Tag: center

Detroit Red Wings v Chicago Blackhawks

Is a position change in Patrick Kane’s future?

The Chicago Blackhawks lost in a shootout to the rival Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night. As exciting as preseason shootouts can be, the biggest news from Joe Louis Arena may not have come from the ice—but from the Blackhawks head coach’s postgame comments. Joel Quenneville shared with assorted media members that the coaching staff is looking at star winger Patrick Kane as a possible solution for Chicago’s gaping hole at center on the second line.

The announcement is a bit surprising in that it was assumed that Patrick Sharp was going to make the move from wing to center this season. Sharp has played center at times with both the Philadelphia Flyers and the Chicago Blackhawks over the course of his career. Last season, the #10 Train had a career year with 34 goals and 37 assists for the Hawks while playing mostly on the wing.

Sharp still may end up being the long-term replacement for Troy Brouwer for the Hawks this season. But Quenneville’s public statements mean that the organization plans on giving Kane a serious look. In fact, this has been going on for a while in practices during training camp this year. He told CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers that, “he’s been playing center throughout scrimmages and practices now and we’ll see.”

This wouldn’t be the first time Patrick Kane has ever played center. He has experience and Quenneville thinks he might be able to play the all-around game expected from an NHL pivot:

“He’s played center most of his life. Defensively, he’s gotten better as he’s grown… down low on the walls. It’s something we’re going to at least take a look at.”

The obvious changes from wing to center are the defensive responsibilities and faceoff duties. Kane only took 14 face-offs all season—and only won two of them. But another change that isn’t as well publicized, is the difference for a center when the team breaks out of their own zone. Wingers are usually looking back at the play, while centers can see the entire ice in front of them. Players with good vision (like Kane) can see the play develop with all of the action unfolding up the ice. For highly-skilled forwards, transitioning to the center position can be easier than transitioning to wing.

Whether the Hawks decide to move Kane, Sharp, or a prospect like Marcus Kruger to center, figuring out the second line pivot is one of the more important decisions the coaching staff will make in training camp. Jonathan Toews has the top center position locked up for the next twenty years and Dave Bolland has established himself as a premier shutdown defender. Guys like Daniel Carcillo and Jamal Mayers may prove they can play center on the fourth line, leaving the noticeable void on the second line.

It’s intriguing to hear that Chicago is considering a player like Kane at center. Not only is it interesting that they’d split up the Toews/Kane duo, but seeing Kane put in a position to create offensive with a pair of wingers, is something that could be interesting. Guys like Daniel Briere and Derek Roy have been proving that centers no longer need to be the 6’4”, 230 lbs imposing physical forces they used to be. Then again, not everyone can make the transition with the increased defensive duties.

Since it’s the preseason, what do you think? Would you like to see Patrick Kane play center for a few games, or do you think it’s pointless to mess with a good thing?

Ryan Johansen already getting an assist from Jeff Carter

Columbus Blue Jackets v Pittsburgh Penguins

The Columbus Blue Jackets passed on a few talented blueliners when they selected Ryan Johansen with the fourth overall pick in the 2010 Entry Draft. Instead of picking the highly touted Cam Fowler or Brandon Gormley, Columbus went with the Portland Winterhawks’ Johansen because he’s a big, talented kid who looks tailor-made for the NHL. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he plays center.

Since the moment Rick Nash was drafted with the #1 pick in 2002, the Blue Jackets have been looking for a top-flight center to serve as his running mate. A ying to his yang. A Gretzky to his Kurri. Pick your metaphor—they wanted to pair him up with a star center to create one of the most dangerous 1-2 punches in the league. By trading for Jeff Carter this offseason, Columbus finally has the top line they’ve been dreaming about for a decade.

The timing of the trade couldn’t have been better. As Carter embarks on the second chapter of his career in a new city, Ryan Johansen is expected to make a serious push for an NHL spot this season. They hope he’ll eventually evolve into a top-line pivot that can match up with the best of the best. But for now, top-line duties might be asking a bit much from the 19-year-old.

That’s where Carter comes in.

Carter taking over the center position on the top line means that Derick Brassard will be able to move down to the 2nd line center. In turn, it means Johansen will be able to ease into the NHL without facing elite competition on a nightly basis. Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel explained the new dynamic to NHL.com:

“Obviously, we’re in a different position than maybe we would have been two months ago prior to the Jeff Carter trade. We drafted Ryan because we needed to get stronger through the middle of the ice. He has an opportunity to come in and battle for a job on our hockey team, but at the same time he doesn’t have to be one of our top two centers if he does make our hockey club. He’s a talented kid who can play in a lot of situations.”

The smart money is on Johansen to make the team out of training camp. Like Brayden Schenn last season, Johansen is in the awkward position of making the NHL club or being sent back down to his junior team. Only time will tell if he’s ready to make the jump to the NHL, but he’s certainly accomplished all he can in the WHL. He’ll get every opportunity to make the Blue Jackets since the American Hockey League isn’t an option.

The Blue Jackets look to have improved depth up front if their forwards are able to stay healthy this season. Derick Brassard, R.J. Umberger, Antoine Vermette, Kristian Huselius (when he returns), and Vaclav Prospal join Nash and Carter as legitimate scoring options this season. If Matt Calvert can continue to mature and Johansen takes the next step, the Blue Jackets could have depth that the Buckeye State hasn’t seen since… well… ever.

Carter moving to the top of the roster will slide each center back into their appropriate position. The next step is showing that they can perform in their expected roles.