the move? Danault? McNeil?

  • Woods

    Hi, Stan Bowman? Yes, hello. Can you please tell us who the best #2 Center on your Blackhawks is and how they rank against the rest of the league? Thanks.

  • M7

    Something relevant to all of this line-mate discussion… this morning on the radio I heard an interesting tidbit from Darryl Sutter remembering the post lockout 94-95 season while he was coaching the Hawks.

    That season he used 21 forwards and 9 defensemen. These numbers were slightly inflated via the outgoing trades of Paul Ysebaert, Christian Ruuttu and Rich Sutter for forwards Denis Savard, Jim Cummins and defenseman Gerald Diduck. Notwithstanding, that still reflects a forward/defense utilization of 18 & 8, respectively. That’s a lot. During the interview he cited fatigue and injury as the obvious factors but his opinion (and it’s one I share) is that teams need to feel confident in their depth of replacement. Without question, injury to any two of our big 7 (I’m sure we can all figure out to whom I’m referring) cannot be easily replaced. But it’s the ability to confidently replace depth forwards and d-men due to preferable match-up, injury or fatigue that will probably carry this team through. It’s as close to a necessity as there can be over the length of a compressed schedule. To me this means that body maintenance and injury avoidance is of paramount importance and the best way to succeed in this department is the ability to inject various people in relief over the course of the season.

    So… do we have enough depth? Are we confident that Q can roll out the likes of Hayes, Carcillo, Mayers, Bollig, Shaw, Bickell, Saad, Morin, Pirri somewhat interchangeably over 48 games (factoring in utility at specific positions)? Likewise for new additions Rozsival and Brookbank on the point. Using them confidently, at times, for 10-12 minutes/ night is likely.

    I think to some degree, the lack of depth the past two seasons has fostered the growth of improved depth amongst forwards 7 thru 12 for this season when it probably matters more than in any normal schedule. The added veteran presence on D can’t hurt either. At least I hope so. Having a lockdown roster of 12 forwards and 6 d is nice, but it’s probably impractical this year.