Simply looking at contracts alone, there seems to be a lot of separation in player talent. But the Blackhawks will need to work as a strong, whole unit that can score on multiple lines, defend on three pairings and create energy while preventing shots on their bottom lines.
The last few years, the Blackhawks depended a lot on their second offensive line to score. They looked for their other lines to contribute where they could offensively, but mostly to keep the puck out of their own net when Panarin and Kane weren’t on the ice. This is most evident in the 85.7 percent starts Panarin had in the offensive zone.
If there was a chance to put a line in on an offensive zone draw, the second line was coming over the boards. That has to change next season.
If the Blackhawks cannot create a balanced attack, it makes it too easy for an opposing coach to put his strongest defending forwards together on a shutdown line that can stop the ‘Hawks’ biggest scoring threats. They need contributions from the young players as well as the veterans, especially those who are getting paid to be superstars.
After consecutive first-round exits, a lot is riding on next season. Jobs, both for coaches and front office members, are on the line next year as well as roster spots with young and cheap talent waiting to be called up from Rockford.
A lot needs to go right for the Blackhawks to be a contender next year, but it is certainly not impossible. Players building on their experience from last year, veterans providing depth and skill, and superstars doing what they are paid to do could certainly be enough for a team with this amount of talent to go on another run.