The Chicago Blackhawks begin their new season with the upcoming NHL draft next Tuesday.
The 2019-20 season ended when the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup to end a great NHL bubble experience. Now there is nothing to do but prepare for the new season, so let’s look back at where this team has come and project where they are going soon.
Anger, frustration, joy, and hope: all these emotions sum up how fans felt at times during the 2019-20 NHL season for Blackhawks hockey. Yes, the team did surprise some fans with some big wins along the way, but at the same time, they also showcased that they still have a long way to go before competing for the Stanley Cup again someday.
In the past, I talked about how the Blackhawks qualifying round gave the team experience to help them in the future. However, more than that, I believe the past few months helped remind the team that they still can win.
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It was great as a fan to see Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane competing in a playoff format for the first time since 2017. It was amazing to watch the team roll past the Edmonton Oilers, even if the circumstances were so strange. The joy and hope for the future that we, as fans, felt must be unparalleled to the emotions some of the players were feeling at the time.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith have not played a playoff game since being swept by the Nashville Predators in 2017. Before that, they were playing in the playoffs every year. These past few years have been very frustrating for us fans, but it was even more frustrating for the core group of players.
So, in my mind, this past season gave Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith the little bit of hope that they needed to keep pushing for the next few seasons. This season was so fun to watch, and with everything that went into the bubble experience in Edmonton, it indeed was an excellent time for some hockey.
So, where does this leave us as we turn the page to next year? The Blackhawks are going to be better next season. While they might not be a team that makes the playoffs, they should be a team that won’t be at the central division’s bottom again. Moving forward, winning the divisional matchups will be critical for the Blackhawks to be competitive next season.
I will be cheering the Blackhawks on in the hopes that the team makes the playoffs next season. However, when looking at this team and where they are, I still believe we have a few more seasons before Chicago makes the playoffs again. Hopefully, the team can prove me wrong though.
There is a chance that the Blackhawks come out next season and make a run at the Stanley Cup again. I mean, everyone will start with the same record when the season begins in December.
A few things are going to have to happen for Chicago to compete. First of all, the Blackhawks need to find a starting goalie for next year. Corey Crawford has carried this team for some time, and whoever is in net next season will have to steal some games for the Blackhawks; otherwise, we can forget about the postseason and start thinking about the draft lottery for 2021.
The Blackhawks also will have to see some players step up next season if they want to compete. Adam Boqvist still has a lot of improving to do, and Ian Mitchell also needs to smoothly transition to the NHL. Also, Chicago will need to get some offensive production from Pius Suter, who might become the next Dominik Kubalik.
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Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome will have to be better next season if the Blackhawks are going to roll three or four lines next season. Assuming Dylan Strome even has a contract, that is. The point of the matter is many guys need to be better next season for the Blackhawks to have a chance.
So with everything mentioned above in mind, saying the goal for next season is winning the Stanley Cup would be wrong. Instead, I will say a realistic goal for next year would be the Blackhawks finding a way to compete throughout the year while also improving the team long term by maybe trading away a few players at the deadline, similar to this season.