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Chicago Blackhawks’ 2015-16 Season Is Not Like 2010-11

By Andrew Facemyer
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The Chicago Blackhawks had one of the wackier offseasons in recent memory. Due to this, comparisons to the 2010 offseason and 2010-11 team have surfaced, and why shouldn’t they? The ‘Hawks were stripped down to the bone this offseason, losing key contributors like Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp. The salary cap held the ‘Hawks by the throat as trade by unbearable trade was made by General Manager Stan Bowman. Most thought the 2015-16 team seemed destined for a regular-season repeat from 2010-11. And for those who don’t remember, the ‘Hawks made the playoffs on the very last day of the regular season thanks to a loss from the Dallas Stars

But there is one thing that most are forgetting: This season will be so much different from 2010-11.

Let us start with the similarities. Both teams lost key contributors from the previous season.

That would be about it.

The ‘Hawks are in a much different situation than they were in 2010-11. Not only is it a different situation, but it is a much better situation for many different reasons. Let us think about some of the notable players the ’Hawks lost and acquired in both seasons.

Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

2010 Notable Departures: Antti Niemi, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew LaddKris Versteeg

When it happened, the 2010 offseason seemed like a nightmare. The ‘Hawks lost a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender in Niemi. While his stats were never great, he came up big when the ‘Hawks needed him to, and that’s exactly what you need from a goaltender in the playoffs. On top of Niemi, the ‘Hawks also lost future NHL Department of Player Safety nightmare Byfuglien. While Byfuglien wasn’t exactly the nightmarish freight train he is now, he was certainly no slouch and would still leave you sore the next morning if you got in his way. Along with Byfuglien, Ladd was also sent to Winnipeg (then the Atlanta Thrashers). Ladd was a big, physical, two-way forward who was a force to be reckoned with on both ends of the ice, and he’s now the Jets’ captain. Lastly, Versteeg left the ‘Hawks for the first time. While his most-recent tenure wasn’t worth remembering at all, he was a solid offensive contributor in his first Chicago run.

2010 Arrivals: Viktor StalbergJohn Scott?

The salary cap really squeezed the ‘Hawks in 2010. Their offseason was completely lackluster and became almost entirely laughable with the signing of Scott. All the names we know and love today (or miss … come back Nick Leddy) either came by way of a trade, through Rockford or played their previous season in college. Even Michael Frolik‘s trade-deadline acquisition later in the 2010-11 season couldn’t save what what was ultimately a tough season in the acquisitions department.

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Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

2015 Departures: Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp,  Johnny Oduya … Kris Versteeg

In 2015, the salary cap struck again. Saad was sent away to Columbus, leaving the ‘Hawks without their top-line left wing. Saad had big play ability and was a solid defensive player who could play on both the powerplay and the penalty kill. After Saad, the long-rumored departure of Sharp finally took place. His departure left the ‘Hawks without their sharpshooter and notorious goal-post pinger who helped them to three Stanley Cups in his 10 seasons. On top of Sharp’s departure, Oduya followed suit and signed with Dallas, leaving the ‘Hawks significantly weaker on the defensive side of the puck. While his regular-season play was sometimes plagued with inconsistency, his postseason performances were exactly was the ‘Hawks always needed. And then Versteeg left again. While it is noteworthy, I don’t think anyone shed a tear.

2015 Arrivals: Artem Anisimov, Artemi Panarin, Marko Dano, Trevor Daley, Viktor Tikhonov

Anisimov was acquired in the Saad trade and was originally believed to be the ‘Hawks’ sought-after solution at 2C. So far, that seems to be working out great. Panarin and Tikhonov were signed over from Russia. While Tikhonov has struggled to stay in the lineup, Panarin has been more than anyone had hoped for. Dano came over in the Saad trade with Anisimov. Despite a fantastic training camp, Dano was sent down to Rockford and was only recently given a chance in the NHL. If he’s given another chance with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, who knows what he could do. Daley was acquired in the Sharp trade, and he has had a rough time adapting to the ‘Hawks style of play. Given more time, maybe we can see more from Daley.

So, now that we have all those players in mind, let’s compare. In 2010, the ‘Hawks lost a starting goaltender, a bulk of their talented physicality and noticeable offensive skill while gaining virtually nothing in the offseason. Just looking at Corey Crawford‘s first season as a starter in 2010-11, Niemi isn’t too big of a loss at all. However, with the losses of Ladd and Byfuglien, this team started going through a change that would be virtually complete the next season. They became the Chicago Blackhawks that we know today. Speed and skill completely took over the balanced play the ‘Hawks portrayed in 2009-10, and due to this, a somewhat lost Blackhawks team began showing up in the 2010-11 season. At the time, their core was still young. Some of the players we love today played their first season with the Blackhawks in 2010-2011. These two points were not a recipe for success, and it certainly showed, but were a recipe for growth.

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This year and its offseason are different. With their similar styles of play and skill, you could almost say that Anisimov for Saad was an even trade. While Anisimov may not have the explosiveness that Saad possesses, he makes up for that in his size and defensive play. Based on Sharp’s uneven play and injury problems over the past couple years, losing Sharp hurts the heart more than it does the mind. The ‘Hawks were paying him way too much to miss half of two of the past three seasons, and although he was talented, it was nothing that couldn’t be replaced. Panarin has proven to be an incredibly capable replacement. He is currently on pace for 82 points this season. This is something Sharp has never done. Even though the season is still young, what reason would cause him to slow down? Players go through hot and cold streaks, but Panarin is still acclimating to North American hockey. The only way to go is up from here. While losing Oduya and gaining Daley hurts on the defensive end, Daley is still becoming acclimated to Chicago Blackhawks hockey and shouldn’t be judged too quickly. And losing Versteeg while gaining a highly touted prospect in Dano is something that any ‘Hawks fan would take any day.

The point of all this is simple. In 2011, the ‘Hawks did not reload in the offseason. In 2015, they made their team better.

In the end, players can move all they want. As we’ve seen above, their movement can cause ripples in a team’s play, but a team with a good core can survive anything. Not only is the ‘Hawks’ core significantly more experienced now than in 2010-11, but its members are now reaching their prime. Patrick Kane has played out of his mind the past two seasons. Duncan Keith has defied the limits of the human body. And Toews has grown to become one of the greatest captains in the history of sports.

Next: Dano Could Make First Line Click

There are only two reasons that this team could falter this year. The first reason is the insane Central Division that they have the unfortunate opportunity of being in. With the way the current season is going, there could be a scenario where the sixth-place team with 100 points doesn’t make the playoffs. The second reason is chemistry. Whenever a team undergoes a major overhaul like the ‘Hawks did this offseason, chemistry has to be formed for a team to truly succeed.

Long story short, 2010-11 was almost a complete failure. This season will not be anywhere close. I’m not saying that the ‘Hawks will win the Stanley Cup this year. But next year … this team will be scary.

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