Jun 1, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks players watch and react as the Los Angeles Kings players celebrate after game seven of the Western Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Five Ways The Chicago Blackhawks Will Be Better Next Season

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, you know that the Chicago Blackhawks’ season was ended on Sunday night, just one goal away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in five seasons.

Although the loss stings of disappointment, the season won’t be chalked up as a failure, according to management. Nevertheless, the Blackhawks will have to come back bigger and better in 2014-15, and try to earn their third Stanley Cup in seven years. Below, we outline five ways the Blackhawks can do just that:

#5: No More Michael Handzus

Michael Handzus was likely the Blackhawk under the most scrutiny in the past season. After signing a one-year contract in the off-season, the 37-year old returned to the ice for the Blackhawks, and immediately settled into the second-line center position left by Dave Bolland. Handzus centering Patrick Kane never seemed right for a single game, as the speed and skill by #88 were never matched by the veteran. Although his solid faceoff percentage got the puck to the Blackhawks star more often, Kane had trouble creating offense, when it seemed that his (ever-changing) right-winger was the only person up in the rush. Handzus went out in the best way possible, scoring a big goal in what will likely be one of his final games of his career. At any rate, it is unlikely that Handzus will be back in Red next season, and that’s good news for the Blackhawks.

#4: It’s (Actually) Teuvo Time

After all the hype surrounding top Blackhawks prospect Teuvo Teravainen died down, it seemed that Chicago fans made quite a fool of themselves, causing a huge fuss over a player that only appeared in three NHL games. Teravainen was shipped down to the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate in Rockford, and after they were eliminated from playoff contention, he set his sights on the Finnish national team for the World Championships. Surprisingly, Teravainen didn’t make that team, and thus, his season was over. Teravainen will be on the Blackhawks next season, likely filling in Handzus’ second-line role. The thought of Teravainen centering Patrick Kane is a dream come true for Blackhawks fans, and for the first time in over a decade, it seems that the ‘Hawks will actually have a solid second-line center situation.

#3: Corey Crawford Will Be Better Than Ever

It was the spring of 2012. The Blackhawks were fresh off a first-round elimination by the Phoenix Coyotes, and Corey Crawford didn’t have his greatest series by any standards. That off-season, he was reported to be working harder than anyone could have imagined, and when the season finally resumed, it showed. Crawford quickly ascended the ranks as one of the NHL’s top goaltenders, eventually leading the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup. Crawford had another great season, but against the Kings, he struggled, averaging 3.71 goals against/game against the Kings. Blackhawks optimists see another summer full of hard work ahead of #50, as he continues to try to shake off the doubt surrounding his play, and if all goes well, 2014-15 will be his best season yet.

#2: Stan Bowman Back Under Pressure

When the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2013, many praised Stan Bowman as the Blackhawks’ savior, assembling one of the stacked rosters in all of hockey. 2013-14 wasn’t Bowman’s greatest follow-up year. With two trades with the Florida Panthers, Bowman gave up valuable youth in Brandon Pirri, Jimmy Hayes, and Dylan Olsen, while receiving two draft picks and Kris Versteeg in return. Versteeg’s legacy from the 2010 season quickly wore off, and the former super-rookie never managed to reclaim the magic he had in his first go-round with the Blackhawks. Joel Quenneville was forced to play nine forwards for most of the season, and if things weren’t bad enough, the Blackhawks signed Brandon Bollig to a very expensive three-year contract. Bowman doesn’t have to make any major moves in the off-season, although the Blackhawks could be interested in a puck-moving center (Joe Thornton, anyone?). Instead, he will have to solidify the Blackhawks’ depth, and with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane entering contract years, trades won’t be the only thing on his mind in the 2014-15 season.

#1: The Blackhawks Aren’t Invincible Anymore

Since January 2013, the Blackhawks and their fans have enjoyed being the top team in the National Hockey League. That all came crashing down on Sunday, and they will be on the outside looking in, while the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers battle for the Stanley Cup. If the Kings come out on top, it will be two Cups in three years, even better than the two cups in four years that everyone was so excited about when the Blackhawks took Stanley home in 2013. Winning is fun, and the Blackhawks will be among the most motivated teams coming into September, with goals of doing more of just that; winning. Five wins away from the Stanley Cup is tantalizingly close for this team, and everyone (who is left) will want to get back into that position once again in 2014-15. Players like Brandon Saad had never experienced the pain of falling short until Sunday night, and from Jonathan Toews to David Rundblad, and every Blackhawk in between, the drive to bring another Stanley Cup to the Madhouse will be inspiring, entertaining, and successful next season.




