After the 2019 NHL entry draft, and free agency, are the Chicago Blackhawks primed to return to former glory?
We are only a couple of months from hockey returning to the shores of Lake Michigan. Stan Bowman and his staff have completed their offseason agenda, barring another surprising trade like the recent Jokiharju for Nylander swap or the potential Artem Anisimov trade that always seems to linger around. Many fans are concerned the title window has already closed.
With that in mind, Stan Bowman had a plan going into this offseason to shore up the back end of the lineup, which allowed 292 goals against last season. That mark of 292 goals allowed ranked 30th in the league.
Bowman added the likes of Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan to upgrade the defense. Maatta is slow on his feet, but he brings a shutdown type body we haven’t seen since Niklas Hjalmarsson was sent packing. De Haan brings more offensive firepower to the defensive corps, as well as fast decision making and puck-moving ability. Both of these additions to the lineup bring stability that the team lacked last season.
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Another goal of Stan’s was to bolster a penalty kill that had a ranking of 72.73% last season. The ‘Hawks penalty kill was near the basement of the league and that is not a recipe for the playoffs.
During all three recent cup runs, the penalty kill ranked in the top 10 each year. The Blackhawks’ penalty kill ranked 5th in 2010, 3rd in 2013, and 10th in 2015.
It has been a trial and error situation for the ‘Hawks over the past couple of years. Bowman signed defensive specialist, Ryan Carpenter, this offseason to a three-year deal.
Carpenter will help create an effective penalty kill we haven’t seen since the likes of a younger Marcus Kruger, Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik, and Andrew Desjardins. If Carpenter can be just as effective as any of those names mentioned prior, the ‘Hawks could be very dangerous given their high power offense.
The offense isn’t a weakness for the Blackhawks, and with Kane and Toews still putting up numbers, the ‘Hawks shouldn’t be worried about scoring goals. They still have Saad, Strome, DeBrincat and the return of Andrew Shaw. As long as role players such as Brendan Perlini, Drake Caggiula, and David Kampf can do their fair share, the offense should be lethal.
Goaltending got an upgrade in Vezina finalist Robin Lehner, who helped carry the Islanders into the playoffs last season. With Corey Crawford‘s health concerns, and playing on the final year of his contract, this was a smart move from Bowman. It gave the Blackhawks a two-headed monster in the net which is needed for success in today’s game.
The time may be right for the Blackhawks to return to the top of the Western Conference, thus re-opening their title window even with an aging core. Bowman has retooled this team through an offseason that was need focused rather than focused on big-name acquisitions.
The Blues didn’t add any more key pieces and the Jets actually lost some key pieces. Dallas and Colorado will be very dangerous within the division, but it’s safe to say the Central is the most stacked division in the West.
The title window was believed to have closed after a stunning sweep by the hands of the Nashville Predators in the first round of the 2017 playoffs. However, that window may have just re-opened with the job Stan Bowman and his staff has done this offseason.