NHL 2017 Season: Chicago Blackhawks Pre-Season Overview
One of the most successful teams of recent years, the Blackhawks enter the 2017 – 18 season on the back of a win in the Central Division and Western Conference, and a record of 50 – 23 – 9. Although the Blackhawks didn’t go all the way last year, they have won three Stanley Cup Championships in the past seven seasons. To say that this team is expected to do well, would be an understatement. They have the history and a strong roster to get through the playoffs, but nothing is guaranteed in this sport.If you’re interested in the new acquisitions and the departures for the team, then this guide will help you to size up the Chicago Blackhawks for the season ahead.
Departures from the Blackhawks in 2017
The Blackhawks have had plenty of movement from trades and even a retirement from Brian Campbell. They’ve also taken new players that will help to offset their most significant losses. These are what we consider to be the most important departures in the off-season. Artemi Panarin was traded to the Blue Jackets, and the team would have had a hard decision when they traded him away. In his first two seasons in the NHL he scored 61 goals, and made 90 assists. He has had extensive experience in the KHL, and when joining the NHL, it seems like he only got better. After adjusting to North American hockey with the Blackhawks, he’ll now take that experience to the Blue Jackets, and the loss will be even more painful if he has another season as good as the previous two. Marcus Kruger has also left the team to join the Carolina Hurricanes. He was initially traded to the Golden Knights, who then offloaded him to Carolina. Marcus isn’t a high points scorer, but he’s a highly efficient and mobile center. He also has plenty of experience at pro level and he will no doubt be missed by Chicago. Another serious loss for the team is Niklas Hjalmarsson. He will now join the Arizona Coyotes for the 2017 – 18 season. Hjalmarsson is one of the strongest defenders in the NHL, and he played with the Black Hawks for three Stanley Cup winning seasons. He takes all of that experience with him, and will be seen as another serious loss if this season doesn’t work out well for the Blackhawks.
Are the Additions Enough to Offset the Losses?
Looking at the players that the Blackhawks have lost, it would be easy to say that the team are going to go backwards this season. However, that would be premature, as there are some exciting players joining from trades and signings.Brandon Saad is one of those players. Joining from the Blue Jackets, Saad has been having some of his best seasons in recent years. In 2014 – 15 he scored 23 goals and 29 assists, the next season it was 31 goals and 22 assists, and last season he scored 24 goals and 29 assists. He’s highly consistent with his production and at 24 years of age, it is safe to say that he’s going to develop even more. Saad already starts to offset some of the losses that the Blackhawks have had.Patrick Sharp is another solid addition to the team, and his experience will be useful when developing some of the younger players. At 35 years of age, Sharp is past the peak of his career, but he can still produce results on a consistent basis when he is given the time on the ice. 2015 – 16 was his last full season played, and he scored 20 goals and made 35 assists. Lance Bouma is another talented player with some good experience behind him. He plays in center and works well on both special teams and as a starter. His points production is nothing spectacular, but he doesn’t play in a position where goal scoring is common. Bouma has suffered from injury in recent years which has limited his production, but with the Blackhawks he will have a shot at a resurgence and could turn out to be very valuable for the team. The new forwards also include Tommy Wingels, another veteran of the NHL who is able to produce good results when he has the right team around him. The Blackhawks may have lost one of their best goal scorers, but they take on some excellent replacements. The forwards have depth and there will be a lot of competition to help push both the experienced players, and the juniors in the team.
Can The Blackhawks Make the Stanley Cup Finals?
It’s far too early to make a prediction on the ultimate winners this season, but we can at least say that the Blackhawks have a stronger shot at the playoffs than some other teams. They’ve gained some important players through trades, and these are high scoring players that will be able to make a key difference. This team also has a defensive line that is traditionally strong, and Corey Crawford is, at times, an unbreakable wall in front of the net. Anyone betting on the Blackhawks in 2017 and 2018 can have a lot of confidence that this team is going to perform. They have the right roster to win in the Central Division again, and will be strong favorites to win the Western Conference. They were swept away in the playoffs in 2017 – 18, even after showing great potential, so we’ll have to reserve any playoffs predictions for later in the season. Fans of the Blackhawks will be happy that the team can still be a force in their division, and some talented trades could make this an even higher scoring year than 2016 – 17.