The NHL is set to begin another regular season, and when one thinks of Stanley Cup favorites, the Chicago Blackhawks are sure to come to mind.
If you’re surprised, you shouldn’t be.
Over the past seven years, the Blackhawks have built a modern-day dynasty that includes five trips to the Western Conference finals, a playoff appearance in every season and the ultimate goal, the Stanley Cup, three times.
Though the Blackhawks usually retained much of their roster over the summer from season-to-season, this year was a little bit different. The Blackhawks said goodbye to a lot of players, and not just role players, either. Some of the ‘Hawks that have been there since the beginning, or most of it at least, will be in different colors than red and white next season.
Yet, the Blackhawks still have a shot. It’s our annual tradition at this time of year, to give our five reasons why the Blackhawks will be lifting the Stanley Cup come next June.
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No. 5: Central Division Changes Bode Well For Blackhawks
In the two years since the NHL re-aligned the Western and Eastern Conferences, the Central Division has been a juggernaut of sorts. Many believe it to be the strongest in the league, after qualifying 10 teams for the Stanley Cup playoffs over the past two years, while the Pacific Division has only qualified six.
This year, that may be set to change. The Blackhawks weren’t the only teams active in the offseason, and without even focusing in on Chicago, the changes going on amongst other Central Division teams look to allow the ‘Hawks to keep their advantage.
The St. Louis Blues were looking for change after more playoff disappointment and bid goodbye to T.J. Oshie, sending him to the Eastern Conference for ex-Blackhawk Troy Brouwer. The Winnipeg Jets retained most of their roster, but lost a first-line contributor, Michael Frolik, to the Calgary Flames. The Minnesota Wild made a splash with the signing of defenseman Mike Reilly, but Devan Dubnyk will have to have a Hart-Trophy-like season if the Wild would like to get deep into the playoffs. The Nashville Predators look to be a successful team for the second consecutive year, but still lack a game-breaker to take them to the next level.
Though the Dallas Stars, who did not qualify for the playoffs last season, look to have made several key additions, their suspect goaltending and lack of playoff experience as a team set them back. The Colorado Avalanche, who dwelled in the division’s basement for most of last season, were active this summer but still don’t look like a team capable of advancing into the second half of the playoffs, at best.
Though the division will still be very competitive, the Blackhawks look to be the superior team from the get-go. All it takes is a couple of wins the ‘Hawks wouldn’t have otherwise earned, and a higher playoff seed could bring postseason success. The Pacific Division will prove to test the Blackhawks, but if Chicago can make it to the conference final once again, the Blackhawks will be impossible to slow down, if past seasons are any indication.
Next: Reason No. 4
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