Sidney Brown writes on the Blackhawks and the NHL for WARR, look for his weekly dispatches from the front lines of Hawks fandom every week during the hockey season.
The Chicago Blackhawks are used to the feeling that surrounds them now, entering a new season as defending Stanley Cup Champions. It’s the second time in three years that has been the case, the third time in six years.
Raise your hand, though, if you’ve seen a Hawks off-season as heart-wrenching and publicly debated as much as this past one. No hands? Alright, let’s move on. You certainly had to over the summer if you were a fan of the likes of Brandon Saad or Patrick Sharp.
You also had to do some hard thinking and maybe some reasoning if you never thought Patrick Kane could disappoint you.
The Hawks overcame injuries and off-ice issues to achieve their past goals, it came with a cost of talent after the previous two recent titles and a failure to repeat followed. Once again, we’ve seen the cost that comes with the Hawks success — more talent leaves, more scrutiny resides.
So what’s left? Don’t be mistaken, this is a team that can still win it all, maybe one in a better position to than the 2011-12 and 2013-14 teams but it certainly won’t be easy — more lessons will have to be learned, maybe that’s not such a bad thing for a squad that continues to be as young as it is talented.
Brandon Saad (Columbus)
Patrick Sharp (Dallas)
Johnny Oduya (Dallas)
Kris Versteeg (Carolina)
Joakim Nordstrom (Carolina)
Antoine Vermette (Arizona)
Kimmo Timonen (Retired)
Daniel Carcillo (Retired)
Brad Richards (Detroit)
Hurts to read that list, right? A lot of quality Hawks play and great memories exists among those players but the Hawks weren’t left empty handed in unloading them. Who Chicago received in return will provide depth, youth, skill and speed to an already experienced dangerous core of players.
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville will have options to plug in his new pieces on different lines to help maintain the fast paced, high tempo style pilling up goals on the scoreboard. Finally, the Hawks have a true 2nd line center in Artem Anisimov (7 goals, 20 assists with Columbus last season) who can win face offs and youthful depth on the 3rd and 4th lines (back lines) in Kyle Baun and Ryan Garbutt.
It’s going to take time for the new bunch to get acclimated to the system and if we as fans and experts should remember from the last couple of seasons, the regular season doesn’t matter all that much. Just win enough games to qualify for the playoffs and stay injury free.
Defenseman Trevor Daley (16 goals, 22 assists with Dallas last season) will bring energy with a mix of toughness along with some offensive skill and is expected to help shutdown the opponents bottom two lines while periodically providing offense.
Ryan Garbutt will provide stability on the third line (8 goals, 17 assists with Dallas last season) with Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw. Helping to shutdown the opponents top lines will be the key for Garbutt while providing additional scoring.
Potential Rising Star
With the experience of last year’s playoff run, Teuvo Teravainen gained confidence playing with the veteran core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp.
Teravainen tallied just 4 goals and 5 assists during the regular season but made his mark during last year’s Stanley Cup Final netting home two goals.
With his skill and speed, Teuvo will start the season on the top line along side Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews where growth and experience is highly expected from this 21 year old future star.
Current Hawks Starting Lines
Line 1 = Teuvo Teravainen, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa
Line 2 = Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov, Patrick Kane
Line 3 = Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw, Kyle Baun
Line 4 = Andrew Desjardins, Marcus Kruger, Ryan Garbutt
1 = Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook
2 = Niklas Hjalmarsson, Trevor van Riemsdyk
3 = Trevor Daley, David Rundblad
Note: Michal Rozsival will start the season on long term injured reserved and will be out for 24 days and 10 games.
Fans should view this regular season as tuning up for the playoffs and looking to see (from the new additions) who separates themselves from the pack and gels with the veterans. If there are any speed bumps besides injuries, it could potentially be a major problem — i.e. the final results, if any, in the ongoing investigation of Patrick Kane).
This group of Hawks should and will make the playoffs with depth and talent of this roster. The question will be come playoff time, can this new group handle high expectations of repeating as champions?
On paper, the answer is YES, but with the competition as ramped up as ever in the Western Conference, the Hawks will receive opponents’ best shots and at the end whether they overcome or not will come down to a battle of wills.
MY PREDICTION: Hawks will lose to the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Final in seven games.
STANLEY CUP FINAL: Anaheim over Tampa Bay in seven.
The Road Ahead (10/7 thru 10/17)*
Wednesday vs. New York Rangers — 7 pm
Friday at New York Islanders — 6:30 pm
Saturday vs. New York Islanders — 7:30 pm
October 14th at Philadelphia Flyers — 7 pm
October 15th at Washington Capitals — 6 pm
October 17th vs. Columbus Blue Jackets — 7:30 pm
*all times Central
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