Posts Tagged Chicago Blackhawks
Here’s part 3 of my 2018-19 season preview, covering the toughest and most competitive division in the NHL, the Central. All of these teams in the division are good, but there’s only room for 4-5 to get into the playoffs from here.
Key Additions: Chris Kunitz, Brandon Manning, Cam Ward, Marcus Kruger
Key Losses: Patrick Sharp, Vinnie Hinostroza, Jordan Oesterle, Marian Hossa’s contract
It was a tale of two halves for Chicago last season: life with Corey Crawford in net, and life without Corey Crawford in net. Let’s start with the former. Before the Christmas break, the Blackhawks were 17-13-5 and were on the bubble of a playoff spot. Then Crawford got injured, dealing with symptoms of vertigo. At that point, the wheels started to fall off what was once considered a NHL powerhouse. Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad both has career lows in points in a season, Patrick Kane’s production took a dip, Duncan Keith couldn’t buy himself a goal, and Brent Seabrook was starting to look like a third-pair defenseman rather than a top-pair defenseman. The Hawks won 16 of their final 47 games to finish dead last in the Central and miss the playoffs for the first time in a decade. By the end of the season, fans wanted immediate change, but when your core players are not going anywhere by a long shot, the best moves you make are the ones you don’t. Front office management are banking that these core players have a bounce-back season, and for younger players like Alex DeBrincat, Nick Schmaltz, Gustav Forsling, and Jan Rutta, they have to keep progressing this season. Corey Crawford said at the annual Blackhawks Convention in the summer that he’s not close to 100% healthy, and if he’s a no-go, former Carolina Hurricanes netminder Cam Ward will be the one manning the pipes. However, if things like the second half of last year carry over into the start of this year, patience is gonna be very thin and change will be imminent. Yes, the championship window is closing and the expectations for them are not as high as they once were, but in the end, it’s up to the players and how they perform that will determine whether or not the window stays open, or the window is shut and the inevitable of a rebuild begins.
Key Additions: Matt Calvert, Ian Cole, Philipp Grubauer
Key Loss: Jonathan Bernier
It took until Game 82 of the season for the Avalanche to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Since then, the team 5,280 feet above sea level are primed to continue building off of last season. The one primary concern for the Avs this season is who’s in net. Semyon Varlamov is entering a contract year, but he’s injury-prone. So if Varlamov can’t be no. 1, the Avalanche signed former Capitals backup goalie Philipp Grubauer, and hope he’s ready to be the Avs no. 1.
Key Additions: Blake Comeau, Anton Khudobin, Michael Mersch
Key Losses: Antoine Roussel, Greg Pateryn, Dan Hamhuis
The Stars had a good season last year. I said good, not great, because despite Tyler Seguin having a 40-goal season, a knee injury to goalie Ben Bishop in March led to an eight–game losing streak where they went 0-6-2 and that is what ended all playoff hopes in Dallas. This season, with new head coach Jim Montgomery behind the bench, expect nothing to change, especially knowing that Seguin will remain a Star for the next eight years!
Key Additions: Greg Pateryn, J.T. Brown, Eric Fehr
Key Loss: Matt Cullen
This season marks the first year under new general manager Paul Fenton. This season also Mar the official halfway mark of the 13-year contracts for both Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. So far, both have been injured, and both have been somewhat effective. But when it matters the most, these two contracts have been busts. There’s still a lot left to do for both of them, but when you’ve reached the back nine of the golf course, Those chances are going to come fewer and farther away than usual.
Key Addition: Dan Hamhuis
Key Loss: Alexei Emelin
The Nashville Predators continued their success from the previous season by winning both the Central Division and the Presidents’ Trophy. However, their bid to return to the Stanley Cup Final ended in the second round in a battle between the top two teams not only in the Central Division, but the entire NHL. Not a lot has to be said about the Predators, because what you see is still what you get, a completely-balanced team from front to back and if Pekka Rinne, who is entering a contract year with the Preds, decides to walk in the offseason, Juuse Saros is expected to be the goaltender of now for Smashville’s team.
