Thursday, September 29, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: Chicago Blackhawks

After hoisting Lord Stanley's cup in 2010, last year was a bit of a sobering reality for the Blackhawks. It ended in heartbreak in Vancouver, but not before they nearly did something unthinkable. They are restocked and reloaded this season, but will the new grit and toughness carry the Blackhawks back to the Stanley Cup?

Strengths: There is still an amazing amount of talent on this team. Everyone knows about Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp, but they did make some moves to add grit and toughness to a team that has plenty of scoring depth. Andrew Brunette, Steve Montador, Jamal Mayers, and Dan Carcillo are just some of the new faces that were brought in to tough out games and be the veteran toughness and fight that this team lacked in some ways last season. They did lose Brian Campbell to Florida this offseason, but they are very confident in their young defense corps to be as good as it has been in the past two seasons. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Nick Leddy, and others are still incredibly talented and they are holdovers from the cup winning team, so they still know how to win, and win big. In net, Corey Crawford has been impressive over the past couple of seasons, and he is still is very impressive and figures to stay around the discussion as one of the better goaltenders in hockey, and he goes under the radar too. Combine this with great coaching, this team is still supremely impressive up and down.

Weaknesses: There are some scoring and overall depth questions, especially up front with the forwards. They have the great  top 2 lines, but the bottom 2 leave something to be desired. They are the grinding lines, but it remains to be seen  as to whether they can have some offensive impacts, let alone with guys like Michael Frolik and Viktor Stalberg not living up to their potential at this point.

Any Help Coming? LW Jeremy Morin is a pure goal scoring forward, and is extremely creative with the puck on his stick. He may be a bit slower skating wise, but his offensive talents are still very promising. C Marcus Kruger is a very good playmaker with some great ability, even though he could still use some strength and muscle. C Mark McNeill is about as close to a true power forward as you can get, and he does have some good offensive talents, but there are questions about his focus.

Outlook: They have aspirations for a Stanley Cup this season, and this season they will be contenders in the West, There are questions about the scoring depth, but the new veteran grit and toughness should get them pretty far this season, but how far remains to be seen.

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