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.
For the first time since 2012, the Chicago Blackhawks had the bittersweet luxury of an extended summer vacation after being eliminated by their division rival St. Louis in Game 7 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last April.
A whole lot has happened between then and the start of training camp in late September. The Hawks went to work and made moves to improve their club with a mind on maintaining success at a championship level.
Key Offseason Moves
June 15: Teuvo Teravainen and Bryan Bickell traded to the Carolina Hurricanes
June 15: Richard Panik resigns (1 year/$875,000)
June 24: Andrew Shaw traded to the Montreal Canadiens
June 30: Michal Rozsival resigns to a one year deal
July 1: Bryan Campbell signs as a free agent (1 yr/$1.5M)
July 5: Jordin Tootoo signs as a free agent (1 yr/$875K)
The 2016-17 edition of the Hawks feature a mix of youth and experience and potential balance throughout the roster. The usual characters in Captain Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith lead the way for the men in red while new faces in Ryan Hartman, Nick Schmaltz, Tyler Motte, Vinnie Hinostroza and Gustav Forsling will help carry the load for the veterans.
After the departure of Johnny Oduya following the 2015 season, the Hawks have been in desperate need of a top four defenseman and they receive their man in Bryan Campbell who returns to the Hawks after playing with the Florida Panthers the past five years.
Campbell is a veteran who can handle the puck and can anchor the power play unit when need be. With the lack of toughness on the roster, Tootoo came calling and this long time veteran brings physical play to the fourth line and with that occasional scoring.
With Bryan Bickell out of the mix, rookie Ryan Hartman is expected to fill in that role on the third line and will receive veteran leadership from linemate Marcus Kruger. Richard Panik, who was brought on at last year’s trade deadline, showed promise, especially in last year’s playoff series loss against St. Louis. Even though he didn’t score a goal only tallying three assists, Panik quickly proved that his offensive talent on the top line is worthy to have around.
Questions Entering This Season
1) Can any other line besides the 2nd line (Panarin, Anisimov, Kane) score goals consistently?
2) Will the penalty kill improve from last year’s disappointing bottom half showing in the NHL?
3) Will second year man Artemi Panarin improve on his scoring totals?
4) Will the power play finish in the top five in the NHL like a year ago?
5) How long will it take for young talent surrounding Toews, Kane and Hossa to adjust to the Hawks style of play?
Do the Hawks have the roster to compete for a Stanley Cup? Yes, but how long will it take for this group to come together and form an identity and who will step up from the core of young players.
If injuries occur to players like Toews, Kane or Keith Seabrook this season could turn downward in a hurry. Buckle up, it’s going to be an interesting ride
Line 1: Richard Panik, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa
Line 2: Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov, Patrick Kane
Line 3: Tyler Motte, Marcus Kruger, Ryan Hartman
Line 4: Vinnie Hinostroza, Nick Schmaltz, Jordan Tootoo
Pair 1: Duncan Keith, Trevor van Riemsdyk
Pair 2: Michal Kempy, Brent Seabrook
Pair 3: Gustav Forsling, Bryan Campbell
Andrew Desjardins was placed on injured reserve and will miss four to six weeks with an upper body injury.
Niklas Hjalmarsson was suspended three games for hit in a preseason game against St. Louis, tonight’s regular season opener will be the final of those games.
The Hawks will face a tough task to start the 2016-17 campaign with three games against their Central Division rivals in St. Louis and Nashville (2x) and also will face three playoff teams from last year (St. Louis, Nashville, Los Angeles).
Multiple Eastern Conference teams will take aim at the Hawks for the month with the likes of New Jersey, Toronto, Columbus and Philadelphia. With sub-par teams mixed in with the playoff teams to start and end the month, there’s a chance for Chicago to build team chemistry as they try and figure out an identity for this year’s team. Unlike last year, the Hawks NEED to win game consistently within their division, especially against winning clubs.
The Road Ahead (Thru 10/22)
Tonight vs. St. Louis Blues (Season Opener) — 7 pm
Friday at Nashville Predators — 7 pm
Saturday vs. Nashville Predators — 7:30 pm
Oct. 18 vs. Philadelphia Flyers — 7:30 pm
Oct. 21 at Columbus Blue Jackets — 6 pm
Oct. 22 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs — 6 pm
*all times Central
Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under Regal Radio and Sidney Brown on Twitter @sidkid80