If a genie popped out of nowhere and said, "Hey Justin… you have 3 wishes and they all must relate to the Chicago Blackhawks." Well, I would just ask for 3 more Stanley Cups.
However, for the purpose of this blog, I will take a more realistic approach to this exercise by honing in on 3 specific players and what I hope for in the remaining games in their performances/progressions. I will rationalize these players by relating their individual success to the overall success of the Chicago Blackhawks moving forward.
Got it? Good. Here we go:
1) I wish for Connor Murphy to make me stop sounding like a broken record and to step into a permanent top 4 D spot: there is no doubt that the Hawks need help on defence. It's been well documented and there have been some excellent chats on the boards lately and who Stan should target in the off-season.
By my count, the Hawks need 2x defenders who aren't currently on this roster to step in next year and play in the top 4. Things would be a lot easier for Stan and Q (or whoever is running the show) if Connor Murphy took over a top 4 defensive, effective PKer/shot blocker role.
Right now, the Hawks are trying a myriad of options all over the lineup. If the Hawks are successful next year Gustafsson, Oesterle, Rutta and Brent Seabrook are all vying for a bottom pairing spot.
Then, if my wish comes true, you have Keith and Murphy in the top 4 with a veteran free agent (if not 2) brought in to play in one of the top 2 pairings. If only 1 defender is signed, expect to see Gustav Forsling be given another shot. He's the next closest one.
2) I wish for John Hayden to play to his top 6 power forward potential, NOW: Early signs from John Hayden's return are positive. He took the demotion to Rockford as a learning experience. The guy just has future leader written all over him. What I also hope he has written all over here is top 6 power forward.
The reason I find him to be such a vital part of this team moving forward is that the current Hawks roster is such a pushover. They wanted to be "tougher to play against" and they tried that by adding Wingels and Bouma, among others, however, they have abandoned that style. I'm curious to see what additions Bowman brings in this off-season. If it's a Wingels return or guys like Jay Beagle or Leo Komarov, you know that Bowman is looking for that injection again in the bottom 6. But what about in the top 6? This is where John Hayden can step in and be an impact.
3) I wish Dylan Sikura will just sign already and step in this year to highlight his skills: I'm not looking for the kid to be the saviour of this team. What I am looking for is for him to be as advertised… in the NHL. If his skills can translate then the Hawks have added another young, fast and exciting forward to their top 9.
I heard this was another reason the Hawks were open to trading Ryan Hartman because they took a look at their top 9 and were starting to run out of room. If Sikura signs, you're looking at: Toews, Kane, Saad, Debrincat, Schmaltz, Hayden, Anisimov, Hinostroza and Sikura.
Sure, some of those above could be bumped down to the 4th line but looking at the above players, they are starting to have some nice depth up forward if the younger wave continues to grow.
Those are my 3 wishes as it stands right now, but genie, I would like at least 1 mulligan, ok?
What would be your top 3?
* Rockford Playoff Watch: the IceHogs went to OT for the 3rd straight game and won 3-2. The stars of last night's game were Lance Bouma with his 1st as a "Hog, Ulf's kid Henrik who tied the game up in the 3rd and Andreas Martinsen netting the OT winner.
A couple other names to mention (who were also great last night) are Anthony Louis and Colin Delia. Louis, a long-time friend of Hinostroza and Hartman, has always been knocked by his size (5'7 / 150 lbs), but he's always produced. He plays a little bigger than his player card says he is, and as of last night, he moved into the lead in points with 35 in 57 games. Keep an eye on him as a call-up next year .
Colin Delia didn't figure into the plans this year with veterans Jeff Glass and J.F. Berube solidified as the #1/#2 goalies this year in Rockford. Well, injuries happen and luckily for Delia, he's been able to get into a groove and prove his worth in the AHL. I would assume that if he keeps this up he will be 1 of the 2 goalies for the IceHogs for the 2018-19 season.