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FEATURE: Versatility, depth give Colliton roster options he wanted

Blackhawks offseason moves put head coach in enviable position ahead of first full season in charge

by Carter Baum / Blackhawks.com

The Blackhawks have made six trades and two signings, acquiring nine new players in total over the last 32 days, rebuilding and retooling the roster heading into Jeremy Colliton's first full season in charge. With nearly each one, the words "depth", "versatile" or some synonym of two has shortly followed from Senior Vice President Stan Bowman, explaining the vision of the team going forward. 

It's a vision that starts with how Colliton himself wants his team to look come October. 

"We have competition throughout the roster for roster spots, for roles," the 34-year-old coach said Wednesday during Blackhawks Development Camp. "I think we have more versatility to our team with guys. We've got defenders that can play either side. We've got guys who want to kill penalties and defend and take that role. We've got forwards who can play different positions, kill penalties and play against good players. We feel like that's what we were missing to our team."

Video: Jeremy Colliton at Development Camp

The top-end talent has already been established. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are 31 and 30, respectively - each coming off career seasons in scoring. An emergence of the next generation has begun in Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and, hopefully in the near future, third-overall pick Kirby Dach. 

This offseason hasn't been flashy, but more about who's surrounding them up front and shoring things up behind them because, as Colliton explained, everyone has to contribute - not just the big names. 

"We want to be flexible with how we can build our lineup according to who we're playing and being able to handle certain matchups. I'd like to be a little less reliant on, 'Certain players can only play against other teams' top players,'" he said. "We want to have a flow to the team where we can play at a high pace and put pressure on teams over a 60-minute period, and you need depth in your roster (to do that)...

"We want to have more of the group able to play against anyone and feel like we're going to come out on the positive end of it. Not everyone is going to have their best game every night and so when you have players who can play left or right or center, or left defense or right defense, then we can play the guys we're going to and the lineup isn't as static."

What having many viable options sets up in Chicago is a full-on, knock-down, drag-out fight for a finite number of roles come training camp in September. And those who don't make the cut will be waiting in the wings - likely in Rockford - to continue pushing those ahead of them, waiting for their chance.

It puts Colliton in a position any head coach aims for.

"That's a great thing," he said with a noticeable grin. "We want it to be difficult to make the team. For a young player, it shouldn't be easy. They're going to have to perform at a really high level to push someone out and that's exactly what we want…Even among the veteran guys, we have some really good players here. There's going to be competition for, whether it's a roster spot or ice time or roles. All the great teams, they have that."

Video: Stan Bowman at Development Camp (Part 1)
Video: Stan Bowman at Development Camp (Part 2)

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