Rostislav Olesz isn’t just an odd sounding name to Chicago Blackhawks fans. It also happens to be a reminder of how far this team has come since their Stanley Cup championship in 2010.
As part of the dismantling process that was initiated with the selloff of talent immediately following the victory, the Hawks had to jettison a ton of salary in a short amount of time. Defenseman Brian Campbell originally survived the purge, as his salary cap hit of over $7 million wasn’t palatable to other teams. Finally, following that 2010-11 season, the Hawks were able to get Dale Tallon, GM of the Florida Panthers and the man who signed Campbell to the massive deal, to take Campbell’s deal on and acquired Olesz in return.
Ever since then, Olesz has been through the wringer, so to speak. He only played six games with the Blackhawks last season before being shipped to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs. He played 50 games there last year, scoring 17 goals and dishing out 24 assists for the franchise.
In April 2012, Olesz suffered a serious setback when he was forced to have surgery on his right knee. Through an exhaustive rehab process, he slowly clawed his way back into hockey shape, and finally returned to the IceHogs in late March. Since then, he has played seven games, but none of them were more impressive than Friday night’s victory over the Milwaukee Admirals. He scored the go-ahead goal for the IceHogs early in the third period, and when Milwaukee tied the game, Olesz scored again for his fourth goal of the season, helping Rockford to a 4-3 victory.
As if that wasn't enough, Olesz struck again on Saturday night, netting the game winning goal for the Hogs as they beat the Peoria Rivermen 5-4 in a huge road victory.
At a time when every point is critical for Rockford as they push for the playoffs, it has to be heartening for Blackhawks fans to see a guy overcome the kind of adversity that Olesz has encountered.
With a cap hit of $3.125 million on the books through next season, and with the salary cap going down nearly $7 million going into the new campaign, it’s unlikely that Olesz will see the ice for the Hawks unless some serious injury problems afflict the big club. Even with that sobering thought in mind, it’s good to see him continue to fight, and whether it’s with the Hawks or another club, one would imagine that we haven’t seen the last of him in the NHL.