As the Los Angeles Kings are about to find out, living up to the expectations that come with a Stanley Cup win are an entirely new monster to deal with.
The Chicago Blackhawks have spent the past two seasons battling that monster and have come up extremely short on both occasions. While one of those seasons of a first round elimination can be forgiven, last year’s result will go down in the books as an extreme disappointment.
The Hawks made the moves they needed to make in the offseason last year. Despite adding guys that were closer to being eligible for their AARP card than an NHL prime, they added the sandpaper and leadership to the locker room that was expected to get them back deep into the playoffs.
That didn’t happen. The Blackhawks were bounced at the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes and were left scrambling to find answers. But it’s probably safe to say that this year doesn’t come with the same type of expectations that the last two have.
The Blackhawks have not made a single move this summer, with the exception of signing Sheldon Brookbank. Players that were expected to be on the outs are still here and the needs on this roster are still glaring. While you can’t blame Stan Bowman for not wanting to overpay out on the trade market, not addressing the needs hasn’t exactly allowed fans to have confidence in this team.
Heading into the new year, the Hawks seem to be a team flying under the radar. They’ve improved within their division, as each of the four other teams in the Central got worse, but the focus this year will be on so many other teams that the Hawks aren’t drawing the attention that they have the past few seasons. That may not be a bad thing.
As is usually the case, the Blackhawks have been under the microscope since winning the Stanley Cup. This year should allow everyone to take a step away from this and just allow them to play the game.
Patrick Kane should benefit from less attention. There has been a great deal of pressure on him the past two years, and he quite often plays like a guy crumbling under it. Corey Crawford is looking to rebound from a poor season and won’t have the spotlight bearing down on him like it was last year. Duncan Keith could probably use less attention as well.
Overall, this is a team that should benefit from being less of a focal point, at least early in the year. With less pressure on them, they can go out and play. If they get off to a decent start, then the moves can start being made and we can see what this team is really made of. But for now, the Blackhawks should enjoy playing under the radar in 2012-2013.