Key Offseason Additions: Steve Montador, Dan Carcillo, Andrew Brunette, Jamal Mayers, Ray Emery
Key Offseason Losses: Brian Campbell, Troy Brouwer, Chris Campoli, Tomas Kopecky,
Last Season Ranking: 8th in the West
Offense: The Chicago Blackhawks offense hopes to build on a productive season in 2010-11 and return this year with a bit more pop. Blackhawks captain, Jonathan Toews, along with winger Patrick Kane, both look to increase their output this season. Kane, specifically, has been saying this off-season he wants to take his game to another level. After a 15 point drop in production last season, you have to assume that Kane is looking to break the 90 point mark and help lead his team back to the playoffs.
Another huge bonus to the squad will be a healthy Marian Hossa. He posted 57 points in a mere 65 games last season, and if healthy, can contribute roughly a point per game to the Blackhawks potent offense. A full season by Hossa could also mean the difference between barely making the playoffs and perhaps winning the division.
Additionally, Patrick Sharp will continue to be a goal scoring threat for the Blackhawks. Sharp lead the squad in goals last season with 34, and will look to improve on his point totals after a career-high 71 points last season.
New to the offense are Andrew Brunette, Dan Carcillo, and Jamal Mayers. While Brunette will be expected to contribute heavily, look for Carcillo and Mayers to provide a physical presence above anything else.
The Blackhawks have a few young guys rounding out the offense. Be sure to keep an eye on Michael Frolik and Viktor Stalberg this season, as both have a tremendous upside. Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland will be counted on to provide additional depth scoring as well.
Defense: The departure of Brian Campbell places even more importance on Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, who will lead the Blackhawks defense this season. Both defenseman were huge on the power-play last season, and will continue to hold the blue line on the PP again in 2011-12.
The addition of Steve Montador on the blue line will add some veteran depth for the Blackhawks. He’ll be a great compliment to some of the young defenseman on the squad, such as Niklas Hjalmarsson, Nick Leddy, and Sami Lepisto. Hjalmarsson should see upwards of 20 minutes per game this season, being used in more and more situations as he continues to gain experience.
Goaltending: After the Marty Turco experiment failed last season, the Blackhawks went with rookie Corey Crawford in goal. He played well enough to earn the starting job, and helped Chicago nearly come back from an 0-3 start against Vancouver in last season’s playoffs. Crawford returns this season with the number one spot from the beginning.
In an interesting scenario, however, the Blackhawks chose to sign Ray Emery in the off-season. He’s currently competing with Alexander Salak for the backup job, but you have to imagine he has his eyes on the starting role as well. Last season, after returning to game action with the Anaheim Ducks, Emery won his first six starts, before finishing the season 7-2 with a .926 save percentage and 2.28 goals against average. Emery is looking to prove everyone wrong and earn a starting spot in the NHL again, and Chicago could be the place if Corey Crawford begins to stumble during his sophomore campaign.
HWB Playoff Prediction: Playoff bound. The Blackhawks have what it takes to make it into the playoffs, and could earn another division championship if key players, such as Marian Hossa, stay healthy. Having their best players on the ice for 82 games will be the difference between a potential division win and barely sneaking into the playoffs.