3. The Power Play
One thing to look for during training camp is how much work will the Hawks put in on the power play. This is the one unit that didn’t have a successful season in 2013. To many this is the biggest head scratcher with the Blackhawks team and roster. The lineup is chock full of offensive talent and they surely shouldn’t be ranked in the bottom 10 year in and year out with the man advantage.
One of the things I would look at is, what role will Bryan Bickell have on this unit. Bickell came into his own during the playoffs putting his big body in front of Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Quick while picking up huge goals in the process. Bickell’s big payday and body should be used to help create space and goals on a unit that has missed that skill set since Dustin Byfuglien left town.
Secondly, it’s time to give Duncan Keith a break on the power play and give a young offensive defenseman an opportunity on the power play. Of course we are speaking of Nick Leddy and his offensive abilities which would be an upgrade from Duncan Keith’s ability to shoot the puck at other players shin pads.
You know this has to be a top 5 thing for the Blackhawks to focus on in Training Camp.
2. Who Picks Up the Pieces
Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik weren’t super stars, but they had key job responsibilities for the Blackhawks success.
Frolik emerged as one of the best penalty killers during the 2013 season along with Marcus Kruger. The question is who picks up that role with the Blackhawks, and training camp will be a place where these questions begin to be answered.
Of course the assumption is Ben Smith will be one of the new penalty killers and the first to be given the opportunity to fill Frolik’s shoes on the penalty kill. Jeremy Morin also has played on the penalty kill during last season’s time with the Rockford Ice Hogs. This will be for sure an opportunity for which ever young player from Rockford makes the team come October 1st. Yes the penalty kill is a big deal, but there are plenty of veterans that are great on the kill from Jonathan Toews to Marian Hossa.
The real question come the postseason is who will become the Dave Bolland gamer/pest. This has to be the most important and most difficult piece to replace. Bolland had his regular season struggles, but come the playoffs he became another player, one that every Blackhawks fan will never forget. Bolland’s replacement of course won’t be found at training camp, but it will be something to watch for when the Blackhawks take the ice at Notre Dame on Thursday.