2013-14 NHL Season Preview: Chicago Blackhawks

The following is a guest post from Danny Miletta. He’s been playing the awesome game of hockey since high school and still presently play. He doesn’t have a blog of his own, he’s just an avid Blackhawks fan.

So if you’re a Chicago Blackhawks fan, you’re feeling pretty well about how last years regular season and playoffs went. I mean, with a record setting streak to begin the season, then winning the Presidents Trophy, only to follow that up with the Stanley Cup usually sums up a season that players in the NHL would do almost anything to be a part of. Oh, and not to mention the roster didn’t suffer the same dismantling like it did after the 2010 Cup run due to the horrendous cap issues that followed. Instead there were a few departures, new contracts, and contract extensions that shows general manager Stan Bowman definitely learned a thing or two from the great Scotty Bowman.



The departures of Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik, and Viktor Stalberg will be noticed this season, but let us not forget the prospects that Stan Bowman has en-stilled into the Blackhawk’s farm system. Not to say that Frolik wasn’t a key reason that the Hawks’ penalty kill was a consistent and solid 87 percent throughout the regular season and a dominating 95 percent through the Western Conference Finals or anything. Also Dave Bolland, who notably scored the Game 6 winning goal 17 seconds after Bryan Bickell scored to tie the game to secure Lord Stanley’s cup. And then, there’s Viktor Stalberg. Who’s unhappiness with his role is the Stanley Cup run decided to go the free agency route to Nashville.



Instead of additions I say prospects because the Hawks are relying on them instead of free agency to fill the spots that are available. Be ready to hear the names Brandon Pirri, Ben Smith, Jeremy Morin and Jimmy Hayes this year….a lot. All four have been making noticeable impressions on the front office staff for the past two seasons now. Brandon Pirri is believed to be the top candidate for the number two center position, while Smith will be looking at more of a penalty kill and third line role.



Forwards this season remain mostly intact except for the previously stated departures Bolland, Frolik and Stalberg. That being said, the questions this season will be overall health, energy and motivation. Health so far doesn’t show any signs of issues. All players reported to camp healthy and Bickell and Handzus had successful recoveries from their playoff injuries. Energy (endurance) won’t be a factor until around Decemeber and with a lot of Hawks being Sochi hopefuls and prospects, coach Joel Quenneville will definitely be keeping an eye on his guys and resting them accordingly. Motivation won’t be a factor for Capt. Serious (Toews) or any of the core players this year. Hossa, Sharp, Shaw and Saad will looking to build off great seasons as well. Handzus has a new contract this year and the coaching staff is hoping he will be filling in their number three or four center role while the number two center spot is still up for grabs. Bowman and Quenneville are hoping the prospects will compete and fill that role.



For the first time in a while the Hawks are bringing back all defensemen this year. Adam Cleneding and Theo Peckham have two-way contracts and will provide much need support in case of injuries. They could also be used in back to back games this year considering it will be a full season and its an Olympic year. As for the PK, Quenneville has tossed out a few names he thinks could work with Krueger. Ben Smith is one of them, but he has to make the team out of camp first. Only time will tell who will fill that role.



Ray Emery chose free agency and wound up in Philadelphia with a decent contract and rightfully so. His stellar performance and a hand in the Jennings Award makes him a solid goalie to compete for the number one job for any club in the NHL. Crawford comes back knowing he’s the number one man net and a new contract extension to prove it. So who is the number two man in net? It’s Nikolai Khabibulin to the rescue, at least that’s what we’re told but I wouldn’t be so sold on the Bulin Wall just yet. His injury proneness and lack of play last season means he will have to prove that at age 40, he can still be a solid goaltender in the NHL.



The Blackhawks being favored to repeat by every bookie in town as Stanley Cup champions, one can only think that anything less than a repeat is failure. But not so fast hasty Hawks fans, this is the dreaded salary cap era, that isn’t suppose to happen. Plus, with the hefty raises and contract extensions of Bickell, Hjalmarsson, and Crawford there will most likely be that unneeded self added pressure and more eyes on these three then there have ever been before. This season’s pass or fail really depends on the prospects who get the call to the big club this year. Their success or failure could depict on the direction of the Blackhawks’ season. Only time will tell.


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