2013-14 Chicago Blackhawks Preview

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The Chicago Blackhawks look to defend the cup. Photoshop by Joe Kremel of Blackhawkup.com

The Chicago Blackhawks look to defend the cup. Photoshop by Joe Kremel of Blackhawkup.com

 

The Hawks have a lot of work ahead of them this upcoming season.  The offseason may have been extremely sweet, but it also was equally short.  The Chicago Blackhawks haven’t had much time to rest up and recover from their post-season success.  While the calendar tells us hockey wasn’t gone very long, I think many fans would argue that it was an eternity.  That’s probably why training camp and preseason have been so popular.  All of that leads up to us happily taking a look at this year’s squad.

The Forwards

The Good:  Kane had a very strong season last year, and he says he is planning to continue to perfect his game.  What does that mean exactly?  Well… I don’t know, but I would have to assume a “better” Kane can only spell success.  I would expect another outstanding season from Mr. Patrick Kane.  Toews and Hossa had some time to recover after a particularly grueling cup run.  While Hossa is still on the mend, he should be ready to go by opening night.  If Hossa can keep up his the same production, while filling the same role, then the Hawks should have no problem in the goal scoring and puck possession department.  Toews was given the first few preseason games off as a precaution to a concussion that he appeared to receive from Johnny Boychuk back in game 5 of the SCF.  Every year experts predict Toews to win the Hart trophy, and if he’s going to do it, it will be this year.  We all know Toews can play defense, but I think that he might be looking to score some goals to keep Seabrook quiet.  Sharp is back, and he is still handsome.  He won the fitness award for training camp.  On top of all that, he looked like he was a man ready to light the lamp in training camp and preseason.  We have seen Saad and Shaw play out a season, and it’s hard not to like what we saw.  Both players bring their unique brand of hockey to the team, and they added a lot of stability and depth to the team.

The Bad:  The loss of Frolik, Stalberg, and Bolland will be a tough obstacle to overcome.  The Hawks have multiple young players chomping at the bit to get a shot at playing in the NHL.  Despite the depth of the Hawks youth, those players brought a lot to the team, and their expertise isn’t something that will magically be transferred to their replacements.  The PK will suffer without Fro’s tenacity and ability to always be moving his legs.  Bolland may not have had the best season, but he was directly responsible for multiple game changing plays.  You can’t teach that.  The Hawks may have the recruits, but it will be a while before they are soldiers.

And the Questionable:  When you think about Ben Smith, Jeremy Morin, Jimmy Hayes, and Brandon Pirri, you think that these are all players that can easily fill in for any of the forwards in a time of need.  You aren’t wrong to think that either.  These players will need to carve out their niche on this team, and hopefully they won’t try to simply replicate their predecessor.  Ben Smith isn’t Frolik.  It’s been suggested that he’s the perfect fit, but simply put, Smith needs to just do his own thing.  The same goes for any other guy who makes the cut.  The biggest question is, will Bryan Bickell be able to live up to his contract?  It’s not easy playing up to expectation.  Milan Lucic suffered from that most of last year, and Bickell might feel the pressure as well.

The Hawks’ forward group might need a little time to gel, but I don’t see any reason they can’t be even better than last year.

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Tags: Andrew Shaw Antti Raanta Chicago Blackhawks Corey Crawford Duncan Keith Featured Jonathan Toews Marian Hossa NHL Training Camp Niklas Hjalmarsson Patrick Kane Patrick Sharp Popular Preview

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