St. Louis Blues
Key Additions: Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, Tyler Bozak, Patrick Maroon, Chad Johnson
Key Losses: Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Kyle Brodziak, Carter Hutton
Earlier in this article, I explaned how it took until Game 82 for the Colorado Avalanche to make it in the playoffs. They did it at the expense of the St. Louis Blues, who lost four of their final five games to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2011. In the offseason, general manager Doug Armstrong bolstered the center positions by trading for Ryan O’Reilly and signing Tyler Bozak in free agency. They also brought back David Perron and brought native St. Louisian Patrick Maroon to play for his hometown team. Everything looks set for the Blues this season, but the thing I’m still concerned about is Jake Allen. He still hasn’t proven himself to be the Blues no. 1 goalie, and with no Carter Hutton to back him up (Chad Johnson will now back Allen up), the Blues could be in danger of hitting the ceiling again and not breaking through.
Key Addition: Nic Kerdiles
Key Loss: Paul Stastny
It took seven years for general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff to turn the Winnipeg Jets into a playoff contender, and now the fruits of their labor are paying off. Led by a 44-goal season from Patrik Laine, a 91-point season from team captain Blake Wheeler, and a American record 44-win season from goalie Connor Hellebuyck, the Jets made history in the 2018 playoffs. The first playoff win in Thrashers/Jets history, the first playoff series win in Thrashers/Jets history, and for the first time ever, the Jets, whether it be in their original or in their current incarnation, made it all the way to the Western Conference Final. Sure, the appearance may have lasted five games, but seeing how far the Jets have came, expect them to not just make the Western Conference Final, but the Stanley Cup Final in 2019.
Prediction: Central Division Champions
Now a lot of you were wondering, why wasn’t there any pictures of the Chicago Blackhawks Ice Crew from during the season? Well, I had to wait until AFTER the season ended to complete this entry. But after the Blackhawks missed the playoffs for the first time in ten years, I felt now would be the appropriate time to share this retrospective with you. This past season’s Ice Crew consisted of 20 women. Andrea, Ashley, Carly, Danielle, Meghan, and Natasha comprised the 2017-18 rookie class; Alyssa, Christine, Jackie, Kate, Liz, and Sara returned for their second season; Erin, Jay, and Katie returned for their third season; Elaina, Hailey, and Molly returned for their fourth season; and the longest-tenured member, Yvonne, returned for her fifth season. Once again, these pictures below compromise a scrapbook of what happened both on and off the United Center ice this past season. I hope you enjoy this retrospective.
Here’s the final part of my 2017-18 season preview, predicting on the Central Division for this season:
Key Additions: Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad, Connor Murphy
Key Losses: Artemi Panarin, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Scott Darling, Marian Hossa
Everyone thought that the Chicago Blackhawks would win the Central Division last year. But no one — NO ONE — thought that they would be swept in the first round of the playoffs in four straight games scoring a combined total of three goals against the Nashville Predators. During locker room clean-out day, Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman promised changes, and he delivered, sacrificing talent for cost-certain roster stability. During Draft Day, two blockbuster trades were made: one sending Artemi Panarin and Tyler Motte to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Brandon Saad and Anton Forsberg, and another sending Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes for Connor Murphy. The former was to finally get captain Jonathan Toews going after two sub-par seasons (also to get a much-needed backup goaltender after Scott Darling signed with the Carolina Hurricanes), and the latter cost certainty for an unproven defenseman. But is all this change too much for a team that’s literally facing the end of a decade of sustained success? Not really. New opportunities arise from these departures, and it’s up to guys like Ryan Hartman, Nick Schmaltz, Vinnie Hinostroza, and Michal Kempny to step up to the plate and prove that they actually belong here. Also, after two years in Dallas, Patrick Sharp signed a one-year contract to potentially have his 15-year NHL career come full circle with one more round with the team he won three Stanley Cup rings.
Key Additions: Colin Wilson, Jonathan Bernie, Nail Yakupov
Key Losses: Mikhail Grigorenko, Francois Beauchemin
It was as bad as it could get for the Colorado Avalanche. They finished last season with the worst record in the NHL, and what looked to be having a top-3 selection in the NHL Draft, turned out to be the fourth-overall pick in the NHL Draft. With that pick, the Avs selected their cornerstone of their blue line, defenseman Cale Makar. Makar, who will be playing college hockey for UMass-Amherst, won’t probably be NHL-ready until 2020, so this gives time for the Avalanche to get younger and faster. There’s also the uncertain future of Matt Duchene mixed into the Avs’ season storyline this year, too. Are they willing to give up one of their best big-name players to make this team better?
