September 30, 2013 by andymisek
Unlike 2010, the Blackhawk didn’t have to dismantle their Stanley Cup team after winning the championship. Now a nearly intake team will be coming back together looking to be the first team to repeat since Detroit in 1998. Will Crawford be able to build off of his successes of last year? Will the rookies be able to replace Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik? These are the questions Hawks fans will be asking themselves as the season starts on October 1st. With a superb core, promising prospects and a winning mentality, the Hawks finish 2nd on our NHL Season Countdown.
Unlike the other teams in our top five, the Blackhawks still had a pick in the first round of the 2013 draft and they selected West Dundee native Ryan Hartman. He plays a hard nose style and gets into the dirty areas to score goals. Hartman plays a very similar style to Andrew Shaw, but is a bit away from being considered for a roster spot. He could be a fun player to watch.
Hawks were relatively quiet during the off season. They moved Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik, Daniel Carcillo to clear cap space; allowed Viktor Stalberg and Ray Emery to walk via free agency, and resigned Michal Rozsival, Michal Handzus, Bryan Bickell, Marcus Kruger, Corey Crawford, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Nick Leddy to contract extensions. The only new played signed was veteran goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin.
Hawks have a foursome of Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews who are super stars within the league. Hossa and Toews are considered some of the best two way players in the league, Sharp is a sniper who quietly scores 30 goals each season, and no one has the hands and vision of Kane.
Outside of those four, the Hawks are still extremely deep. Sophomore Brandon Saad and Bryan Bickell are both capable of playing alongside Toews and Kane on the first line. As of now, Michal Handzus will be centering the 2nd line with Sharp and Hossa. If Handzus slips, Brandon Pirri (who I think should have been the 2nd line center) is only an hour and a half away in Rockford.
Andrew Shaw stole Dave Bolland’s job of being the third line pest and he does it exceedingly well. He should be playing with Saad and Jimmy Hayes on the third line. Hayes stole a spot from Jeremy Morin after having a superb training camp. Hayes 6’6′ size, physical capabilities and willingness to go to the front of the net are what the Hawks have been missing since 2010.
Finally the biggest surprise of the training camp was Joakim Nordstrom. He seemed to be a few years away from consideration, but came into camp and proved he could take Michael Frolik’s spot with Marcus Kruger on the penalty kill and the fourth line. Kruger and Nordstrom should be lining up with either fighter Brandon Bollig or rookie Ben Smith.
A few years ago, Ducan Keith and Brent Seabrook were the Blackhawks defense. Big minute eaters and playing against the oppositions number one lines. Now, with a maturing Niklas Hjalmarsson, emerging Nick Leddy and acquisitions of Johnny Oduya and Michal Rozsival, Keith and Seabrrok have logged lower minutes and have less pressure. With the less pressure comes better play from the top pairing.
A big part of Hjalmarsson regaining his 2010 form was the addition of Johnny Oduya whose offensive style complements Hjalmarssons defensive play. They were made to play together. One last thing, mark my words, Nick Leddy will be a stud very soon! He plays a great offensive game, but needs to work on his defensive coverage. At only 22 years old, he has plenty of time to develop; he is nowhere near his prime.
Before 2013, all questions surrounding the Hawks were if Corey Crawford could be a starting goaltender and if he would bring down a strong Hawks team. Crawford silenced all critics with a good season and an even better playoff run. He stole games for the Hawks on their way to their 2nd Stanley Cup in 4 years. Ray Emery had an amazing 17-1 record, and he is an above average goaltender. He will be replaced with Nikolai Khabibulin, who will be a great mentor for Crawford. They also have Antti Raanta who can play if there are any injuries.
There is a reason the Hawks won the Stanley Cup: they have all the pieces need to win. Toews is a leader who is never satisfied, Kane has matured on and off the ice and is ready to be the elite playmaker he was destined to be, and Crawford was determined to silence his critics. With the deepest defense in the league, it was no wonder they dominated 2013 from start to finish. If they survive the dreaded cup hangover, the Hawks will go deep again.