Chicago Blackhawks


by Satchel Price

1. A proven core.

The Blackhawks have been the best team in hockey over the past few years for one key reason: they’ve had the best core. Even after an offseason that included major departures and a still-ongoing criminal investigation of star winger Patrick Kane, several of the players at the center of Chicago’s three Stanley Cups remain intact. Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook (newly adorned with an "A"), Marian Hossa, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Kane have taken the Hawks to unimaginable heights. While that’s become increasingly fragile under the weight of Kane’s investigation and salary cap limitations, the Hawks once again enter the NHL season boasting a cast of stars most teams only dream of.

2. Young guns on the way, for real this time.

A year ago, we talked about how players like Teuvo Teravainen, Jeremy Morin, Joakim Nordstrom, Mark McNeill, David Rundblad and Adam Clendening could play big roles with the Hawks. In retrospect, that looks silly since Teravainen and Rundblad are the only ones who still factor seriously into this year’s roster, but we’re back to report that this time the Hawks’ youth movement will come to fruition. New wingers Marko Dano (age 20) and Artemi Panarin (23) both look like possible top-six forwards from Day 1 in Chicago, Teravainen should come into his own after getting Cup experience, and on defense we could see a third-pairing of Rundblad and Trevor van Riemsdyk. There’s no shortage of other young players on the fringes, too. A win-now team will always lean on older players in key spots, but for a franchise that hasn’t benefited from high draft picks recently, the Hawks have worked hard to reload on the go.

3. Stability in goal.

Say it with me now: Corey Crawford is a great goaltender. After years of questions about whether the Blackhawks’ play between the pipes would be a limiting factor, it’s fair to say that Crawford and Scott Darling give the team its most reliable tandem in years. Whatever benefit comes from playing in front of top-level defenders in a strong, well-coached system, Crawford deserves credit for becoming one of the game’s top netminders. He finished fourth in adjusted save percentage among goalies with 30-plus games played last season, earned his second Jennings Trophy and weathered some first-round yips to win his second Stanley Cup. He’s not a franchise goalie, but he’s a great one. That’s enough when you’re strong elsewhere. Combined with Darling’s emergence, this is a rare time that Chicago enters the season without questions in goal.


by Satchel Price

1. Uncertainty at left wing.

The promise of Dano and Panarin makes me want to do cartwheels, but there’s the undeniable reality that not every young player lives up to their potential. The team’s top left wingers last season -- Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg -- are now playing elsewhere. While the Blackhawks have done a good job finding high-upside, low-cost options to potentially replace them, those players aren’t the sure-things you could reasonably expect from more experienced veterans. It’s not like the team wanted to part ways with Saad or Sharp, either; the moves simply came to get under the salary cap as a result of big raises to Toews and Kane. That makes left wing the toughest position to gauge on the team now, and while the plan is in place with Dano and Panarin leading the way, it’s not one without risk.

2. Shallow defense.

In the Stanley Cup Final against the Lightning, the Blackhawks had to play their top four defensemen to the limit because of a lack of confidence in other options. If Chicago manages to make it that far again this season, Duncan Keith is going to finish the series by ripping off his face to reveal he’s a robot. The Hawks once again enter the year top-heavy on defense. The team boasts three of the game’s best in Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson. After that, there’s nothing but questions. Trevor Daley is a veteran with a knack for scoring who put up some of the game’s worst possession numbers last season. Trevor van Riemsdyk has played a total of 22 NHL games, including his brief stint in the Cup Final. David Rundblad couldn’t even stick in the lineup because of his defensive woes. Keith, Seabrook and Hjalmarsson are awesome, but they pretty much have to be.

3. Off-ice question marks.

It’s impossible to talk about the upcoming Blackhawks season without acknowledging that one of their best players -- one of the world’s best players -- is presently the subject of a serious criminal investigation. Patrick Kane participated in training camp, played in the preseason opener and is expected to be on the ice when the banner is raised opening night, but his situation off the ice is not resolved. These kinds of cases can take a long time to reach a resolution, and recent developments have only further complicated the situation. There’s also the league’s handling of the matter, which has largely been to ignore it until the legal process starts playing out. It’s a messy, complicated, unfortunate situation, one that will loom over the Blackhawks for the foreseeable future. Kane hasn’t been charged yet, but this is an issue for the team regardless. If he gets charged, things will only get worse.


1. What’s the deal with Patrick Kane?
2. Just how good are Marko Dano and Artemi Panarin?
3. Will Joel Quenneville stop the youth movement in its tracks?

Get the answers at Second City Hockey.


by Satchel Price

Four Stanley Cups in seven years is the simple answer. The more complicated one involves questions about how to support the team and Kane in the aftermath of this whole ordeal, and how much winning means to someone. There’s nothing I want more as a Blackhawks fan than to see my team continue its unprecedented success, but the ongoing situation with Kane has left a bad taste with many fans. For a team that’s so popular with female fans, I don’t think we can call any year that potentially alienates them a best-case scenario, no matter how much winning happened. So I want the Cups -- all the Cups -- but I also want to feel like the hockey world is doing what’s necessary to repair and improve its relationship with so many of its fans after a challenging time. That would be the best-case scenario.


by Satchel Price

Losing. Injuries. Other things I don’t even want to say. Expectations are so high in Chicago at this point that basically anything other than a Stanley Cup will be considered a disappointment. Meanwhile, there are complications to being a Blackhawks fan at the moment that have implications reaching far beyond sports. At this point, as a fan, I don’t even want to think about the worse-case scenarios. **flips to YouTube highlights of Teuvo**