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Second-line center spot up for grabs in Chicago

Aug 16, 2013, 11:20 AM EDT

Brandon Saad Getty Images

There wasn’t a lot to dislike about the Chicago Blackhawks when they entered the 2013 playoffs. This was, after all, a team that had gone 36-7-5 in the regular season, easily winning the Presidents’ Trophy.

But if one had to nitpick, it might’ve been about the team’s second-line center, which at the time appeared to be veteran Michal Handzus.

The ‘Hawks had recently given up a fourth-round draft pick to get Handzus from San Jose, where the 36-year-old had scored just two points in 28 games. He was a bit more productive in 11 games with the Blackhawks, but productive enough to be a second-line center on a Stanley Cup contender? There were doubters.

Handzus ended up proving those doubters wrong, finishing with 11 points in 23 playoff games as the ‘Hawks went on to win their second championship in four years. He then re-signed for one more season in Chicago, at a modest salary of $1 million. Plus, he had a couple of surgeries.

Despite his surprisingly strong playoff performance, Handzus isn’t really the player the Blackhawks want playing second-line center next season. Nor will it be Dave Bolland, who was traded to Toronto.

Ahead of training camp, it’s young Brandon Saad who seems to have the inside edge.

“Saader is probably the guy we’re thinking maybe grab that spot, would be an option,” head coach Joel Quenneville said in late July. “It’s something we talked about as a staff late in the year. It’s something going into the season we could be exploring.”

Saad, 20, is coming off an outstanding rookie season, but that was playing on the wing. At center, there are additional responsibilities, particularly in the defensive end.

“Defensively, I think we can get him up to speed,” said Quenneville.

“At the end of the day, I mean I don’t really care who’s going to grab it, but it’s a nice spot for somebody.”

Other options include Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger, Handzus, Brandon Pirri and Drew LeBlanc.

  1. illashell - Aug 16, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    Definitely pulling for the kid Saad.

  2. blackhawks2010 - Aug 16, 2013 at 11:51 AM


  3. endusersolutions2013 - Aug 16, 2013 at 11:51 AM

    In the AHL, Saad played wing. Pirri is a pure center, who led the AHL in points last year.

    One problem the Hawks have, wich most teams would love to have is too few spots on the top two lines for the players who deserve a shot.

    Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp, Saad, Bickel. Who would you NOT want on the top two lines. To have Pirri or LeBlanc there means someone has to be bumped to 3rd line. May not happen day one, but I see Saad and Bickel spending some time on the 3rd line.

    Jimmy Hayes has played both wing and center, and he’s ready to move up as well. Ben Smith and Jeremy Morin are also ready to move up, as Ryan Stanton (D) likely is as well.

    Many worse problems to have.

    • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 16, 2013 at 11:54 AM

      Thinking of depth, anyone know of a site that tracks scoring by line? Hawks must have been at or near the top for their 3rd and 4th line, and I strongly suspect that they will do so this year.

    • alexbaymac - Aug 16, 2013 at 1:29 PM

      I have to agree that I’d like to keep Saad at wing & give Perri a shot at 2C. That said, Q is a great coach that will make Perri WORK for the shot at it…& I think he will.

      • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 16, 2013 at 2:57 PM

        I’ve wondered if one of the reasons he said that was to challenge Pirri. “Time to bring it, two ways son” kinda stuff.

  4. rendy09o - Aug 17, 2013 at 4:06 AM

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  5. jacketsfan7 - Aug 17, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    Wouldn’t mind pirri or Leblanc

  6. shadow8pro - Aug 20, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    Every time he scored a goal my brothers and I would yell, “You’ve just been Saad-omized!’ Is that wrong?

    • bombscarejr - Aug 22, 2013 at 1:05 PM

      Depends on if it ended right there?

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