Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks’ 6 Questions Before 2016-17 Season

By Colin Likas
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Nov 20, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival (32) against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

Tough question: Who represents the defense?

So you’ve got Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brian Campbell. That’s a good starting four, and you can bet the quartet will see a fair amount of ice time throughout the regular season.

The final two spots, however, are up for grabs. For my money, I think Michal Kempny and Trevor van Riemsdyk will get them, with Michal Rozsival serving as the seventh man.

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Kempny was not brought over from the KHL to sit in the minor leagues. He was brought over because the team saw him as an improvement from the cesspool of struggles created by van Riemsdyk, Rozsival, Erik Gustafsson, Viktor Svedberg and a host of now-gone players. Kempny will be on the opening night roster.

Van Riemsdyk very likely will be too, unless he plays his way out of a roster spot in training camp. Even if he’s surpassed by someone else, he’ll still be that seventh guy. But I think he’s more likely the sixth, because Q has really latched on to him, and because Rozsival is still around.

Like van Riemsdyk, Rozsival is someone Q can’t seem to live without right now. The Blackhawks didn’t re-sign Rozsival to send him to the minors, so you know he’s going stick around the big club because of his “veteran presence.” It’s not the best setup, but it’s what Q will want.

Gustafsson is the odd man out, and Svedberg should be starting in the AHL anyway. This could all change if Ville Pokka or Gustav Forsling really impress in camp, but they’d have to go above and beyond to force either TVR or Rozsival to Rockford.

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Apr 25, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) replaces goalie Scott Darling (33) in the first period in game six of the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

Easy Question: How will the goaltender workload be divided?

As much as some fans just can’t seem to get over it, Corey Crawford is the Blackhawks’ starter through and through. He made a career high in starts (58) last season even though he missed nearly a month due to injury.

So we can expect Crow to get at least 60 starts this season, and probably more than that. I know the Blackhawks would like to give Scott Darling more work to keep both him and Crow fresh, but the uncertainty relating to this team’s offense is going to require a lot of Crow, even with the defense improved from last season.

The number I’ll settle on for now with Crow is 63 starts this season, leaving Darling the remaining 19 and with injuries being the only real variable. It seems like a hefty workload, but Crow posted dazzling numbers last season while taking on the most work of his pro career. The Blackhawks can and will trust him to handle more.

Next: The Fourth-Liners And The Defensive Center

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