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Tags: Chicago Blackhawks

  • Lloyd A Brodnax

    Right On Skylar! I’m very excited about our Hawks upcoming season. A true optimist! Our Hawks and fans would no doubt love 2Be playing in the Finals 4the Cup, but they can now reload…rest mentally & physically and with some infused youth (Teuvo & Morin and maybe few others) and maybe a Thorton, this Hawks generation of players are set 2compete for years! On a more professional note, thx 4the many articles, as they were refreshing to read. Next year’s motto, Glide w/Speed 2the Cup!

    • flan50

      I hope you guys are right. I was pretty down before games 5, 6 & 7 restored my pride in the Red & Black and their character, courage and fight (actually, I hadn’t lost the pride, but it was wounded!). I agree Teuvo should get his shot next season – and let’s hope Coach Q finally rolls with Morin! I am a little pessimistic about Rosival and Versteeg returning, however, and feel Bowman needs to add a bit more quality depth if possible (Man, I wish they had held on to Pirri – think they are gonna regret that). Still, we’ve got The Captain and no one else does! Plus Kaner! Plus my man Hossa! Keith! Seabrook! I still think the best is ahead for guys like Saad, Shaw and Hjalmarsson. And I like the idea of Crow with a little chip on his shoulder. We need to see them tighten up the D and add just a dose of toughness next year to clear up Crawford’s sight lines. They are THAT close – and I’m confident Toews will come out like a lion next year and have his den of Blackhawks ready to follow all the way to The Cup! Love them Hawks! Can’t wait for 2015!

      • The Nutbrown Hare

        Though he has been one of my favorite Hawks during the team’s recent run, I am no longer enamored with Seabrook’s play. He seems to have grown slow and tired each of the last two post-seasons. Yes, he had one of the team’s most glorious moments in recent memory (Game 7 in OT vs. Detroit, of course), but he was sub-par during long stretches each of the last two springs (including the aforementioned Game 7, in advance of his OT heroics).
        I don’t know how I feel one way or the other about the potential for moving him to clear cap space just yet, given my former admiration for the guy, but something is up and I do hope it’s remedied one way or another in 2014-15.

        • flan50

          That is a good point and, actually, I agree to an extent. I thought there were several times Seabrook showed less than full effort pursuing the puck, which led to crucial LA goals. Also, he often did a poor job in front of the net, playing spectator too often. I did hear rumors of a possible injury of some sort? I don’t know. I think Seabrook has been one of the team leaders in recent years, but lapses like we saw – if there was no injury involved – probably won’t sit well for long with the Hawks. It really seemed the entire blue line corps was out of sorts in this last series. Keith, Oduya, Hjalmarsson, etc. would show some stellar play, but there were too many instances of turnovers, weak outlets, being out of position, etc. And, of course, I haven’t been and I’m not a fan of Rosival. I think I yell his name at the TV more even than Zus! There is still a lot of talent there, and I don’t know if it’s time to break up the chemistry of this team yet, but that group needs to step back up next season.

          • The Nutbrown Hare

            Oh, yeah, that’s part of what is making the series loss hard for me to take–extensive defensive breakdowns against LA by multiple players on the blue line (not just Seabrook). I realize most of this season’s defensive play paled in comparison to their blue line prowess from last year, but this series was just mind-bogglingly horrid in that regard.

        • Skylar Peters

          I think Seabrook and Keith have to play together for both to be at the top of their game. The two off-hand shots, and all their experience together, is something no other team can duplicate, ever since Suter moved out of Nashville. Still the best pairing in the league in my opinion.

          • flan50

            Agree that the chemistry there is very important, as I noted in another post. I think Brent bounces back fine next year.

      • Skylar Peters

        I don’t think our team defense is horrible overall (two possible HOF’ers), but it definitely wasn’t good in the WCF. I want 7 guys that Q can put out there in any situation, at any time in the game. Same with the forwards. No juggling

        • flan50

          It certainly isn’t horrible overall, and not at all bad very often. BUT, there were too many momentary lapses against a team like LA that will take advantage nearly every time

    • Skylar Peters

      Speed is definitely what they do best! I’m excited for the upcoming season. It definitely Is dissapointing coming up short when we were so close, but we’ll be right back among the best next season.

