As the clock turns to September, NHL players will be preparing to take the ice for training camps in the coming days. Many storylines are set to play out and unfold as training camp and the preseason play out. How will the reigning Stanley Cup Champions play without numerous role players from last years Cup team gone?
Hawks looking to stay on top
Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards and Johnny Oduya are all gone from a Stanley cup winning team. Usually teams suffer from the loss of so many role players, but as we’ve seen in the past, the Blackhawks should never be counted out. Much like after their cup wins in 2010 and 2013, the Hawks have been forced to shed salary and give up role players while holding onto their core. This season a new cast of role players will look to fill the holes. Youngsters including: Marko Dano, Artemi Panarin and Teuvo Teravainen, as well as Russian signee Viktor Tikhonov, will all put into the lineup at some point. Chicago will have to take some time figuring out where these youngsters fit into the system but in typical Blackhawks fashion should be up and running a couple weeks into the season.
The Patrick Sharp trade netted a big, goal-scoring defensemen Trevor Daley from Dallas who should remind Hawks fans of former Hawk Dustin Byfuglien. Ryan Garbutt was also acquired in that trade and is an effective, physical bottom-six forward with surprisingly high offensive upside (with 32 and 25 points respectively in the past 2 years). Finally, the real prize of the offseason for Chicago was Artem Anisimov, who promptly signed a 5-year 23 million dollar extension, which might prove to be a bargain if he continues to develop into a solid top six forward. The Blackhawks 2015-2016 season could have a youth movement combined with one of the best cores in the league.
Moving forward, this roster that GM Stan Bowman has constructed may actually be the best they have had in a while. Adding some youthful goal scoring up front, combined with some gritty playing veterans in the bottom six, means that Chicago will stay well rounded. Adding Daley, to the defense gives them yet another power play threat from the blue-line and he should develop into something special in Chicago. The Blackhawks deserve the benefit of the doubt when developing players and building a cup winning team, and nothing they’ve done this off-season that ruins their chances of repeating.
By Brett Macko, Intern, NHL Analyst