Wait, it’s hockey season already? It has only been just under three months since we were celebrating a Stanley Cup win, but that party is over and now it’s time to start another quest. And unlike the year after the last cup in 2010, there is reason to be optimistic this season.
What’s new? Well first of all the conferences are new. In the Western conference there is the Pacific and and Central divisions. In the East there is the Metropolitan and Atlantic divisions. The NHL’s goal was to realign with more of a geographic mindset. Although the East has 16 teams and the West only 14- kind of odd. This means the Red Wings are out of the Hawks conference. So that epic seven game series in the playoffs last year could only happen in the Stanley Cup now (Hawks/Wings cup finals!?). The playoffs have been tweaked a bit as well. The top three teams in each division make the playoffs and the other spots are sort of a wild card spot now.
New for the Blackhawks- not a whole lot thankfully. Gone are the names of Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik, Viktor Stahlberg, and Ray Emery. Not nearly the impact losses that happened in 2010. The big resigning was that of Bryan Bickell whom the Hawks hope carries his impressive play in the 2013 post-season to the entire 2014 season. To replace Emery, they brought in 40 year old vet Nikolai Khabibulin. Not going to a too reliable of a backup. While it is not the greatest signing, he could provide some valuable coaching to Corey Crawford. And really its not that big of a deal if the back-up goalie is the biggest concern. The Hawks locked up Corey for a six year $36 million contract, which is quite the opposite of the “Stan Bowman Formula”. Goal tending is so inconstant nowadays, that it has always been Bowman’s plan to pour money into all of the other positions and hope to get decent goalie play. We’ll see how this works out in the coming years. The Hawks will turn to their up and coming young talent to replace the other departed names(keep an eye on Jeremy Morin, Teuvo Tervainen, and Brandon Pirri).
Keep in mind eight Hawk players will be in the Winter Olympics playing for their respective countries. It will be interesting to see how that has an impact on the season after that in terms of fatigue or injuries.
The Hawks won’t go on a crazy points streak this year, but they are still arguably the best team in the NHL. It is already known how good some of young talent like Shaw, Saad, and Leddy can be. They will only refine their skills more and become better players. With Kane, Toews, Keith and the vast majority of core players still around, the Hawks are set up again to make a deep run into the postseason again. Time to break out the sweaters and put “Chelsea Dagger” on repeat.