The news reported by TSN's Bob McKenzie on Monday fell more under the inevitable category than the surprising one: the Chicago Blackhawks and Michal Handzus will be parting company.
The writing was on the wall as Handzus' second season of his second stint with the Blackhawks ended earlier this month. This season didn't pan out as he would've liked. He was nowhere near as effective as he was last season, when he was expected to be a fourth-line center and ended up being a strong second-line option, forming a good trio with Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa down the 2013 postseason stretch. He struggled through the 2013-14 regular season, and outside of his penalty-killing work, the struggles continued through these playoffs.
But this isn't about what Handzus couldn't provide during this final season with the Blackhawks. It's about the impact he made during his final two seasons with the Blackhawks. Handzus, 37, was a respected player, a calm veteran presence in a still-fairly-young locker room. It was his voice that Andrew Shaw heeded when he was taking foolish penalties early in the 2013 postseason. It was his talks that, while they were few and far between, provided the right messages in the Blackhawks' locker room. And it was in his hands that Jonathan Toews placed the Stanley Cup, the first player on the team after the captain to hoist it, moments after the Blackhawks won it last June.
Handzus didn't pretend to be the player he was several years ago. You didn't have to point out his struggles; he knew them full well. But he leaves Chicago as a respected veteran, a leader in his own right, even if it's not in the traditional sense.
Who knows if Handzus finds another team this offseason. Injuries have added up the past few seasons; those he suffered in the 2013 playoffs, and the surgeries some required, hampered his usual offseason workout regimen. As Handzus said at the Blackhawks' closing talks a few weeks ago, "I know what my situation is. I'm not a young guy anymore, so we'll see what's going to happen. I'll put work in this summer, get my body in better shape and we'll see what happens next year."
Handzus sounded like he knew this would likely be his last hurrah with the Blackhawks when we talked to him earlier this month. He finally got that chance to lift the Cup with Chicago. He took advantage of the opportunity he received in the spring of 2013. And he knew that, if this was his last hurrah with the Blackhawks, it was one hell of a ride.
"This is the best group of guys I've been with for my career. It was a lot of fun last year and a lot of fun this year," Handzus said. "The best time was when we won the Cup. It's special and it's going to be always special in my heart."