Key Additions: Ben Bishop, Alex Radulov, Martin Hanzal, Marc Methot, Tyler Pitlick
Key Losses: Patrick Sharp, Antti Niemi, Ales Hemsky
The Stars we’re injury-plagued last season, and what could have been a successful season led to a sixth-place finish in the Central. During the offseason, issues concerning the team were hopefully fixed. Need a number-one goaltender? They signed Ben Bishop. Need a depth scorer? They signed Alex Radulov. Need a second-line center? They signed Marty Hanzal. Need help on defense? They acquire Marc Methot in a trade? And need a new voice of reason to guide this team forward? Look n further than rehiring the man that coached this team to a a Stanley Cup Championship back in 1999 in Ken Hitchcock. On paper, this looks to be the most-improved team in the NHL, and I believe this team will indeed bounce back and get back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year.
Key Additions: Matt Cullen, Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno
Key Losses: Jason Pominville, Marco Scandella, Martin Hanzal
There were two notable stretches last season that defined the Minnesota Wild: the first one was the start of December to the All-Star break, when the Wild looked practically unbeatable, going 21-3-2 and was leading the Central Division to that point. The other was the month of March, when it looked like the Wild couldn’t win anything, going 4-10-2, and giving the Central Division away to the Chicago Blackhawks. Still, despite the best season ever in franchise history, the Wild were ousted by the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs in six games. It’s going to be tough to have a repeat of last season, not to mention that there are some holes in the roster that need to be filled, one of them being second-line center. Which brings up 2015 first-round draft pick Joel Eriksson Ek. Eriksson Ek is a player to watch and could help the Wild be successful this upcoming season.
Key Additions: Nick Bonino, Alexei Emelin, Scott Hartnell
Key Losses: James Neal, Colin Wilson
The Nashville Predators we’re THE big story of last season, riding momentum off of a four-game series sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks and advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in their 19-year history of their franchise. Now usually, the following year would be difficult for a team to repeat success. Not for the Predators. The Predators just kicked their championship window wide open, and will be a threat to be at the top of the Central Division for years to come. Based on what they have, they are, on paper, the best team in the Central for the fact that they have the three hockey phases — offense, defense, and goaltending — all in top shape.
Prediction: Central Division Champions
St. Louis Blues
Key Additions: Brayden Schenn, Nate Prosser, Chris Thorburn
Key Losses: David Perron, Nail Yakupov
The Blues did fine in a time of transition, but right now, they are facing a big challenge. Patrick Berglund underwent another shoulder surgery and will be out until December. Alex Steen will miss the start of the season with a broken hand. Most importantly, Robby Fabbri, whose season was cut short by a torn left ACL last season, re-tore that surgically-repaired ACL and will miss the entire season. A promising NHL career now looks like it’s in complete jeopardy after all that rehabilitation and you suddenly go back to square one. Can the Blues find a way to fill these holes, along with restructuring their defense?
Key Addition: Dmitry Kulikov, Steve Mason, Matt Hendricks
Key Loss: Ondrej Pavelec
The Jets should be a playoff team right now. However, taking unnecessary penalties and below-average goaltending have set the Jets back. They did solve that problem between the pipes by signing veteran goaltender Steve Mason. Mason, the 2009 Calder Trophy winner with Columbus, will mostly be mentoring Connor Hellebuyck on how to be a better goaltender. And if the Jets can cut down on penalties this season, they will be a very dangerous team in the Central.
Well, that concludes the 2017-18 season preview. The next time I’ll be posting something, the games will officially count!
Now a lot of you were wondering, why wasn’t there any pictures of the Chicago Blackhawks Ice Crew from during the season? Well, I had to wait until AFTER the season ended to complete this entry. But after the Blackhawks were stunningly swept out in four straight games by the Nashville Predators in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs Thursday night, I felt now would be the appropriate time to share this retrospective with you. This past season’s Ice Crew consisted of a record 21 women. Alyssa, Christine, Jacqueline, Kate, Liz, and Sara comprised the 2016-17 rookie class; Cindy, Erin, Jay, and Katie returned for their second season; Elaina, Hailey, and Molly returned for their third season; Angela, Dana, Lauren, Marissa, Yvonne, and twin sisters Jackie and Nicky returned for their fourth season; and the longest-tenured member, Julianna, returned four her fifth season. Once again, these pictures below compromise a scrapbook of what happened both on and off the United Center ice this past season. I hope you enjoy this retrospective.
