It will be nice to once again have a full 82-game season of Chicago Blackhawk and NHL hockey, in 2013-2014. Let this be an official, warm welcome back to the traditional benchmarks and milestones that make-up a typical NHL season. Although, this season won’t exactly be typical, with the Olympics and all, it will be nice to have a full, non-lockout shortened season, of hockey.
We all know the Blackhawks totally dominated last season’s lockout shortened sprint to the playoffs, en route to a Stanley Cup Championship, but how will they fare in a return to the traditional 82-game format, with a new 4-conference format, following a short offseason, and the subtractions of a few important role players?
After winning the Cup in 2010, the Hawks infamously were forced to do a cap-crunching roster makeover, as they traded several important key players, and role players to other teams.
The Hawks got off to a slow start to the 2010-2011 season, and never found their way back to the true dominant consistency, that had become the norm, during the 2009-2010 season, and they backed their way into the post-season, on the last day of the season, thanks to a Dallas Stars loss.
In the 2010-2011 season, the Hawks went 44-29-9, good for 97 points, and 3rd place, in the Old Central Division.
This record was a product of three major factors: major roster turnover, short off-season, compact early season schedule that resulted in little practice time that would help create chemistry with the returning and many new players, on the roster. While it wasn’t a bad season, by any means, it was worse than what Hawks fans had become accustomed to, in the past couple of seasons. With the Hawks’ roster, that season, this record was a bit disappointing.
After a first-round defeat in the playoffs, the Hawks finally got an extended off-season that would allow them plenty of time to regroup and recollect themselves, in preparation for the 2011-2012 season.
A few roster maneuvers, like the trading of Brian Campbell, resulted in the new comfort of legitimate cap-space, but Campbell’ absence would certainly present a down-side.
The Hawks got off to a very solid start, but things eventually fell apart, with the struggles of Corey Crawford, in net, and the Power Play’s inefficiency(missing Campbell). The Hawks found themselves spiraling out of control, as they endured a 9-game losing streak.
The Hawks 2011-2012 with a record of 45-26-11, good for 101 points.
Eventually, the Hawks found enough consistency to land themselves a disappointing 4th place finish, in the highly competitive Central Division, as well as 6th place in the Western Conference, and eventually another 1st round playoff exit.
It’s hard to argue that the lockout didn’t help the Hawks in 2013. The Hawks had plenty of time to heal from injuries(mainly Marian Hossa). With a short pre-season training camp, the Hawks required less time to gel and find chemistry than most teams, since they were essentially the same group of players that were on the roster, at the start of the 2010-2011 season.
In the lockout shortened season, the Hawks went: 36-7-5, good for 77 points(in 48 games).
Everyone knows the story, the Hawks went on to win the Stanley Cup. After winning the cup, the Hawks had a mini-roster shakeup, to accommodate the salary cap. Gone are Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik, and Viktor Stalberg. They will be replaced with in-house, players, from the organizational farm system. Gone is backup goaltender, Ray Emery, and he will be replaced by ex-Hawks starting goaltender, Nikolai Khabibulin.
It would be foolish to expect the Hawks to be as dominant as they were in the 2013 season. The roster turnover was not as dramatic as it was in 2010, but it was still significant. The even shorter off-season, will no doubt play a role, at least early on, in the season, but with a full 82-game season, the Hawks will have plenty of time to figure things out.
I predict the Hawks will finish the 2013 season with 49 wins. The Hawks will have an excellent season, when it’s all said and done. They are the team-to-beat in the new Central Division, and have a roster full of talent, that can beat any team on any night.
The Hawks will have their fair share, if not more than their fair share of character testing, and character building moments, in 2013-2014. However, at the end of the season, it will be the Hawks leading the way, in the New Central Division.