Home Arena: The United Center
General Manager: Stan Bowman
Head Coach : Joel Quennville
2015/16 Results: 47w 26l 9 otl for 103 points, 3rd in Central Division
2015/16 Playoff Results: Lost in first round to St Louis, 7 games
The BlackHawks enter the 16/17 season as a bit of an enigma. Are they as good as they have been during their recent run of Cup success or are they as poor as their playoff result from last spring? Any team that returns stars like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Marion Hossa and under rated goalie Cory Crawford will certainly qualify for the playoffs and be good enough to win it all again.
Coach Quennville has the pedigree, the experience and the skill to make adjustments to the teams style of play. A fan of up tempo fast paced hockey I would compare him to Mike Babcock in his approach to the game.
Forwards: The Hawks are loaded up front with a lineup most teams would salivate over. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marion Hossa and rookie of the year Arterni Panarin will score plenty of goals while grinders like Marcus Kruger and Jordin TooToo will try to keep opponents stars in check. I do think depth at forward is becoming an issue as the Hawks reward players with larger contracts and push against the salary cap each season. Losing young stars like Brandon Saad will catch up with them eventually as GM Stan Bowman works his magic.
Defence: Amazingly Bowman found a way to add savvy veteran Brian Campbell to his stable of defencemen. A depth addition Campbell is hungry for another Cup and comes to Chicago still able to chip in on offence and run the second powerplay unit. Duncan Keith returns for another season. The former Norris Trophy winner is the rare breed of hard hitting, fiercely competitive defenceman with a large offensive upside that every team in the NHL craves. A stud and a workhorse expect 50-60 points from Keith again this season. The under rated Brent Seabrook returns as well. Never given his due as he labors in Keiths shadow he may just be Chicagos most valuable defenceman. Lesser lights Trevor Van Reimsdyk and Nicklas Hjalmarsson lock down a pretty solid defence that is good enough to give any teams fits.
Goaltending: Cory Crawford returns to man the goal in the Windy City. Capable but not flashy Crawford often becomes lost in the sea of stars that is the BlackHawks. Under rated, never given the credit he deserves the now veteran looks to backstop the Hawks to another title. Not flashy, and prone to stretches of poor play Crawford always ramps his game up when it’s most crucial. Scott Darling returns as the backup and will need this season to be the year he pushes Crawford for the starting job.
Prospects: Right wingers Mark Mcneil and Ryan Hartman along with defenceman Ville Pokka and centreman Nick Schmaltz are Chicagos top prospects but I don’t see any of them cracking the opening day roster. Another season or two in the minors before any of them are truly prepared for the rigors of an NHL season. This is Chicagos’ achillies heel, eventually they will run dry of good young prospects as they move younger players and draft picks for immediate playoff success. Once the prospect well runs dry the Hawks will face the inevitable freefall down the standings and truly be faced with difficult decisions.
Prediction: 104 points, 2nd in Central Division. The BlackHawks will have renewed hunger after last springs early playoff exit. A solid but not spectacular regular season will lead to another Stanley Cup push. I see the Hawks getting to the Western Conference Final where they will fall. Age, time and the wear and tear of so many long spring playoff drives takes it toll on the BlackHawks and they fall just short of another finals appearance. That being said, the Hawks are a wounded animal. After a few struggles throughout the regular season, every team has its bad moments the veteran Hawks will find a way to prepare for another spring run. Looking to rebound from losing to the Blues last spring I certainly would not count the Hawks out. As currently assembled Chicago is more than capable of securing another Stanley Cup, but they are also vulnerable to an early playoff exit as well. To dangerous, too skilled and a battle tested team that already knows how to win I don’t see Chicago winning it but I won’t completely write off another Cup either.
Fearless Forecast: 104 points, 2nd in Central division, Western Conference Finals. Top scorer : Patrick Kane. Top defenceman: Duncan Keith. MVP:Jonathan Toews.
It should be a good year to be a BlackHawks fan, and that’s how I see it. From the bleacher seats.