Blackhawks’ Viktor Stalberg ready to play many roles
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org September 20, 2011 10:30PM
Viktor Stalberg believes he can be “a fairly productive second- or third-line player.” | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
Updated: November 10, 2011 3:12PM
SASKATOON, Sask. — Blending into the young group that has come to characterize the Blackhawks the last few years came easy for Viktor Stalberg.
Socially and personally, he fit right in with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and others. As players tend to say, there was no “transition period” in becoming just one of the guys.
“I can’t say I have a problem with anyone,” said Stalberg, who is entering his second year with the Hawks after being acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Kris Versteeg deal.
Instead, the struggle has been figuring out where he fits on the ice. Last year, Stalberg played on every line and with nearly every player. While that’s not uncommon under coach Joel Quenneville, it took Stalberg, who was in his first full year in the NHL, time to adjust.
Stalberg is preparing for all sorts of roles again this year — and more competition for ice time. The line juggling likely won’t change with Andrew Brunette, Daniel Carcillo, Jamal Mayers, Ben Smith and Marcus Kruger in the mix.
“It takes time to get used to playing a certain role in the NHL,” Stalberg said. “I don’t think I really know for sure what I’m going to do in my career yet. I think I’m still trying to find that groove or find that role I’m going to have. It will probably take another year or so before I know what I’m going to be doing.”
Stalberg flashed glimpses of potential on numerous occasions last season. If anything, he’s valuable because he can play more than one role. Stalberg averaged 10:41 of ice time and finished with 12 goals and 24 points in 77 games. He did enough to impress general manger Stan Bowman, who called him an “intriguing package” and signed him to a two-year, $1.75 million deal.
Most often, Stalberg’s speed stands out. But he also had a strong stretch late last season when he used his speed to be physical. Some started taking an exception, such as Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who essentially mugged Stalberg in a fight in the playoffs.
“Playing a fourth-line role last year was a little different than my first year in Toronto,” Stalberg said. “It took a while to get used to. But I’m a big guy and I’ve got a lot of speed, so I should obviously be able to play that kind of role, too. I think I can be pretty successful, especially with my size and speed. I get in first on the forecheck and try to create some havoc for the other teams.”
Stalberg, though, knows he can be better than a fourth-liner. So he spent time this offseason working on his hands and moves that will put him in better scoring areas.
“I’m not going to be an 80-point player, but I think I can be a fairly productive player, a second- or third-line player in this league at some point,” Stalberg said. “For me, it’s just finding that rhythm and more [consistency] in my game to be able to play that kind of role. I know I have the tools. I’ve just got to find a way to put it together for a full year.
“I want to show them in the exhibition games coming up that I’m deserving of more ice time and can contribute for them offensively.”