  • BW929

    There would have been changes made to the roster even if they had won the Cup this year so now the real work begins – Pro Scouting, Amateur Scouting, Draft and UFAs. I think a few minor tweaks are all that’s necessary to get younger, quicker, hungrier and well-positioned for a few more deep runs. We Hawk fans have been spoiled as the organization has set the bar almost (unreasonably) high. We’ve come to expect a Cup (or at least Finals) every year. Let’s enjoy it while it’s here, like the Bulls of the ’90s, and hope that Stan and his peeps have what it takes to make the right moves. Agree that some that were made this year may come back to bite them, but the organizational depth and draft picks will hopefully replace those assets. Have a refreshing summer and can’t wait for September!

    • Skylar Peters

      I definitely think Kane and Toews are our biggest priorities. If we can get a deal (laughs) on these two, the space we have to add even one more solid bottom-six player could be huge next year.

      • BW929

        Except that 19 and 88 still have a year left on their current deals so the new cap hits wouldn’t happen until 15-16. That said, they’re squeezed on cap space this year so this may force Stan to move at least one roster player if he wants to shake things up a bit.

        In response to your comment about Keith and Seabrook needing to play together to play their best – I think that applies to Seabs but not to Keith. 7 needs 2 more than 2 needs 7. Seabs has slipped and I think this is why it may be a good time to dangle him.

        • Skylar Peters

          I definitely agree. Keith is a Norris favourite for a reason. Seabrook is his better-than-average complement.

  • Matt Ahrens

    Who centers the 2nd line next year is the most interesting question of the offseason. Q liked Shaw there with Saad and Kane but Saad was taking faceoffs because Shaw wasn’t so hot at the dot. I doubt Q will trust Teuvo there much – will he be ready? – and probably not in the playoffs. I’d love to see Joe Thornton or another vet get acquired for that role and keep Shaw on 3rd line and Krueger on 4th; Teuvo can play some wing. I wonder if Versteeg or Rosival will be back. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bickell or Sharp or Oduya traded but I think the other guys stay. Defense after the top 3 or 4 needs some work; probably next need after 2nd line center. Gotta wonder wonder if and when Leddy is going to take that next step. Maybe a young guy to replace or share time with Rosi, maybe a veteran upgrade over Oduya. Should be interesting. Whatever happens, with Toews and Kane leading the way and Hossa, Keith, Seebrook, Hammer, Craw, Saad, Sharp and the young guys behind them, they’ll be right there again next year. Hopefully another cup!

  • Jerome

    “Tweaking” just leads to unexpected disappointments – you can never get the same team back, even if the roster is the same… Hawks need to look to IMPROVE – that’s what you do when you compete, try to get better. Try, not just hope.
    Some specific suggestions. Teravainen, however good, is totally unproven. He is not your plan to compete for the Cup. Hope yes. Plan no. They need to get an established center.
    Sign UFA Jarome Iginla. Yes old, but positioned to be the Raul Ibanez of hockey. Can alternate time with Hossa, keep them both fresh.
    Handzus, Rosival gone. Love these guys, but that’s professional sports.
    Get two Ds who will close on opposing forwards and bother the hell out of them. Oh, and tell Leddy it’s time. Talk to Saad about how to take a big step forward in one year.
    Morin and every other young player has to fight their way into the lineup, not be “given a chance”. Let the non-contenders give players a chance. Hawks need to roll players out there who will hunt down NHL hockey wins, and tough job.
    Lastly, for heaven’s sake get Michael Frolik back! The guy’s game fit the Hawks to a T. Consider switching him to a D man, but get him back.

  • Tony Say Yarealsoon

    First, you guys are going to be heart broken when Tuevo is in Rockford next season. The Skinny Finny needs to add a few pounds and get use to the North American game. Besides, the Hawks problem is not scoring goals. The problem is on the blue line that made LA look like the 1980 Edmonton Oilers. Roszival needs to retire. Nick Leddy failed to show up, once again, for the playoffs. Seabrook was HORRENDOUS in the WCF, especially paired with O’Duya, who is a glorified 3rd pairing D man to begin with.
    2nd, YES! It would be nice to get Thornton, or Kessler, or Spezza. But I think you guys never hear of the NHL’s RIDICULOUS salary cap???