I’m sure we were all disappointed in the results of the Blackhawks season in 2018. 9 consecutive playoff appearances came abruptly to an end with a last place finish in the Central Division. It’s not like Stan Bowman made a splash this offseason either, only signing Chris Kunitz, Brandon Manning, and Cam Ward. So, what does this mean for Hawks’ fans in the upcoming season?
A majority of the blame on the outcome of last season stems from Corey Crawford’s injury and the issues replacing him. Crow only played in 28 games, honing a 16-9-2 record and a 2.27 goals against average. But rumor has it that Crawford is still not healthy and may not be ready to play against Ottawa begin the season, but that’s why the Cam Ward signing is huge for Chicago. A veteran goaltender with a Stanley Cup win under his belt will be helpful for this mixed group of youth and veterans. The Hawks will most likely be carrying a 3rdgoaltender going into the season in Anton Forsberg. Forsberg’s play has not been anything worth noting and brings back bad memories of giving up Panarin for him and Saad.
There are holes in the forwards which make me nervous for what their point production will look like. I have no idea how Quenneville will lineup the boys on opening night, I’d expect Saad and Toews to be paired together with a mystery RW, maybe Edjsell. Kane and DeBrincat will probably be together with Anisimov or Schmaltz centering that line. The only line I can see being a guarantee is a fourth line of Kunitz-Kruger-Hayden, which I really like because Hayden is a complete badass and he’ll be gaining chemistry with two experienced, defensive players.
The defense might be an even bigger issue. I’m hoping for a bounce back season from Duncan Keith because he still has gas left in the tank. He’ll probably be paired with Jan Rutta, who’s serviceable and definitely not the worst defensemen on the roster. I hope Seabrook can also bounce back because I miss the days where he’d bully opposing forwards. Brandon Manning and Connor Murphy are probably going to be paired together, which I like a lot actually. Murphy’s a puck mover and is undisciplined on defense, whereas Manning has little skill on the offensive end so it gives Murphy more leeway to play his style of hockey.
I cannot wait for Henri Jokiharju’s NHL debut. I’m hoping he makes the roster right out of training camp because I love his offensive style of play. The problem is fitting him in the lineup. You could put him with Keith and limit his minutes, but that’s two offensive-minded defensemen paired together. Unless they make a trade or someone gets hurt, the only way he fits in at the moment is playing on his off-side for Erik Gustafsson. Regardless, I’m excited to see Jokiharju on the ice this season.
So, will we see Chicago back in the playoffs next spring? If Crawford is healthy, I think they sneak into a wild card spot. I don’t think they’d do a lot of damage in the playoffs, but if you have Kane, Toews, Seabrook, Keith, and Crawford firing on all cylinders, they could roll a bit. I’m always excited for hockey season, even if the Hawks don’t look great on paper, I’ll still be watching on October 4th.