By Jay Zawaski-
(CBS) It’s July. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have signed. Free agency is pretty much over. Therefore, hockey land has gotten boring.
With that in mind, what better time for one of my world famous mailbags? I asked my Twitter followers for some questions, and they came through. If you’d like to participate in the next edition — or just email me for my thoughts on life — hit me up at jay@670theScore.com.
On to the mailbag …
Connor S.: From Rockford last year, who do you see on the ice opening night in Dallas for the Blackhawks?
JZ: This all depends on who is or isn’t traded before the season begins. I think it’s likely that at least one of Johnny Oduya, Michal Rozsival or Nick Leddy is moved. It appears that Klas Dahlbeck is the most NHL-ready defenseman in the system. He’s better defensively than Adam Clendening. However, if Leddy is the player moved, they may choose Clendening to even out the loss of Leddy’s offensive, puck-rushing game.
If a forward is moved, I’m not sure they’ll force a prospect into the lineup. Teuvo Teravainen, in my opinion, is being expected to make the team. They still have an overflow of forwards with Jeremy Morin and Peter Regin. Those guys will get the first shots at replacing a regular.
Puckjim: Will the trade of Brandon Bollig just mean a year of Brandon Mashinter nonsense?
JZ: This is an interesting question. This offseason, we’ve seen general manager Stan Bowman take away a number of coach Joel Quenneville’s “toys.” Bollig was traded to Calgary. Michal Handzus won’t be back. If Quenneville has say on the roster, I would think he’d like a player like Mashinter (an enforcer type) on the roster. Whether he plays him for 82 games, like he did Bollig, remains to be seen.
One thing is clear: Bowman doesn’t value the enforcer. I agree with him.
Ken Sawilchik: Has Leddy progressed as expected?
JZ: I don’t think so. He hasn’t regressed, but it seems that he’s a bit stalled in his development. He hasn’t really gotten stronger. His defense hasn’t really improved. Quennville still doesn’t trust him in tough matchups. I’m not sure how he’s supposed to develop defensively if he’s not playing important defensive shifts. Quenneville might need to give him a “trial by fire” to advance the player. Allowing a handful of regular-season goals is worth having three pairs of defensemen who can be trusted late in the playoffs.
Lewis Zanoni: With the signings of Kane and Toews (eating up flexibility in future cap space), do you get the sense that next year is the last chance in a while that the Blackhawks have a legit shot at a Cup?
JZ: No, I don’t. Having two of the best players in the game in Kane and Toews guarantees Chicago will be good for the forseeable future. Add two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith, (signed for $5.5 million until 2023), Brandon Saad (who is still two or three years from even entering his prime), top prospect Teravainen and a very strong bottom six, and the Blackhawks are still one of the top teams in the Western Conference. Oh yeah, and that Hossa guy is pretty good.
The Armdancer: Which prospect will likely have the biggest impact with Hawks this upcoming season?
JZ: Some disagree, but I think Teravainen is the guy. He may begin the season as the third-line center, but I think before long, you may see him and Richards flip positions. The target date for Teravainen was 2014-’15, and that hasn’t changed.
Gillette: What team is the biggest threat to the Blackhawks in the West now that most the big free agent moves have occurred?
JZ: Despite the improvements of the Avs (Jarome Iginla), Stars (Jason Spezza), Ducks (Ryan Kesler) and Blues (Paul Stastny), the Los Angeles Kings and Blackhawks remain the best teams in the West. Keep in mind that all of these moves are in direct response to competing with L.A. and Chicago. Those other teams have holes the Blackhawks and Kings do not.
Jeremy B: I remember toward the end of the season you mentioning that Quenneville doesn’t like Morin, so we should forget about including him in the future? Does this still stand? Does the contract change anything for you?
JZ: You have a good memory. I was shocked when I saw Morin re-signed. I thought for sure the Blackhawks would use him to sweeten a trade. Like I said earlier, we’re seeing Bowman force Quenneville’s hand a bit with the signings. Morin is in, and Bollig is out. Quenneville almost has to play him at this point, right?
Eric: Whom do you think will be the new Hawks assistant coach? How much do assistant coaches matter to the team?
JZ: It’s tough to say. Tony Granato is available. He’s local. He’s a guy with head coaching experience. As far as their impact, I do think it’s too important. Assistants run the special teams and conduct many of the X’s and O’s during the game. They’re not quite as important as a coordinator in the NFL, but to say they don’t matter would be foolish.
Jay Zawaski covers the Blackhawks for CBSChicago.com and 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @JayZawaski670.