In the long, bitter rivalry that is the Chicago Blackhawks vs. the St. Louis Blues, there have been very memorable moments. Brett Hull sweeping Crazy Eddie Belfour and the Hawks in four straight games in 1993, Jonathan Toews’ Game 5 breakaway overtime winner in 2014, and last year, Troy Brouwer sends the team he won a Stanley Cup with to a first-round exit in a memorable Game 7. But if you ask any fan from both sides, the most memorable moment occurred on March 17, 1991.
The Blues and Blackhawks had a weekend home-and-home set. They were also both battling for the top spot in the Norris Division. On March 16, the Blackhawks beat the Blues 3-2 at the St. Louis Arena. The next night at Chicago Stadium, things got ugly. VERY UGLY. Some say it began with a check on Garth Butcher on Troy Murray. Some say it began when Jeremy Roenick checked Harold Snepsts. But when Glen Featherstone took liberties on J.R., Keith Brown had other ideas and all hell broke loose on the Stadium ice.
In the aftermath of the brawl, twelve players were ejected from the game, and both teams combined for a total of 278 penalty minutes. Both teams were fined $10,000, Scott Stevens was suspended two games, and both Mike Peluso and Kelly Chase each got hit the hardest with a 10-game suspension. Oh, and the Blackhawks won that game 6-4, en route to another Norris Division crown and the Presidents’ Trophy.
Well, that’s concludes the countdown to the 2017 NHL Winter Classic. I hope you enjoy the game, and I hope that your 2017 is a good one.
For as long as I can remember, the last two weeks in November have been tough on both the Chicago Bulls and the Blackhawks fans. Both teams head off west while the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus take over the United Center for two weeks after spending the previous two weeks at the home of the Chicago Wolves, the Allstate Arena in suburban Rosemont. The Circus Road Trip has been horrible for Bulls fans as that are 23-78 since Michael Jordan retired as a Bull in 1998. As for Blackhawks fans, the Circus Road Trip has been somewhat successful, more successful since Patrick Kane and Johnathan Toews joined in this, their 10th season in the NHL. Here’s a breakdown of all 19 previous Circus Road Trips the Blackhawks took since the United Center opened in 1994: (there were no Circus Road Trips in 1994-95 and 2012-13 because of a lockout-shortened season, and prior to 2006 season records had ties, not overtime losses)
- 1995-96: 2-1-4
- 1996-97: 2-3-1
- 1997-98: 3-1-2
- 1998-99: 2-4-0
- 1999-2000: 1-6-0
- 2000-01: 3-3-2
- 2001-02: 0-3-3
- 2002-03: 1-6-0
- 2003-04: 0-6-0
- 2005-06: 2-3-0
- 2006-07: 1-3-1
- 2007-08: 2-2-2
- 2008-09: 3-2-1
- 2009-10: 4-1-1
- 2010-11: 4-2-0
- 2011-12: 3-3-0
- 2013-14: 6-1-0
- 2014-15: 5-1-0
- 2015-16: 3-1-2
- 2016-17: 3-3-1
When you add these totals, the Hawks are 47-52-12-7 when the Circus is in town, but 30-13-6 since Kane and Toews joined the team. These long road trips has some positive and negative impacts from a hockey perspective.
PLUS: You and your teammates get to bond together. It doesn’t feel like a team, but it’s starting to feel more like family.
MINUS: After the trip, the first game back home is a trap game, and with parity reigning the NHL, those points could either bolster or cost you a playoff position.
So will I miss it? Yes, and no. Yes, because in recent times, the Greatest Show on Earth wasn’t the Circus. It was the Blackhawks in Columbus, Detroit, Nashville, St. Louis, Dallas, Denver, St. Paul, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and Glendale, and every game, Hawks fans were taking over the arena, taking away home-ice from the other team. On the other hand, I won’t miss it, because the stars of the show at the United Center have been and always will be the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Blackhawks. With the Circus Road Trip being abolished, there’s no more stretches of four home games in a 7-day period. Home games will be spread out more come November 2017. But both the Bulls and the Hawks will have to go on another long road trip in February, because of the Ice Follies or as it’s known today: Disney on Ice. But that will have to wait for another day, most likely after the All-Star break.
