Chicago Blackhawks Start New Chapter Of History Tonight

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 13: Viktor Arvidsson
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 13: Viktor Arvidsson /

The Chicago Blackhawks start the preseason tonight in Columbus, Ohio, against the Blue Jackets with many unanswered questions

The torch has officially been passed.

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane aren’t kids anymore. The Chicago Blackhawks aren’t signing hot-shot free agents like Brian Campbell and Marian Hossa to add veteran talent to a team on the rise. Powerful names have come and now gone, and left the Blackhawks to carry on a legacy of champions.

There is a lot to like about the Blackhawks this year, but also plenty of questions to answer. All the talk now is regarding which talented prospects can crack the roster or how the overflowing bottom six will be structured. Those issues are important, but maybe not as important as others.

The Blackhawks’ front office and a handful of their players are under the microscope this year. It’s hard to put together a winning team in the salary cap era, but it can be very disappointing when a team capable of deep playoff runs falls short. This season, players must focus and carry their weight because failure has even more serious consequences.

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The ‘Hawks can force themselves into the next great generation of hockey players in Chicago, or fall flat trying. They have sacrificed a lot of draft picks and prospects in the past, but also haven’t done a great job developing NHL-ready contributors. Thus, the level of compete this preseason has been higher than ever.

The last couple seasons, the Hawks haven’t been hungry. They’ve played a lot of hockey and may have been tired, but they’ve had two long summers off to rest. The tone needs to be set from the get-go, and that starts with Toews getting back to Captain Serious.

Toews’ expectations for himself and his team need to be higher this year, and they can’t let off the gas for one second. The Central Division is too talented for the ’Hawks to take anything for granted, especially with two different Central teams knocking them out of the playoffs the last two years.

Here’s a few big-picture things I’m looking for at the beginning of the season:

  • Corey Crawford will be tested more. Can he be a top goaltender without a top defense?
  • Can Brandon Saad eventually become a captain and will he take a leadership role this year?
  • Will Toews be more selfish and produce more?
  • Can the Blackhawks’ powerplay become lethal, as it should be?
  • Can the penalty kill survive without Marcus Kruger and Hossa?

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There are a zillion questions to ask with this new group of Blackhawks, but answers will come in time. I have a lot of faith in the new core and some of their rising stars. The ‘Hawks have to take every lesson that Hossa and Niklas Hjalmarsson left behind and use it to their advantage.

The Blackhawks’ system works, we all know that. We’ll see how well the players can adapt.