With the 2013 season finally set to begin this weekend, predictions are already rolling in for how teams will perform in the shortened season. One wild card is the Chicago Blackhawks. We really have no idea what to expect from this team after two years of inconsistency and first-round playoff exits.
For the most part, this team enters 2013 looking very similar to the team that was on the ice in 2011-12, with a couple of minor additions. In a shortened season with a short training camp, that can be a good thing. Of course, given what we’ve seen on the ice in the past couple of seasons, that could also be a not-so-good thing.
Even with their struggles over the past couple of seasons, this Blackhawks team still has one of the best young cores in the league and they finally have a completely healthy roster this season.
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane return as the centerpieces of this offense once again. Toews is completely recovered from the concussion that cost him most of ’11-’12 and Kane looks primed for a big year following a stint in Switzerland.
Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa are still there to compliment them as well with Hossa completely recovered from his own concussion. There is depth on this team when you look at all the youth, but how that depth will perform remains to be seen.
The blue line is much deeper than it has been in the last couple of seasons. The Hawks added Sheldon Brookbank and Michal Rozsival, one of whom will likely serve as the seventh defenseman. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will likely still log a ton of minutes, though, as the actual performance of the defensive corps will still be something of a concern.
Then you have the goaltending, the biggest wild card on a team that is itself a wild card. The biggest question for this club: can Corey Crawford bounce back from a down year? If not, the Hawks are in trouble because Ray Emery is almost certainly incapable of carrying the load.
For the Blackhawks, the main thing working in their favor this season is addition by subtraction. Everyone in their division got worse. Nicklas Lidstrom, Rick Nash and Ryan Suter are all out of the division. The St. Louis Blues will come back down to earth. The Hawks have a chance to make a serious run in this division. They have the talent, so it’s just a matter of consistency for them in 2013.