2014-2015 Chicago Blackhawks Season Preview
So last season the Blackhawks were a goal away from returning to the Cup Finals and probably would have repeated because the West is far superior, there were probably 3 teams that could have beaten the Rangers out of the West. The Blackhawks are star studded and full of winners, laden with olympic medals and multiple cup winners. Hossa, Toews, Keith, Kane, Saad, Shaw, Sharp, Seabrook, Quenneville, the list goes on, if you are a hockey fan you know these names because they get prime time looks every year in April and May. Being a Ducks fan, I hope that Chicago does not win, but they are a Spring machine and I would not be any bit surprised if they won their third cup in 6 years.
Goaltending- Corey Crawford is not awful, but he might be the weak link on this roster, with the team that is in front of him he basically has to be solid and success will follow. Crawford has looked stellar but there were times when his team did their part and he let them down, often shifting the momentum in a game by giving up soft goals. To re iterate, Crawford is not so bad that the Hawks can not repeat, the team in front of him is THAT good that he can be off and they will still contend. Antti Raanta is a solid backup so if Crawford should falter, Raanta can give the team a good pick me up.
Brad Richards- Brad Richards was signed to the New York Rangers 3 years ago to inject some offense into the lineup after coming off career years in Dallas and it did not work out as planned. Richards had a couple of 50+ point seasons in The Big Apple but that is pretty underwhelming for a guy who has put up 90 points in the past. Brad was bought out and getting into his mid 30's but for a 1 year/ million dollar deal, this is not a bad contract for a guy who could wake up and add a lot of points to an already high scoring team. Bowman gets an A+
Nick Leddy- Leddy was traded to Chicago a few years ago by his hometown team, the Wild that drafted him in the first round of the 2009 draft. Nick is a small guy, around 5'10- 5'11 but picked in the first round because he has huge offensive upside from the blue line. Flashes of brilliance were seen in Chicago by Leddy as he put up two 30 point seasons and he is still only 23, but sadly the Blackhawks had some money to shed which forced their hand and led to them trading him to the Islanders. Nick put up points and minutes but was a liability at times, he had some growing pains but defensemen usually take longer to develop, look for Leddy's minutes on even strength and power play to be filled by a committee of Trevor Van Riemsdyk, Michal Rozsival, and David Rundblad. Leddy's offensive flair and power play abilities will be missed but the Blackhawks will survive.
Kane and Toews- Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are the franchise players of the Hawks so it was an obvious priority to get these guys both signed to long term deals. Rumors have gone around the hockey community that Kaner might sign with the Sabres if the Hawks dicked around too much but Stan Bowman (named after the cup) did what he does best and signed the dynamic duo to matching 8 year contracts worth 10.5 mill per year. Patrick Kane is a dangling master who regularly puts up points as well as highlight reels, he is a point per game player who in my opinion still hasn't reached his potential, that being 100 points in a season. Jonathan Toews has 2 cup wins as a captain and 2 olympic gold medals before he turned 26 years of age, he is a clutch performer who is also defensively responsible and leaves it all on the ice game in and game out. Jonathan Toews on and off ice character personifies leadership and Patrick Kane is equally as clutch and just as fun to watch, a true wizard with Ice Q off the charts.
Depth- During The Blackhawks 5-6 years of success, they have had role players who step up and score timely goals in the playoffs. Guys like Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Dustin Byfuglien have spent time in the top 6 because they want to win, their regular season point outputs will not boggle your mind but when it comes time to put in work and hoist that cup, they contribute more so than some of the main stays on the top lines, these guys are warriors with scars on their faces and blood stained sweaters. These players along with studs such as Brandon Saad and Kris Versteeg can play in all situations and succeed, two way players who back check as well as they put the puck in the net. Depth, along with Goaltending and leadership are major components to cup wins, The Blackhawks stack up with the best in the league.
Teuvo Teravainen - The Hawks caught an absolute stud who slid to them in the 2012 draft at the 18 slot. Teuvo is a mini Patrick Kane who has been playing alongside men for the past 3 or 4 years an is still only 20 years old, he might be ready to finally step into the lineup and get power play minutes. When TT has the puck, it's like it is on a string, kid can skate and has hands like Datsyuk. TT might not start in the NHL, but I can see him setting the AHL on fire and being with the big club by Thanksgiving. Check out his highlights here :
Joel Quenneville- The Blackhawks have a solid coach in JQ, his players love playing for him and they want to win for him too. Quenneville has a visible passion as a bench boss but not to the annoy extent like John Tortorella, some coaches have success in the regular season but not the post season and vice versa, JQ has both, in 2013 when the Hawks won the cup, they were the best team in the regular season as well, going on a 20+ game point streak and ending it all in June with hardware over their heads. Not many teams win the presidents trophy and the Stanley Cup, but both times the Hawks won they were top 2 seeds out of the West.
Prediction- The Hawks are once again Stanley Cup contenders and I don't see them finishing any worse than 3rd or 4th overall in the league. Toews, Hossa, Kane and the rest of these All stars might have their names on more hardware.