By Sidney Brown (@sidkid80)
After missing the playoffs last season with a mark of 33-39-10, the upcoming 2018-19 season will mark a critical point for the Chicago Blackhawks and for its current core group, still led by superstar veterans Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, names that still garner respect in the NHL but aren’t the names of the moment that they were in 2013 and 2015.
In the time since last winning the Stanley Cup in ’15, Toews, Kane and company only have added two first round exits to their resumes and last season was an unprecedented step back for this group, featuring the first playoff-less spring since 2008.
With now aging veterans at the head moving clear out the peak periods of their careers, the Hawks went to work this past summer to improve the roster for a possible revival, a now unexpected last run at Lord’s Stanley’s Cup.
- Cam Ward from Carolina (Goalie)
- Chris Kunitz from Tampa Bay (Winger)
- Marcus Kruger from Carolina (Center) (*2nd stint with the team)
- Brandon Manning from Philadelphia (Defenseman)
The young core for the Hawks, to whom much will be asked this year, is led by Nick Schmaltz (21 goals, 31 assists) and second-year phenom Alex DeBrincat (28 G, 24 A) who will pair up with Kane (27 G, 49 A) on the second line.
Toews is still the ever-trusted Captain (20 G, 32 A) and Brandon Saad (18 G, 17 A) made a welcome return to the team last year via trade, it would be nice to see at least one of these guys turn back the clock and have an all-star star caliber season. Expect Kunitz and DeBrincat on the top line with Toews.
Back on the blue line, defensemen Brent Seabrook (7 G, 19 A) and Duncan Keith (2 G, 30 A) are still make up the team’s backbone, but years of wear and tear, along with age, have made both either indispensable or more dispensable than ever depending on who you ask.
Seabrook and Keith are still expected to carry a struggling core at their position, which was mostly lost on the ice without them last year. The young defending pieces include Gustav Forsling, Jan Rutta (6 G, 14 A) and Henri Jokiharju are going to have to follow the veterans’ lead to form a solid defensive group that can allow the vets to rest more.
The season will ultimately come down to starting goalie Corey Crawford and his health. Due to a concussion that has had Crawford sidelined mostly since December 23rd, a return to the net is imperative for the award-winning net-minder and will play a bigger role than anything in determining where the Hawks will end up at season’s end.
Quenneville: Crawford is ‘full go… clear to play’ (NBC Sports Chicago)
In digesting what the Hawks’ plan is for 2018-19, it would seem to me it is in the best interest of the front office to take a hard look in the mirror and decide the direction for the future and do so with little time wasted.
The product on the ice that was created by the front office instead has sort of played the middle, thinking that if enough faith is put into the established heroes than they can rally the rest of the talent regardless of their development stage — this is fool’s gold and in the best interest of the franchise, playoffs or not, a full blown youth movement is needed and it needs to start as soon as possible.
The Road Ahead (all times central)
- Tonight at Ottawa Senators — 6:30 PM
- Saturday at St. Louis Blues — 7 PM
- Sunday vs. Toronto Maple Leafs — 6 PM
- 10/11 @ Minnesota Wild — 7 PM
- 10/13 vs. St. Louis Blues — 7:30 PM
Sidney Brown covers the Chicago Blackhawks for WARR