As long as Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are lodged into the Chicago Blackhawks’ lineup they will always be a Cup contender.
Ultimately capturing the title is another story.
Entering the 2016-17 campaign, the ‘Hawks, for arguably the first time since their championship run in 2010, have oodles of questions and concerns spider-webbed throughout their roster. And due to these red flags, they barely crack a top-five team out west alone.
Although Corey Crawford remains to be a scapegoat for Chicago’s misfortunes—which he probably was following a home-opening 5-2 loss to the Blues, despite stopping 29 of 32—for the ‘Hawks to post as a dynamically-challenging opponent, Marian Hossa has to wake up from last year’s slumber.
Hossa, who seems to be marred with ailments year-in-and-year-out, was only able to register 33 points (13G, 20A) in 64 contests last season, and in order for Chicago to be a factor he must ease the pressure off the team’s star talents. Especially considering past Kane, Panarin and Toews the scoring drops off.
In their bottom-six, you can hear the crickets: Ryan Hartman (could be a jumpstart), Vince Hinostroza, Marcus Kruger, Tyler Motte (another potential sleeper), Nick Schmaltz and Jordin Tootoo. A mixture of young and mediocre, it means the top-six is beyond utterly pivotal toward Chicago’s success.
You’re going to see Kane, Panarin and Toews do their thing; it’s an attribute to their pedigree. But Hossa is and was what they are.
Hossa’s recipe for rekindling his scoring prowess? Simply helping the team win.
“I don’t want to just have any goals in my head like how many I want to score,” Hossa said, per Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc. “I just want to play good hockey, enjoy the time and help the team to win. When all those things come together you’re going to be successful offensively.”
What Hossa is able to generate can also trickle down to the younger players, as aforementioned. While his twine-tickling and point-manufacturing is greatly beneficial to the rest of the top-six, it can also serve as a fond lead-by-example tactic toward boosting the production in the bottom half of their lineup.
Sure, there are veterans upon veterans to model your game after on Chicago, but Hossa’s experience and versatile skill-set certainly doesn’t go unnoticed.
“(I said), keep playing the right way (because) you send a message to these kids by how you play, particularly without the puck and your backside pressure,” head coach Joel Quenneville said, per Kuc. “And your speed through the neutral zone offensively is something (they) can absorb just by watching. We use a lot of his positioning around the ice and the way he skates to show these kids about playing the right way.”
Perhaps Hossa is finally show his age, but there are players—like Jaromir Jagr, the grandpa who’s ironically in Florida—that can contribute consistently. Of course, with respect to the toll hockey does to a player’s body, Hossa’s presence throughout the years has been electric and fruitful.
“I’m glad I can still play at my age because it doesn’t happen often, guys playing at this age (and) playing at a high level,” Hossa said. “I was lucky with not many big injuries and playing with great players. They definitely helped me to score these numbers, but the main thing when I joined Chicago we won three Cups. That’s my highlight.”
Hossa now needs find that resurgence. A fourth Cup is weighing in the balance.