Grit. Sandpaper. Toughness.
It’s the staple of any Stanley Cup-winning team, including the one that brought the Cup back to Chicago in 2010. It might have been missing since then but do the Blackhawks think they’ve already addressed the issue for 2012-2013?
Brandon Bollig is a restricted free agent and assuming he’ll be re-signed, the Hawks might have enough in the sandpaper department -- or at least they think they do.
The key player to this puzzle has to be Daniel Carcillo. Many have already made the case the Hawks season tanked after he went down with a season-ending knee injury while earning a seven-game suspension at the same time in early in January. The facts do prove the Hawks were on top of the conference at the time Carcillo went down and then plummeted through the standings afterwards.
The team thought so highly of Carcillo they re-signed him well before they knew for sure he would return -- physically -- as the same player he was before, and well before he became a free agent. They still don’t know for sure how his knee will respond, but even if he’s healthy they can’t be sure he’ll behave. Or maybe they don’t care.
Think about it, how many players get two-year deals out of a dirty hit that resulted in not only hurting the opposing player but himself and his team? The Hawks must think very highly of Carcillo. He showed flashes that he can be that player they signed him to be, skilled but nasty. And coach Joel Quenneville never wavered from his support despite multiple suspensions. It’s obvious the Hawks are willing to live with the bad that comes with a guy nicknames “Car Bomb.”
Expect Carcillo to see top-6 forward minutes and play with the Hawks skilled players just as he mostly did before his injury. Underneath him, the Hawks do have some grinders that could/should help in the sandpaper department.
Andrew Shaw was everyone’s favorite fifth-round draft pick and reminded many of Carcillo. He seemed to have more of a scoring touch around the net then Carcillo but it remains to be seen if he’s that skilled and can hold up for 82 games year after year. But there is little doubt he can mix it up with the best of them and cause some havoc on the ice in the same vein as Carcillo.
Along with Shaw, there is Jamal Mayers and Bollig. Both mostly did their job when called upon though Bollig only played in 18 regular season games, and Mayers was benched in the playoffs. But if toughness is what you’re after then those two can be a tag team- fighting machine on the fourth line or when called upon elsewhere to deliver a message to the opposition as Bollig was several times down the stretch.
Carcillo, Shaw, Mayers and Bollig, and throw in mainstay Dave Bolland and maybe Bryan Bickell. That’s the bulk of your sandpaper and grit. Is it enough to get their names on the Stanley Cup a year from now and is it all the grit the Hawks will go after this offseason? It’s too early to tell on both accounts, but at least it’s a good start.