Here’s my predictions on the Central Division for this season:
Key Additions: Brian Campbell, Michal Kempny
Key Losses: Andrew Shaw, Teuvo Teravainen, Bryan Bickell
There was a lot of turnover for the Chicago Blackhawks, but they did fix the problem of having a fourth defenseman in the offseasson with a returning familiar face. Brian Campbell returns to Chicago after spending the last five seasons in Florida. The major concern for the Hawks this season is forward depth. Can newcomers step up to the plate and prove they belong in the NHL and play a caliber worthy of not just this team, but this league?
Key Additions: Fedor Tyutin, Patrick Wiercioch, Joe Colborne
Key Losses: Mikkel Boedker, Zach Redmond, Shawn Matthias, Nate Guenin
After the disaster that was the Patrick Roy coaching era, the Avalanche start fresh with new head coach Jared Bednar. Bednar led the Cleveland Monsters to a Calder Cup championship last season, and he’s a players’coach. Can a new breath of fresh air bring back life into the Avs? It all depends if Nathan MacKinnon can bounce back after back-to-back sub-par seasons.
Key Additions: Dan Hamhuis, Jiri Hudler
Key Losses: Alex Goligoski, Colton Sceviour, Jason Demers, Vernon Fiddler
Last seasons, the Stars were the highest-scoring team in the NHL, and it propelled them to their first Central Division title since 1998. But what hindered them in the postseason was a questionable defense and even questionable goaltending. There was no clear-cut no. 1 goalie, and neither Antti Niemi nor Kari Lehtonen took full command and carried the team for the majority of the season. Despite resigning team captain Jamie Benn to a max contract (8 years, $76 million), there are still defensive holes that still need to be fixed.
Key Additions: Eric Staal, Chris Stewart
Key Loss: Thomas Vanek
After a somewhat tumultuous season, the Minnesota Wild start fresh with a new coach. Bruce Boudreau goes to his third NHL team, and usually wherever he goes, success comes with him – regular-season success, that is. During his time in Anaheim, he led the Ducks to four straight Pacific Division titles. He earned that success because that team was built in the same way the team he coached prior, the Washington Capitals, was buikt. The Wild aren’t built in that same manner, but in a highly-competitive division like the Central, play like that could be encouraged to survive. Also, the Wild got some help on offense with the addition of Eric Staal. The big question is: is this the same Eric Staal that made a name himself in Carolina, or is this the Eric Staal that struggled as a rental player with the New York Rangers?
Key Additions: P.K. Subban, Matt Carle
Key Losses: Carter Hutton
Sometimes, it takes one move to put you over the top. When the Predators traded Shea Weber for P.K. Subban, they got a playmaking defenseman that’s fit for the Western Conference. And after a playoff run in which they beat the Anaheim Ducks in Seven Games, and pushed the San Jose Sharks to the brink, it’s safe to say the Preds have taken a HUGE step in becoming a Central Division top-three team.
St. Louis Blues
Key Additions: David Perron, Landon Ferraro
Key Losses: David Backes, Troy Brouwer, Brian Elliott
Last season’s playoff run was the first time the Blues appeared in the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001. However, this season – their 50th – is a season unlike any other. They are hosting a Winter Classic. It’s head coach Ken Hitchcock’s final season. and they are hoping that last season was absolutely no fluke. Despite the losses of David Backes, Troy Brouwer, and Brian Elliott, the Blues should STILL contend for top spot in the Central. The reasons are simple:
- Jake Allen should be ready as the Blues no. 1 goalie.
- Second-year players Colton Parayko and Robby Fabbri are gonna build off of their amazing rookie campaigns.
- Alex Pietrangelo is the perfect choice to be the Blues’ new captain.
- Good luck trying to stop Vladimir Tarasenko.
Prediction: Central Division Champions
Key Addition: Shawn Matthias
Key Losses: None
The Jets are in the middle of a transitional phase. Since Andrew Ladd left, the Jets are slowly building themselves back up again, and one of those key cogs is 2016 first-round pick (second overall), Patrik Laine. Laine is a top-six sniper; a surefire top-line player. He could have the same impact that Teemu Selanne had 23 years ago with the original Jets. Also, with three goaltenders (Ondrej Pavelec, Michael Hutchinson, Connor Hellebuyck), the jets need to find a clear and concise no. 1 goaltender, and that is most likely going to be Hellebuyck.