Another NHL regular season has gone by, and it’s another early summer for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Most fans will probably just look to write off this season as yet another casualty of general manager Stan Bowman’s ‘rebuild’. However, the shortened outing may not have been a complete loss, as there were a number of young players that became a pleasant surprise for the ‘Hawks.
Brandon Hagel, for example, notched 24 points this year, and towards the end of the season, formed a fearsome duo with the re-acquired Vinnie Hinostroza. These two were just a couple of the many young forwards that suited up for the ‘Hawks this year. While most of their bottom-six still have a ways to go in development, many of the new guys made significant strides over the course of the season.
On the back end, both Wyatt Kalynuk and Nicolas Beaudin showed that they have what it takes to eventually become great NHL defensemen. The back end was definitely the weakest link for the Blackhawks this year, and it showed on the scoresheet most nights. However, it is important to remember that the defensive core for Chicago is still extremely young. In the next few years, I’d expect a number of these young D-men to become mainstays.
This isn’t even taking into account other guys who broke out this year, like Pius Suter. Additionally, there is no reason to think that the team won’t acquire even more young talent in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, where the Blackhawks will hopefully have a top ten pick if they get lucky.
Between the pipes, most people thought that it would be a season-long battle all year to become the starter. While Kevin Lankinen was rock solid for most of the year, Collin Delia was fantastic in the last week of the season as well. While there are still questions about who will become the bonafide starter, the ‘Hawks goaltenders should be able to train and develop even more in the offseason.
I’m sure the Blackhawks thought they could’ve been a playoff team this season, but that simply wasn’t the case. To their credit, they were in the playoff hunt for a large chunk of the year. However, the team just wasn’t consistent enough each and every night, and because of this, the boys are hitting the golf course. In spite of everything though, a fresh start next season (and fingers crossed, a new coach), and perhaps we will see the Chicago Blackhawks back on top of the standings sooner rather than later.