- Last year’s record: 47-26-9 103 points, 3rd in the Central
- Eliminated in the first round
- Key losses: Teuvo Teravainen, Andrew Shaw, Andrew Laad
- Key additions: Brian Campbell
Outlook: After a disappointing end to last season the Chicago Blackhawks will look to right some wrongs and bring the cup back to the Windy City. It will be an odd-numbered year, so at least the Hawks have that going for them. With so many holes to fill this season it’s going to be tough for Chicago to put together a Stanley Cup worthy season, but with Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, and Johnathan Toews anything is possible.
The Blackhawks will have to rely more on youth this season than they would normally like to. With very little cap space and Panarin’s new contract looming, Stan Bowman and company were not able to do as much this offseason as they would have liked. Bowman did go out and shore up a blue line that many believed was the demise of the Hawks last season. Brian Campbell returns to Chicago after spending the last few seasons in the Sunshine state. Campbell, a tremendous acquisition, took a hometown discount to come back to Chicago for one more run at a Stanley Cup. Michal Kempny is another new face on the blue line this season. Kempny, 26, spent last season with Avangard of the KHL where he registered five goals and sixteen assists, enough to catch the eye of multiple NHL teams. Kempny should be able to step right into the line-up and contribute almost immediately. One thing to keep an eye on as we head into the season is the health of cyborg Duncan Keith. Keith, who pulled out of the World Cup of Hockey due to a lingering knee injury, played his first preseason game last night. He said he feels good and should be good to go for the season opener.
The Blackhawks lack depth up front and will have to rely on the young guys to step into the line-up and make an impact. Lead by reigning MVP Patrick Kane and Calder winner Artemi Panarin the Blackhawks have some top-tier scoring, but outside of those two the Blackhawks are going to need some major contributions. The Blackhawks still have a glaring hole at left-wing on the top line. A spot vacated by Brandon Saad a little over a year ago has been a revolivng door ever since. Richard Panik probably had the most success there towards the end of last season. Panik is a high energy player that has a wicked shot and isn’t afraid to shy away from contact. Panik is better suited in a third line role, but that might not be an option. Rookies like Tyler Motte, Nick Schmaltz, Vinnie Hinostroza, and Ryan Hartman are all vying for a regular role in the Blackhawks line-up.
It’s going to be interesting to see how things shake out in just over a week, but you can assume at least two of those aforementioned guys will be in the Hawks line-up come October 12th when they open the regular season against the St. Louis Blues. If the Hawks can get consistent contributions from their bottom six forwards, a playoff spot should be a lock, but a Stanley Cup may be an unrealistic goal this year.