Last season – 3rd in the Western Conference
GM – Stan Bowman
Stan Bowman will not have been happy with how the last season went, and his transactions did not have quite the same golden touch as they had in the past. Most noted the botched Patrick Sharpe-trade to Dallas, where both pieces aquired were traded to other teams shortly. Still, he has made a solid roster and a perennial cup-contender. At one point all the money locked up in players would catch up to him, but he has still found ways to assemble a great team and this year will (mostly) be no different.
Head Coach – John Quenneville
Kevin Smith once called John Quenneville the Dennis Farina of NHL-coaches. Anyone who has seen his colorful language during the Road to the Winter Classic will agree. However, there is obviously a lot more to Quenneville than swearwords. He is one of the absolute top coaches in the NHL, his team plays hard for him and there are no signs that he has lost the lockerroom.
Brian Campbell (D), Jordin Tootoo (RW),
39th overall pick 2016 (Alex DeBrincat, F), 45th overall pick 2016 (Chad Krys, D), 2nd round pick 2016, 3rd round pick 2017, 4th round pick 2016 (Lucas Carlsson, D), 5th round pick 2017, 6th round pick 2017
Andrew Shaw (C), Teuvo Teravainen (C), Bryan Bickell (LW),
4th round pick 2016 (Anatoli Golyshev, F), 5th round pick 2016 (Connor Bleackley, F)
The Blackhawks just hit another brick wall this offseason dealing with the salary cap issues. Losing two solid middle six players for picks, in addition to unloading a bad contract. The only signings in is veteran depth, and there are question marks to whether they are worse than last year. At the same time, they will always be in contention as long as they have their core pieces intact.
Goaltending – 8/10
There are varied opinions on Crawford. I happen to fall down on him being good enough to win you a cup. He is a very good goaltender, but he is not a great goaltender. At this stage he is among the better goalies in the Central Division, but this is also due to the decline of Rinne. He still has a solid defense in front of him, anchored by Duncan Keith.
Duncan Keith might be older and getting more susceptible to injuries to injuries, but he is one of the best defensemen in the league. Him and Seabrook form a formidable first pair, and the addition of Brian Campbell to play with Nicklas Hjalmarsson will be of tremendous advantage for the Blackhawks. Especially considering how it went with Trevor Daley last year. Campbell’s veteran play will definitely not hurt either. Kempny and Van Riemsdyk is a perfectly serviceable third pair. The defense remains a very strong part of any chance the Blackhawks will have for success.
Keith – Seabrook
B. Campbell – Hjalmarsson
Kempny – T. Van Riemsdyk
Rozsival – Forsling
Forwards – 8/10
This was a difficult choice. In previous years this would have been an easy 9, bordering on 10, but even with the undoubted skill of the first two lines it has to be an 8. Hossa is starting to show his age, and I don’t think Shaw has been adequately replaced. However, you still have Toews, Panarin and Kane. Kane and Toews would walk straight onto the first line of any team in the NHL. Kane will again be a strong contender for the Art Ross Trophy, and Toews is a perfect captain for a Quenneville-coached team.
Panarin – Toews – Panik
Motte – Anisimov – Kane
Hartman – Kruger – Hossa
Hinostroza – Schmaltz – Tootoo
Fortin – Rasmussen
Team Composition – 8/10
The team still has a good mix from the back to the front, and is a very solid unit. There might be some questions if age has started to catch up with some of the players, but for my money it seems to have a good mix between veterans and some youth.
Leadership presence – 10/10
The core-players have seen it all and won it all. You just can’t give them anything but a perfect grade for leadership-presence in that lockerroom. As noted earlier, the addition of Brian Campbell should suit them perfectly.
Skill Value – 10/10
Even with ranking the forwards at an 8, the skill-factor on this team can be ridicolously high at certain points. When this team fires on all cylinders, it will be extremely difficult to beat. This team might not be what it was 3 years ago, but it still good enough to beat any team in the league over a 7-game series.