Join TSN in a 30 teams in 30 days tour of the NHL in preparation for the upcoming season. Teams will be unveiled in reverse order of the pre-season TSN.ca Power Rankings, and the Chicago Blackhawks are up next. Get the lowdown on their off-season and the issues they face this season. Use the Your Call feature to give us your take on the Blackhawks!
2009-10: 2009-10: 52-22-8 (2nd in West, Stanley Cup Champion)
General Manager: Stan Bowman (2nd Season)
Head Coach: Joel Quennville (3rd Season)
What they did in the off-season:
Has any team in professional sports history had less time to enjoy their Championship than the Chicago Blackhawks? The Hawks claimed their first Stanley Cup title in a half-century on June 6th. By the end of the month they had traded away Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager, Andrew Ladd and Colin Fraser. Also flying the coop over the summer were Kim Johnsson, Cristobal Huet, John Madden, Adam Burish and perhaps most shockingly, Anti Niemi. That is nearly half the roster that was last seen together celebrating at centre ice in Philadelphia. While no individual player listed above is completely irreplaceable, the cumulative effect of so many departures will certainly be felt in the Windy City this year as they attempt to defend their crown. It was not a complete evacuation in Chicago however as the team brought in veteran netminder Marty Turco to replace playoff hero Niemi between the pipes. Victor Stalberg was acquired in a trade to give the Hawks some scoring depth while former Edmonton Oilers' Fernando Pisani and Ryan Potulny will find places on the team's checking line after signing as free agents. In addition Nick Boynton and Nicklas Hjalmarsson were retained on defence. Despite all the turnover, this remains a very strong team thanks to a young, talented nucleus.
Biggest issue facing the team:
They say that the only thing harder than winning a championship is repeating. That is a lesson that the Hawks are about to discover is very true. The dismantling of their roster over the summer was a necessary evil and sadly the price of doing business in the post-lockout NHL. Thanks to the mass exodus, there will be plenty of spots open for competition in training camp. While the Hawks have some prospects that are ready to step in, most notably Jack Skille, their farm system is short on offensive talent. As well many of the departed players were veterans that brought as many intangibles to the Hawks dressing as they did on the ice. Replacing the veteran leadership of the likes of Sopel, Madden and Johnsson will be an impossible task. The good news in the Windy City is that the roster is still loaded thanks to the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Brian Campbell. The Hawks will not have the same depth of talent advantage that they had last season when they were able to successfully roll out four lines every night. While it is far too early to completely write off the Hawks chances to repeat, it will be a very difficult road as every team in the league will be gunning for the defending champs.
Player to watch:
While the dynamic duo of Toews and Kane up front and the combo of Seabrook and Keith at the back end will make the headlines, a lot of the Hawks success for the upcoming season will fall on the shoulders of Marty Turco. Not so long ago, Turco was in the conversation among the league's top netminders. With a pair of underwhelming seasons under his belt, that conversation is no longer happening. With Turco earning “just” $1.3 million on a one-year deal, the Hawks feel as if they can take a gamble on him regaining his form of a couple years ago. With Corey Crawford waiting in the wings and champing at the bit, the veteran Turco should feel a certain amount of pressure to perform. Working in his favour is a rock solid defensive corps in front of him that should eliminate a great deal of second chance opportunities for opposing forwards. The Hawks will need Turco to keep them in games and not allow any back breaking goals. Considering how successfully he has been in the past at this, a return to his previous glory days certainly is not out of the question.