Question 1: I think the Anaheim Ducks pose the biggest threat. Of the remaining teams, Anaheim is tied for the highest spot in the Pacific Division standings, at 9-7-3 for 21 points. And let’s not forget these two teams matched up in the 2015 Western Conference finals.
The series went seven games, and it was a long and grueling series. The ’Hawks were lucky to come out on top, and the series featured three overtime games, including the famous triple-OT in Game 2.
The Ducks still have bruisers like Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Kevin Bieksa on their team. The rivalry is most certainly still there, and it should be a very physical game. It could prove to be a tough matchup for the ’Hawks.
Question 2: It would be nice to see Jack O’Callahan as the next participant in “One More Shift.” O’Callahan was a member of the famous 1979-80 U.S. Olympic team that beat the Russians in the “Miracle on Ice” game. He also enjoyed the majority of his NHL career with the Chicago Blackhawks, as a puck-moving and physical defenseman.
O’Callahan currently lives and runs a business in the Chicagoland area. He is an integral part of the Chicago Blackhawk Alumni Association, and it would be nice to see him honored.
Question 1: I’m going with the Edmonton Oilers here. While the Ducks are still the bruiser team we know and hate, the Sharks are an odd-but-effective mix of veterans and youth, and the Kings are … strangely identity-less to start the season, Edmonton seems to have a plan.
Executing said plan over the course of 82 games is a different story. But the Blackhawks don’t face the Oilers every game. So, Edmonton’s plan of flying up and down the ice and just trying to exhaust the opponent can certainly work from a game-to-game scenario.
The Blackhawks would’ve really struggled with this type of opposition last season, but they added some speed in the offseason, and the extra rest acquired after a short playoff run also woke some tired legs. That said, Edmonton’s speed is still going to be tough to contend with, and forwards like Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are a constant threat.
Question 2: I’m not even sure if this is possible at this point in time, but I’d really like for Stan Mikita to be the next “One More Shift” honoree.
Mikita, a career Blackhawk from 1958 to 1980, set the standard for excellence in a time when the Blackhawks’ championship aspirations went cold (at least he was around for the 1961 Cup). He posted 1,467 regular-season points and 150 postseason points while being a constant contender for/winner of the Byng, Hart and Art Ross trophies.
The reason I’d like Mikita to be next, though, beyond the obvious plaudits and his spot in the team’s history, is the fact he may not be long for this Earth in any sort of sound capacity. Mikita is dealing with dementia, and there likely isn’t a whole lot he remembers about his illustrious hockey career at this point. Maybe with the help of family or some former teammates, he can take on last skate.