Blackhawks Offseason Outlook: Wingers

Blackhawks Kane and HossaThe Chicago Blackhawks boast a handful of all-world players that play on the wing. Marian Hossa ranks fourth among active players for careers goals. Patrick Kane added the Conn Smythe to his ever-expanding trophy shelf last month. Patrick Sharp has netted double-digit goals in both of Chicago’s Stanley Cup runs.

Hard to believe all three play on the same team. Each was invited to compete for a spot on their country’s Olympic roster in Sochi, Russia next February. Brandon Saad, who is just 20 years old, also received an invite. There is a rumor floating around that he may get a chance to play in the middle of the ice and center the second line.

Throughout the regular season, fans were reminded that both Viktor Stalberg and Bryan Bickell were playing in the final year of their respective contracts. The writing was on the wall that only one would be retained. For the majority of the year, they play on opposite wings on the checking lines and ended up with identical statistics (9 goals and 14 assists for a total of 23 points).

In the first game of the postseason, Stalberg had the primary assist on Bickell’s overtime goal against the Minnesota. After that, they proceeded to go in opposite directions. Bickell nearly matched his regular season output with 17 points in 23 playoff games. Stalberg, meanwhile, was a healthy scratch four times in the postseason.

They both signed four-year deals. Bickell will earn $16 million and stay in Chicago. Stalberg (somehow) found $12 million in Nashville and will have to wear one of the ugliest sweaters in the entire league. Bickell will most likely get a shot to start on the top line with Kane and Jonathan Toews. But unless he produces on a consistent basis, he will find himself back in the bottom six.

With the trade of Daniel Carcillo to Los Angeles, Brandon Bollig is the lead agitator on the team. Kyle Beach signed a one-year deal to remain in the organization. He was drafted in the first round back in 2008, but has yet to play in an NHL game. He’s really the only player besides Bollig who would be willing to fill that role.

The ‘Hawks have a handful of guys who will be battling for spots to fill out the roster. Ben Smith received an emergency start when Hossa’s back was too stiff to play in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. Smith had an OK season in the minors. He had 47 points in 54 games with the Rockford Icehogs. This will be his best chance at making the team to start the year since he received a concussion in the 2011 preseason.

Jeremy Morin and Jimmy Hayes are a couple other guys who will be competing for spot on the big club. They each played in 67 games for Rockford. Morin had 58 points, while Hayes had 45. Hayes has more experience at the NHL level, playing in 41 career games. He’s a big body (6’5” – 210) but has had trouble sticking around.

This will definitely be the most interesting position to watch once training camp rolls around. Kane, Hossa, Sharp, Saad and Bickell are the only locks for spots on the wings, and there is a possibility that one of those guys shifts to center. That leaves at least three spots open for the taking and I’m sure the coaching staff wouldn’t want it any other way.

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