Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Forman Faceoff 2015/2016 NHL Season Preview - Chicago Blackhawks

By: Joel Forman - The Forman Faceoff

Last Season: 48-28-6 with 102 points, 3rd in the Central Division and 4th in the Western Conference. Stanley Cup Champions

For the 3rd time in 6 years the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, quite an accomplishment for a team that hadn't won since 1961 before their first of the 3 in 2010. The Hawks defeated the Predators in 6 games, swept the Wild in 4, beat the Ducks in a thrilling 7-game series and defeated the Lightning in 6 games in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Hawks lost some key players during the summer including Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad, Johnny Oduya, Brad Richards and Antoine Vermette, but the core of Toews, Kane, Hossa, Keith, Seabrook remains. Look for another big year out of the Blackhawks, with that being said here is a look at their 2015/2016 Season Preview:

Teuvo Teravainen - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Artemi Panarin - Artem Anisimov - Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell - Andrew Shaw - Ryan Garbutt
Andrew Desjardins - Marcus Kruger - Viktor Tikhonov
Extra: Kyle Baun

The Hawks shook up their core when they trade Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad in the summer, but they also retooled for the future and have another dangerous group heading into the season. Toews, Kane and Hossa are still the catalysts of the Hawks offense, and expect them all to continue to produce points at an elite level. What Hawks fans should really be excited about is the trio of Artemi Panarin, Teuvo Teravainen and Marko Dano (who will start the year in the AHL but will be called up quickly). Teravainen gets a chance in Brandon Saad's old spot with Toews and Hossa while Panarin will play with Patrick Kane and newcomer Artem Anisimov. The Hawks are very deep down the middle with Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger as their 3rd and 4th line centers, look for another big season for the Hawks.

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Trevor Daley
Viktor Svedberg - Trevor van Riemsdyk
Extra: Michal Rozsival, David Runblad

The Hawks bring back 5 of 6 defense from last season but added Trevor Daley from Dallas in the Sharp trade while losing Johnny Oduya to Dallas via free agency. Expect another heavy workload for the Hawks top 4 D, in particular the rock-solid pair of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. It will be interesting to watch how Trevor Daley fits in with the Hawks, he brings an offensive upside that Oduya didn't have. 

Corey Crawford
Scott Darling

At times last season it seemed that Joel Quenneville was unsure about his goaltenders, between Crawford and Raanta and the emerging Scott Darling it seemed to be an issue that the Hawks never had in the past. Crawford did his job in the regular season but come playoff time looked very sluggish in the beginning of the Predators series. Scott Darling came in and got the Hawks back on track, he looked to steal the job from Crawford, but that didn't last either. Ultimately Crawford took his job back and ran with it, he was stellar from round 2 on. Entering this season Crawford again is the #1 but look for Scott Darling to have an increased role as Quenneville has faith in him.

2015/2016 Outlook and Prediction:
1st in Central Division, 1st in Western Conference

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