Chicago Blackhawks 2017-18 Outlook
The Brandon Saad trade meant the departure of Artemi Panarin. This should boost the sagging fortunes of Jonathan Toews, but the real question will be Patrick Kane.
No one has a true sense of what the loss of Panarin will mean. There is a concern, but it is not as if Kane’s production will fall off a cliff. The loss of Marian Hossa does hurt, but it will open the door for others.
Reliable vets Panik and Anisimov will continue to play valuable supporting roles but what does Chicago get from Patrick Sharp? That will be a wild card.
Alex Debrincat is an intriguing prospect and could make a real impact if he has a great camp. Hartman, Schmaltz, and Hinostroza could all see increased roles as well. They will need to increase their production.
While not quite the same as last year, the Blackhawks blue line is okay even after losing Niklas Hjalmarsson in a trade with Arizona.
The problem is can Connor Murphy become that player who is reliable in all situations? Furthermore, can he develop the offensive part of his game as well? Those are big question mark along with Chicago’s depth.
As a result, their initial top six looks to be Keith, Murphy, Kempny, Seabrook, Rozsival, with Forsling and maybe Cody Franson (PTO) or Pokka competing for the final slot.
We’ll see what happens during training camp because there are expected to be a shakeup or two. Chicago’s prospect depth is not quite okay but could be worse.
With some rearguard uncertainty, expect Chicago’s forwards will have to carry a bit more of the defensive load as well.
After an effective (32-18-4, 2.55, .918) campaign, Corey Crawford is the clear number one. He will be expected to play more than 55 games.
Anton Forsberg is a serviceable back-up, but he is not Scott Darling at this stage. Chicago was allowing 32 shots per 60 in Crawford’s starts. Forsberg saw this kind of shot load in Columbus.
Looking ahead to trade deadline – if sellers who could be on the move, if buyers what area might they need to improve? Chicago could be in the market for defensive help at the deadline but remember the salary cap. They will be mostly content with their forwards unless injuries should occur.
What rookies could make the team? Scoring demon Debrincat and talented prospect Pokka could pick up the slack for some veterans. After that, it is a numbers game in more ways than one.
Which player could take a step forward this season? Murphy will have every opportunity being paired with Duncan Keith. If Debrincat makes the team, he is another high riser. The entire projected third line could be the final candidates here.
Which players could regress? Kane and Toews are the usual targets, but Seabrook will continue to have issues. Even Crawford might get a bit as well especially if he is not 100%. The loss of Hossa opens opportunities but will hurt the veterans more than expected.
Are there any training camp battles expected? It comes down to the bottom roles on forward and defense. Even the backup goaltender job may not be set in stone completely. Berube might cause a bit of a stir. Watch some of Chicago’s rookies once again.
What sticks out about Chicago? Besides the venerable veterans, the Blackhawks are gearing up to play a bit more responsibly. Do they have the talent to do so while injecting youth into the equation? They are a top-heavy team that has potential to progress or regress. Chicago will be one to watch.