Chicago Blackhawks Season Previewby Dale Money October 5, 2021 0 comments
Due to Covid restrictions, the Chicago Blackhawks played in a redrawn division in the Central. While they finished third last with a record of 24-25-7, on a brighter note, they did have a winning home record of 13-11. Ultimately, the Blackhawks were unable to overcome the losses of Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach. There’s always the possibility they could have won a few games if Dach had been healthy.
In what was a club in need of offense, Dominik Kubalik provided valuable secondary scoring in his sophomore campaign. He finished third in club scoring, with 38 points across 56 games played. Additionally, he ranked second in goals scored (17). Following a knee injury that kept him out all season, Alexander Nylander may now be without a roster spot. After just one season with the club, he didn’t do much, posting just 26 points in 65 games. Earlier this summer, he signed a one-year extension for just under $900,000.
Even after all the exciting new additions this offseason, Toews and Patrick Kane remain at the forefront of the offense. Kane, now in his 15th season with the Blackhawks, led all club scorers in 2020 with 66 points in 56 games. As for Toews, he will be ready to start the season after missing the entire 2020/21 campaign. The Blackhawks preseason home opener against the Detroit Redwings marked his illustrious return to the ice. His performance wasn’t too bad either, picking up an assist along with three shots.
As a result of losing Dach and Toews last season, the Hawks were in serious need of a secondary scorer. Alex DeBrincat answered the bell, finishing with 32 goals, his second-most in a single season. Had DeBrincat been able to play in all 82 games, he would have likely broken his record of 41 goals. As a 23-year-old already heading into his fifth season, DeBrincat is bound to face high expectations.
In addition to all of the offseason moves, we also saw a changing of the guard with Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith departing. After losing Keith and Seabrook, Kane and Toews are now the only remaining players from that Hawks cup-winning team. Besides getting Keith’s contract off their books, they managed to get the Edmonton Oilers to part with a couple of assets as well. Not only did they get back a possible 2nd round pick in 2022, but Caleb Jones, was also sent back As far as we know, he was not a target of the Hawks.
As the Hawks were now in desperate need of a number one defenseman, rumors had swirled that Seth Jones was a serious option. In the hours leading up to the draft, news broke that Jones had been traded from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a blockbuster deal that included Adam Boqvist, Chicago’s 2021 first-round pick (12th overall), a 2021 second-round pick, and its 2022 first-round pick. Through the trade of Boqvist and the signing of Jones, the Hawks demonstrated they are no longer in rebuild mode.
Marc-Andre Fleury’s trade to the Hawks came one month after the Jones trade, a move that stunned many given what Fleury had accomplished with the Vegas Golden Knights (getting them to the Stanley Cup final in just their first year of existence). The Knights were short of cap space, so it was imperative to get rid of his seven million dollar contract. His deal is only for this season, following which he becomes a free agent.
After starting 37 games during his rookie season, Kevin Lankinen will likely serve as the Hawks’ backup goalie. To relieve Fleury of some of the burden, Lankinen will still get around 30 starts. As long as he doesn’t squander his chances and stays patient, Lankinen should inherit the starting job next season.
After two seasons, Dach has yet to demonstrate his true potential. In his sophomore season, he played just 18 games and scored 10 points. In addition to being an offensive threat, the 6-foot-4, 197-pound forward is a physical beast. Dach sliding between Kane and DeBrincat on that first line could cause nightmares for opposing defenses. I would consider a season in which he scores 65-70 points successful.
A contract of that magnitude signed by Jones with the Hawks warrants nothing less than his best. As the club’s anchor defenseman, Jones will be expected to absorb significant minutes. In his three previous seasons with the Jackets, he averaged over 25 minutes. He will have a solid group of defensemen supporting him. In addition to Connor Murphy, Calvin de Haan, and Jake McCabe, he has his brother Caleb to play alongside.
Biggest Question Facing the Blackhawks
After a year-long absence from the playoffs, did the club’s offseason additions help it get back? Aside from the slew of offseason additions, this team will also have the return of Toews and Dach, which will give them the added firepower needed to win some of those close games, something that their lack of scoring depth prevented last season. Both players can offer in the range of 70 points each if they are fully healthy.
Stan Bowman has been trying to bring back that winning formula since those Cup-winning years. The numerous retreads he attempted to bring back from those Cup years only set them back, in my opinion. Furthermore, many of the contracts he made cost them some pretty useful players. Nonetheless, he made some smart moves this offseason which should make this team a lot better. He succeeded in dumping the Seabrook contract, bringing back Tyler Johnson, a valuable player if the team reaches the playoffs. He secured a goalkeeper in Fleury that should help the team reach another playoff appearance before potentially retiring. As long as he can get a first-year team in the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup final, helping the Blackhawks make the playoffs should be plenty doable.
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