For a time the Hull-Martin-Maki line was effective. "I've changed," Martin claims. "I'm not afraid to hang onto the puck, because I have more confidence. If Bobby's not in the clear, I don't force the puck to him. I try to make the play for myself." In any case, Reay removed Martin last week and installed Campbell once again.
To the layman, the answer to Hull's center dilemma might seem obvious: give the job to Stan Mikita, who is, after all, one of the best in the game. "I've tried it on occasion," Reay says, "but they don't work well together. Both Stan and Bobby need the puck, and there is only one puck to play with." Mikita agrees. "Bobby wants the puck 15 or 20 feet before he hits the blue line," he says. "I want to keep the puck until I get across the blue line. Our styles are so different that we could never play together regularly."
Hull and Mikita often appear on the same line during a Chicago power play but, as Mikita points out, a power-play situation is much more patterned than the usual rushing offense. "When we're on the power play," Mikita says, "I tell Bobby, 'Find a hole somewhere and I'll get the puck to you,' and then I try to set him up."
Despite the confusion around center ice, Hull continues to be a consistent goal scorer. The one difference is that whereas he used to beat goalies most often with long, 100-mph shots, he now scores many of his goals on rebounds and deflections. "Bobby has had to change his style," Mikita says. "I see him taking suicide passes, where he gets blind-sided as soon as he touches the puck. In the old days he never had to do that. He may not want to now, but he does."
Even if Reay someday finds the new Phil Esposito or the new Bill Hay to fill the hole in the Donut Line, Hull is not certain that he could duplicate the old Hull. "I was like a can of worms in the old days," he says. "I was wriggling all over the place. But I have left a lot of blood, sweat and tears between those boards. Don't forget, I'm 33 years old now. With my new style, I'll probably be good for another five to seven years."
If not in Chicago, then perhaps with Winnipeg in the new World Hockey Association? Who knows what a hemmedin superstar might do.