When Michal Handzus was reacquired by the Chicago Blackhawks few gave it much thought, it was seen as adding depth to a team gearing up for a long playoff run. Handzus quickly made his presence felt helping the Blackhawks to their second championship in 4 years. As the preseason winds down Michal Handzus has a unique opportunity presenting itself to him as he has a chance to audition to be the Blackhawks #2 centre.
Handzus was re-signed this summer and it was believed he would serve as a bottom 6 centre. With the injury to Pirri limiting his audition and the Saad at C experiment coming to an end it has opened up an audition for Handzus on the second line to start the regular season.
Handzus meshed surprisingly well in the top 6 forward group last season and proved he could still contribute in an expanded role. In his 11 games with the Blackhawks during the regular season Handzus was adjusting and averaged around 12 minutes a night, come playoff time his role had grown and he saw 16:03 average ice per game, second in ice time for Blackhawks centres behind only Jonathan Toews. Handzus had 3 goals and 8 assists for 11 points (7th in team scoring) during the 2013 playoffs, including this beauty in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Just one year ago Michal Handzus was regarded as a player whose best days were clearly behind him. Handzus began the season in a reduced role with the San Jose Sharks and struggled with just one goal in 28 games. He was oft described as a slow veteran, washed up and few saw value in him.
The trade to Chicago has seemed to rejuvenate Handzus, the 36 year old has found another gear and now has an opportunity to claim his first top 6 role since 2009. Handzus has been a proven commodity in the faceoff circle his whole career and will be called upon more since the departure of Dave Bolland to Toronto.
If Handzus sticks as the second line centre there is no reason not to expect a return to the 40 point plateau for the first time since 2009-10. Handzus’ abilities in the faceoff circle give Chicago favorable puck possession stats. Though his faceoff success rate diminished in the playoffs (46.4%) he did average a 55% success rate in his 11 games with Chicago during the 2013 season.
With Toews and Handzus taking the majority of the draws it gives Chicago one of the most favorable one-two punches in the faceoff circle. It is not often a 36 year old centre is given an opportunity to re-establish himself as a top 6 forward on such a talented roster so you can bet Michal Handzus will give it his all to plug the hole at the second line centre position.
Creator of the Bettman Stand Up hockey blog. I cover the Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers, In Hossa we trust! I also write for publications such as Arbitrage Magazine and Elite Sports Blog. You can follow me on Twitter @RickEmrith