2. Line Control
This one does fall on Q’s willingness to lay off his line blender, so it’s an iffy proposition. But I do think he saw some critical points at different points in the season:
— Marian Hossa can no longer effectively play a top-line role
— Richard Panik (should he be re-signed) can handle tougher assignments and playing alongside stars (AKA Toews)
— Teuvo Teravainen (should he remain with the team) needs to play alongside real players and not Brandon Mashinter
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— The second line doesn’t get broken up
This at least gives his forward corps some direction for 2016-17, which is something it had very little of last season. It was pretty much “follow the second line,” and that’s why the Blackhawks struggled to win when that line couldn’t produce.
Let’s say Panik and Tomas Fleischmann are able to return to the Blackhawks in the offseason, Teuvo is also kept around and Andrew Shaw, Dennis Rasmussen and Mashinter don’t return, as won’t Andrew Ladd and Dale Weise. Your forwards are:
If you want to carry 13 forwards, you need three more. I’m going to guess Kyle Baun will be given every chance to shine once again, despite the fact he crapped all over that proposition last year. Mark McNeill should be given heavy consideration to play up a level next season. You know guys like Tyler Motte, Ryan Hartman, Vincent Hinostroza, Tanner Kero and maybe even Ryan Haggerty will also get good looks.
Overall, I would be comfortable with that group of 10 plus two or three of the youngsters mentioned below. And this isn’t considering any magic Bowman can work in the offseason. Comfortable enough to call the Blackhawks a Cup contender? Well … the 2010 group won it all with Ben Eager, Adam Burish, Jake Dowell and Tomas Kopecky playing key roles, so … yes.
1. Experience, Experience, Experience
There’s no substitute for having been there and having done that. We see it every season, and we even saw it again in this Stanley Cup Final. Yeah, Pittsburgh was probably the better team all along, but they had multiple guys who were around for the 2009 Cup run. What did the Sharks have in that department? Not a whole lot.
And what do the Blackhawks bring in that department? Just a majority of the league’s active three-time Cup winners:
It can’t hurt, right?