As the NHL season is just weeks away, PHR begins to look at each team in-depth. Today, we focus on the Chicago Blackhawks.
Last season: 47-26-9 (103 points), 3rd place in the Central. Lost in the first round to St. Louis, 4-3.
Cap Space Remaining: $2.49MM via CapFriendly
Player to Watch: Nick Schmaltz – Head coach Joel Quenneville has been known to keep his young players on a short leash and it will be interesting to see how much freedom Q will give the dynamic young forward. Schmaltz has been mentioned in the same breath as former Blackhawk Brandon Saad, who was a huge piece of the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2013 and 2015. Schmaltz turned heads during the World Juniors and has an opportunity to log significant ice time as the Hawks depth isn’t what it once was.
Key Storyline: After an early exit last Spring, do the Hawks have it in them to make another run at the Cup? They had a couple months of extra rest, but still have some holes up front. Marcus Kruger is already fighting an injury and Marian Hossa has slowed a bit from the form that made him a key part of the Hawks’ three Cups. The real question is can the Hawks find talent from the youngsters they’re now counting on, specifically Schmaltz, Tyler Motte, and Vinnie Hinostroza. Corey Crawford has shown he is the man between the pipes and bringing Campbell back will shore up a defensive corps that suffered with consistency last season. Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin should continue to pace the team offensively while Jonathan Toews will be his usual steady self. For the Blackhawks, health and depth will ultimately determine their season and postseason success. Duncan Keith’s knee should hold up and ease some fan concern that something more serious is afoot following last year’s surgery.
General manager Stan Bowman may need to tinker a bit more at the trade deadline, but the assets to deal are dwindling. Then again, should Chicago’s “kids” step in, they could find themselves adding another Cup to its already impressive haul.