The Chicago Blackhawks
Sweet Home Chicagoooooo
|Steve F'n Yzerman reincarnated|
Previous Year's Team Stats
52 wins, 22 losses, 8 OTL, 112 points, 2nd overall in the league
The Chicago Blackhawks have gone through one of the greatest transformations in in all of pro sports. Going from perennial basement dwellers in the grips of real life Mr. Burns counterpart "Dollar Bill" Wirtz, to becoming the Stanley Cup Champions by assembling arguably the best team since the lock-out. However to achieve this great transformation the Blackhawks had to do unspeakable things with the Salary Cap last season. The Blackhawks also have to work with bonuses against the cap that were agreed to in a time when they were thought to be comic relief in contract negotiations. As a result of flooring it while on empty last season Chicago lost many of it's heralded depth players and their young Cup winning goalie. The Blackhawks still have one of the finest young teams with perhaps one of the most intelligent hockey organizations behind it. The Blackhawks will also look to plug a few promising rookies into their line-up this season. The transformation in ChiTown has been borderline miraculous. However the question is how will the Hawks perform after losing nine players from their championship team?
The Blackhawks front office really does deserve praise for the way they've built this team. The forward group will see something of a miniature youth movement this season as three rookies will likely be getting full time roles in Chicago. The most interesting of these will be WHL villian Kyle Beach. Beach will undoubtedly be the subject of much e-ink and controversy during his pro career however he offers one of the most unique talent packages of any prospect inbound on the league. Beach is already notable for getting into three fights while accumulating one point in the four days of the Blackhawks prospect camp. Look for Beach to shift around the Blackhawks top nine and snap like Happy Gilmore at least once this season. There's been much ado in the Second City about the departure of the most over-rated player in the NHL Dustin Byfugelin. However Byfugelin's big body presence will be replaced in the line-up by 6-4 Bryan Bickell. Bickell spent parts of his 16 game NHL debut last season playing on the top line and will look to be Chicago's power forward. This season will also be the opportunity former seventh overall pick Jack Skille has been looking for to get a full time job in the NHL. Skille will likely bounce back and forth between the third and fourth line this season.
The Blackhawks boast some of the finest talent in the league in their top six. Chicago is led by 22-year old hockey god Jonathan Towes who is one of the finest two-way players and captains in the league. Look for Towes to eclipse the point per game ceiling this season. Playing on Towes wing will be franchise winger Patrick Kane who's been as controversial as he has been talented. Kane defined himself as an elite talent last season scoring 88 points in 82 games at just 21-years old. Look for him to build on those numbers and take over the throne as the best right-winger in the game this season. Behind Kane is one of the most complete players in the game Marian Hossa. After three dramatic attempts, Hossa finally won the Cup last season and will likely play out the rest of his career in Chicago. Hossa will provide another point per game performance provided he can stay healthy this season. Hossa's center will be elite penalty killer and talented two way center Patrick Sharp. Centering the third line will be elite defensive center Dave Bolland. There hasn't been enough good things said about Troy Brouwer and the gritty game he brought to Chicago last season. Brouwer contributed 189 hits and 40 points for the Blackhawks last season and made Andrew Ladd largely redundant. Look for him to have another quiet excellent year and get significant time on the top line with Towes and Kane. The Blackhawks will have veteran Tomas Kopecky in their bottom six. Viktor Stalberg who the Blackhawks received in a five player deal with Toronto will look to compete for a full time role. The Blackhawks also signed ulcerative colitis pitch man Fernando Pisani to round out their depth this off-season.
The Blackhawks feature one of the best defenses in the league. The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup last season largely on the shoulders of the best defensive pairing in the NHL. Duncan Keith exploded in a Norris trophy winning 69 point performance from Chicago's blueline last season. Keith is arguably the best defenseman in the league right now and remains a fantasy deity to be taken in the first round. Keith's partner is big defensive defenseman Brent Seabrook. While not a first tier fantasy defenseman, Seabrook compliments Keith's game perfectly and will again average close to 25 minutes a night. The San Jose Sharks threw a significant monkey wrench into the Blackhawks plans this off-season signing RFA Niklas Hjalmarsson to a four year $14 million dollar offer sheet. The Blackhawks matched and are now looking at Hjalmarsson to be the defensive presence on the second pairing and to fulfill his destiny as a talented two-way defenseman. Playing with Hjalmarsson this year will likely be offensive defenseman Brian Campbell who will collect a point every other game from the blueline. Campbell has been both hero and goat in the Windy City but remains one of the best offensive defensemen in the game. Chicago's bottom pairing will likely feature Jordan Hendry, who's about as generic as an NHL defenseman can get. Playing alongside him will be long time NHL vet Nick Boynton. Also look for tough guy John Scott and prospect Shawn Lalonde to get time on the Blackhawks blueline this season.
Chicago has lost it's young Stanley Cup winning goalie Antti Niemi as a cap causality. However they've replaced him with talented veteran Marty Turco. Turco has been the substance of much debate and skepticism from the experts however I'm still buying in Turco. Turco has been stuck on a Marc Crawford team for the last few years and I've watched first hand as Crawford has decimated any semblance of defense and shattered the goalies on his teams. I believe playing behind the talented defense in Chicago, Turco could have a bounce back year. Look for him to get 60-70 games in Chicago while being a very strong number two fantasy goalie. Backing up Turco will be long time AHL goalie Corey Crawford. Crawford will likely provide adequate relief in his 10 to 15 appearances this year.
I'm probably going to be in the minority but I think the Blackhawks could do just as well as they did last season if not better. Chicago will return eight of their top penalty killers, seven of their top ten powerplay skaters, will add some prospects looking to make a name, and a solid veteran goalie who's looking to win it all. I think it's likely they'll challenge for the Western conference title again. Look for them to come in somewhere between 1st and 5th in the league.
BVB Projected Opening Night Line-Up
Jonathan Towes - 33 G/50 A 83 P
Patrick Kane - 38 G/63 A 101 P
Troy Bouwer - 27 G/25 A 52 P
Marian Hossa - 30 G/35 A 65 P
Patrick Sharp - 23 G/35 A 58 P
Viktor Stalberg - 17 G/17 A 34 P
Kyle Beach - 20 G/20 A 40 P
Dave Bolland - 25 G/25 A 50 P
Fernando Pisani- 13 G/17 A 30 P
Tomas Kopecky - 10 G/10 A 20 P
Jake Dowell - 3 G/10 A 13 P
Brian Bickell - 12 G/10 A 22 P
Duncan Keith - 15 G/50 A 65 P
Brent Seabrook - 6 G/30 A 36 P
Brian Campbell - 9 G/33 A 42 P
Niklas Hjalmarsson - 4 G/18 A 22 P
Jordan Hendry - 3 G/10 A 13 P
Nick Boynton - 0 G/6 A 6 P
Marty Turco - 43-17-7 | 2.38 GAA | .918 Sv%
Corey Crawford - 7-4-4 | 2.65 GAA | .906 Sv%