NHL

2010-11 NHL Preview: Chicago Blackhawks

| by Sports Nickel

2009-10 RECORD:

52-22-8/112 pts

1st in Central Division

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2nd in Western Conf.

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GM: Stan Bowman

COACH: Joel Quenneville

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2010-11 PAYROLL:

$63,786,000 ($4.3M above cap)

The Blackhawks ended a 48-year drought lasty season, bringing the Stanley Cup to the Windy City for the first time since 1962. But the giddiness of victory was short-lived, as summer saw Chicago offloading some of its brightest assets to try to succeed at a different facet of the modern NHL — getting within the salary cap instituted following the lockout. The Cup was paraded for the fans, but its conquest came at a price as success priced the team too far out of the market to keep the roster intact.

Among the players moving on to new locales were Antii Niemi, their hero between the pipes, and a large chunk of their forwards including Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg and Ben Eager. The Blackhawks will be working on forging new bonds with a grip of new teammates. They are getting even younger on the ice… with the notable exception of their replacement for Niemi. The core of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith remains in place, though, and the organization will hope that they’ve attained a smarter fiscal makeup without neutering the team chemistry.

Plenty enough talent remains in Chicago to return to the postseason. Once they get there, anything is possible. But it remains to be seen if this year’s configuration of the Blackhawks can defend the Cup and become the first team since division rival Detroit in 1998 to repeat as champions… after all, the Red Wings will be back and as good as ever to challenge for the Central the whole way.

#
Pos
Name
Height
Weight
Age

29
F
Bryan Bickell
6′ 4″
223
24

36
F
Dave Bolland
6′ 0″
181
24

22
F
Troy Brouwer
6′ 2″
214
25

28
F
Jake Dowell
6′ 0″
199
25

81
F
Marian Hossa
6′ 1″
210
31

88
F
Patrick Kane
5′ 10″
178
21

82
F
Tomas Kopecky
6′ 3″
203
28

15
F
Fernando Pisani
6′ 1″
205
33

16
F
Ryan Potulny
6′ 0″
190
26

10
F
Patrick Sharp
6′ 1″
199
28

20
F
Jack Skille
6′ 1″
215
23

25
F
Viktor Stalberg
6′ 3″
210
24

19
F
Jonathan Toews
6′ 2″
210
22

24
D
Nick Boynton
6′ 1″
218
31

51
D
Brian Campbell
6′ 0″
189
31

5
D
Jassen Cullimore
6′ 5″
235
37

6
D
Jordan Hendry
6′ 0″
197
26

4
D
Niklas Hjalmarsson
6′ 3″
205
23

2
D
Duncan Keith
6′ 1″
196
27

37
D
Nick Leddy
5′ 11″
179
19

32
D
John Scott
6′ 8″
258
28

7
D
Brent Seabrook
6′ 3″
218
25

50
G
Corey Crawford
6′ 2″
200
25

30
G
Marty Turco
5′ 11″
184
35

MOST IMPORTANT COG IN 2010: Duncan Keith (Norris-winning D) — The 26-year-old forward led all players in the NHL in ice time last season, neutralizing opposing forwards for an average of 26:35 a night. He has averaged a +28 each over the past three seasons. Keith is also proficient leading the attack from the back; he was second in scoring amongst defensemen with 14 goals and 69 points. For his efforts, he was rewarded with the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman. And for the Hawks to thrive again this season, Keith will have to be as good (if not even better) than he was last year. He will be the bedrock of a back end that has seen several seismic offseason changes, and Keith will have to lead the blueliners by example for Chicago to remain as stingy as possible.

KEY ACQUISITION: Marty Turco (G – FA from Dallas) — The Blackhawks felt that Antii Niemi was too expensive after his price was set in arbitration, and the Finn was allowed to walk freely. If the Blackhawks face the Sharks again in the Western Conference finals, it could be a decision they come to regret after Niemi signed with San Jose. In his place comes 35-year-old Marty Turco. The former Stars netminder found himself jettisoned from Dallas, a victim of the team’s inability to advance past the conference semifinals during his tenure. The knock against the goalie has always been that he’s an elite regular-season stopper who regresses under the pressure of playoff hockey. (He is 21-26 in the postseason over his career.) Turco must prove that the deficiencies were in the Stars defense rather than his own game, or GM Stan Bowman will be regretting his financially-motivated decision in goal.

KEY DEPARTURE: Dustin Byfuglien (RW/D – trade to Atlanta) — Big Buff was a fan favorite in Chicago for his hard hits and his clutch play, but the realities of the salary cap forced Bowman to send him away to the sun-drenched Siberia of the NHL. Byfuglien was one of the most versatile players Coach Quenneville had to work with… a naturally-trained defenseman, he flourished in his move to the wing. Playing a checking-line role, he averaged 17 goals a year in each of his first three full seasons in the NHL, and proved even more valuable come playoff time. The past two postseasons saw Byfuglien raise his game to an elite level — he posted 11 goals en route to the Cup in 2010. Replacing the energy and clutch scoring will be of paramount importance for Chicago.

KEY YOUNGSTER: Kyle Beach (LW/20 years old) — Beach will get every opportunity to stick with the parent club after a strong final season in the juniors last year. He concluded his time in the WHL with the Spokane Chiefs by posting 52 goals, 86 points and 186 penalty minutes and also got a chance to play four postseason games with AHL Rockford, scoring thrice in his short time with the minor-league squad. The team’s first-round draft pick (11th overall) in 2008, Beach is a strong player with great upside who might just help ease the sting of having to trade away Big Buff and Eager — he started three fights in Chicago’s prospect camp, earning a reputation as a hard-nosed player who brings both grit and goals to the table. If he can exhibit both traits at the NHL level this season, Beach will provide the Hawks with the heir apparent they’d hoped would come from amongst their youngsters when making the hard decision to offload their checking-line talent.

OUTLOOK: The defending champions might have had an offseason of transition, but the Blackhawks have most of the parts in place to be just as dangerous this season. With four teams in the Central Division harboring legitimate playoff hopes, the road won’t be easy — but it still must go through Chicago.

The big question remains team chemistry. Quenneville’s biggest task this season will be getting the newcomers clicking with the returning nucleus. It might take a little time for everything to come together, and tha could be the window of opportunity for Detroit to swoop in and reclaim the division. Chicago will no doubt still be a formidable playoff team no matter where the are seeded, a tough out nobody will want to face come springtime…

FINAL PREDICTION:

  • 50 wins
  • 107 points
  • 2rd in Central/4th in Western Conference

2010-11 NHL Previews: Chicago Blackhawks is a post originally from: SportsNickel.com - In Sports We Trust

 

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