Question 1: Moving more than one core player this summer will be a huge challenge for the Blackhawks, especially if one of them is Artem Anisimov, but the ‘Hawks can survive and remain competitive if the younger players like Tanner Kero, Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz continue to improve, defensemen Michal Kempny and Jan Rutta deliver on the blue line, and Corey Crawford stays and has a good year between the pipes.
I really can’t envision Stan Bowman trying to dump any of his long term core players holding a true no-movement clause, except maybe Brent Seabrook, and the ‘Hawks can absorb that loss. Still, there’ll be lots of angst in Chicagoland this summer.
Question 2: Assuming the NHL plans to expand to 32 teams within the next three years, there are a number of compelling reasons for Seattle to land the next NHL franchise, and the city just announced last week plans for a deep-pocketed private developer, the Oak View Group, to finance a $564 million renovation of the city’s landmark KeyArena to attract an NHL team as its anchor tenant.
Beyond that, the greater Seattle area is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country, boasting a huge hockey fan base that passionately supports two WHL clubs, the Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips. The location would create an instant rivalry with the Vancouver Canucks located just 140 miles north. Oh, and did I mention I live in Seattle?
To then balance the Western Conference with eight teams in each division, I’d like to see the Calgary Flames moved from the Pacific to the Central Division, which would put two Canadian teams in each division.
Question 1: I am somewhat concerned. If the Blackhawks trade the Marcus Kruger and Brent Seabrook, I feel that is addition by subtraction.
The Kruger would loss would hurt the Blackhawks in the faceoff dot and on the penalty kill. However, if you look at his career numbers, he is a depreciating asset in those departments. He peaked in 2014-15 at better than 53.3 percent. He has been at 49.2 range for the last two seasons.
I feel that Kruger can be replaced by Tanner Kero in the lineup. Kero had 16 points in 47 games and Kruger had 17 points in 70 games. Kero will be a downgrade in the faceoff dot because he was at 44.4 percent last season. I still am not concerned about the Kruger loss.
The loss of Seabrook would also hurt a lot in the short term. He is vocal leader in the locker room and a hard shot from the blue line. As we have covered here before, Seabrook is also a declining asset. He is another year older and slower. He was clearly out played in the playoffs last year.
I do not think the Blackhawks have an option to replace Seabrook in their system. Since they are lacking high-end prospects, I think they will fill his spot with Gustav Forsling and Jan Rutta. That is clearly a downgrade in the short term.
I am somewhat concerned, but Nashville should regress next year. St. Louis will not be as good. Minnesota is top heavy. The Central Division will be very competitive.
Question 2: I would like to re-add the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Central Division. I know the NHL will not give back the Detroit Red Wings to the Central Division, so they should give the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Geographically it makes sense. Blackhawks fans along with Nashville fans are more willing to travel there for games. It also gives Columbus a fighting chance in their division. Columbus last year was 1-1 against the ’Hawks. It also had a winning record against Dallas (2-0), Colorado, (1-0-1) and Minnesota (2-0). The Blue Jackets were only swept by Nashville.
Columbus seems like the logical fit to me.