Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Young forwards key to Blackhawks season
CHICAGO - There are a lot of nice pieces, which starts NHL MVP Patrick Kane, the star center Jonathan Toews Jersey and Calder Trophy winner Artemi Panarin.
How do they fit together is a big question Chicago coach Joel Quenneville.
Blackhawks traded Andrew Shaw and Teuvo Teräväinen and lost Andrew Ladd in free agency during the summer, leaving three large holes. Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann also leave free will, and Marian Hossa, Chicago's most consistent long forward, is coming off a down year.
The result is an unstable situation in the Blackhawks' four lines that Quenneville might be for some time to find out.
"It's the unpredictability sometimes can be healthy in many ways, knowing that the guys are driving and decisions - when we have tough decisions - we feel we have a better team and a better organization, when it comes down to that kind of situation," Quenneville said Tuesday.
Kane, Panarin and center Artem Anisimov combine one the NHL's most productive lines of last season. Kane was the league's top scorer with 106 points, and Panarin had 30 goals and 47 assists impressive rookie season. Anisimov finished with 20 goals and 22 assists in his first year in Chicago.
But Kane Panarin Blackhawks are the "best playmakers, and Quenneville could degrade their second line to create a more balance. Hossa, which turns January 38, could be in any one of the three rows of Chicago, depending on the shakes off.
"Regardless of who I play, it is up to me to ensure that I have tried to make these two other guys to be the best they can be as well," Toews said.
The play Chicago's top forward prospects also affects the look of the Blackhawks' lines. Tyler Motte, a former University of Michigan star, and rapid Vincent Hinostroza, Chicago-area native who played college hockey in the Notre Dame, everyone looked good in camp. Nick Schmaltz, a first-round pick of the 2014 draft including a combination.
Blackhawks looks pretty settled on defense. Brian Campbell, who led the NHL defensemen with a plus-31 plus-minus rating last season in Florida, signed a one-year contract in July after the return to Chicago to help the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2010.
Adding Campbell to Blackhawks one of the best defensive lineups in the league, topped by a double Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Michal Kempny, signed in Chicago on May 24 and turned in the Czech Championship, also is an intriguing possibility of a third pair.
"This is probably the deepest d-Side group we've had since I've been in this organization," says Hjalmarsson, who made his debut in the NHL Blackhawks in 2008.
Here are a couple more things to watch as the Chicago trying its fourth Stanley Cup title since 2010: the sweet rest Blackhawks Jersey lost to St. Louis in seven games in the first round of the playoffs in April. It was their shortest postseason stay as they defeated the Coyotes in the first round in 2012.
The number of top-level games such as the Olympics, was stacked with some of the biggest stars in Chicago, and a longer-than-usual offseason could help this year.
"Sometimes when you go far and deep into the playoffs you are still mentally tired and excited to tie the skates every morning," said Hjalmarsson. "But it's not a problem at all now. So, I think everyone is just excited to get going with the regular season."