The only constant when it comes to Joel Quenneville’s line combinations with the Chicago Blackhawks is that they are always going to change.
The one exception to that over the past couple of seasons has been the second line of Patrick Kane, Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin, a truly dynamic trio that could take over any game at any time. But with Panarin now playing in Columbus following an offseason trade to reacquire Brandon Saad even that line has been broken apart.
He talked about that experience this weekend, via CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers.
“It’s been good, actually,” Anisimov said. “Every time it’s a challenge, you know? It’s hard to play without those two guys, but you have to adapt to situations and I can play with every player. I’ll try to do my best with any player on the team.”
Replacing Anisimov alongside Kane has been 21-year-old Nick Schmaltz. If he ends up sticking on that line for any reasonable amount of time it should help to boost his production a little bit.
Dropping Anisimov down to his own line could, in theory, help to stretch out the Blackhawks’ depth a little bit and not make them quite as top heavy. If he ends up playing on a line with a young standout like Debrincat — who absolutely should make the roster — it could help create a pretty dynamic third line … assuming Anisimov is able to maintain his current level of production away from Kane and Panarin.
Anisimov has played the best hockey of his career with the Blackhawks (averaging more than 20 goals and 45 points each year) but he has also been surrounded by some pretty high-end talent. Debrincat has the look of a potential star, and Sharp has been a high-level player in the past, so it’s not like he is going to be dragging around some anchors. But it is still a pretty significant change.
Of course, given how much the Blackhawks juggle their lines it is probably only a matter of time until he ends up back alongside Kane anyway.