Time for the second of my annual Scouting the Central series, a look at the Central Division team-by-team, what they have done (or not done) to improve themselves (or not) in the offseason starting at the bottom of the division, we did the Minnesota Wild last week, time for Pred Nation’s favorite team to hate… the Chicago Blackhawks
– 36-34-12 – 84 points, good for 6th in the Central Division and 10th in the Western Conference. Missed playoffs by 6 points as the team missed the playoffs for the second straight season after being swept in the first round in 2017… sorry… couldn’t resist.
Key stat from last season
– 292 - The number of goals allowed by Chicago, 30th in the NHL.
- G Cam Ward, F Marcus Kruger F Chris Kunitz
- G Robin Lehner, D Olli Maatta, F Andrew Shaw, D Calvin de Haan
The BIG Question
- When does the rebuild begin? It is rapidly coming to the point where it will be time to blow it up and rebuild and frankly… that time may already be here.
- This is a team that has had a great run, but they haven’t seemed to grasp that the Cup window is closed. They are stuck with long term contracts for Brent Seabrook (Age 34), Duncan Keith (36), Jonathan Toews (31) and Patrick Kane (31 in November). All but Kane seem to be on the downside of their performance curve. Goaltending health has been an issue, Robin Lehner should add some stability… but Corey Crawford is still the key between the pipes for Chicago. This team has some solid young talent Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat, but it is not enough to cover the fact that this team got old, fast… it is a phenomenon that is becoming more evident with more teams in this late 2010’s version of the NHL.
Best Case/Worst Case
- The best case scenario is that the Blackhawks reduce their goals against, add 10 points to last year’s total and maybe make it to the playoffs… maybe… Worst case is that Chicago continues to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic and fall to the bottom of the division.
- It is hard to get a read on the strategy for the Blackhawks… they seem to be trying to rebuild on the fly and that is simply not been a successful strategy previously. There are holes in the lineup, cap nightmares as the team has $41 million in cap hit taken up by just five players and quite frankly… you have to wonder how Robin Lehner does in net… how much of his performance last season can be attributed to the “goalie whisperer” Mitch Korn, the Islanders goaltending coach?
So many “ifs” for this team… if Corey Crawford can stay healthy, how Seabrook and Keith can hold off the ravages of Father Time, if Jonathan Toews can continue his revival, if Patrick Kane can continue to produce like he has, if they can find some additional defense and a little more offense… if, if, if. Let’s say that all those “ifs” end up where the team wants them to be… is this a Cup contender?
Next up, the Colorado Avalanche.
Random Notes – Presented by Cool Springs Wines and Spirits
- The rookies have reported, had their physicals and will have their second on ice session today at 1pm. The practice will be at Centennial Sportsplex.
- The NHL Prospect Tournament will be happening at Ford Ice Center this weekend. The Baby Preds will be in action Saturday at 4pm, Sunday at 1pm and Tuesday at 1pm. The prospect teams from Washington, Tampa Bay and Carolina will be in town for this tournament.
- I will be doing PA for the prospect games at Ford Ice Center… come on out and say hi! Game tickets are available at the Preds website.
- Matt Duchene has been busy in New York City over the past few days for the annual Media Tour.
- Ford Ice Center Bellevue is rapidly coming into being… the ice is down, and the finishing touches are being made as the facility speeds to wards its’ October grand opening.
SlapShot Radio will be back for our 12th season as Zack, Brent and I will be moving the show to Monday night’s this year. The best hour of hockey talk on the longest running hockey show in the southeast will begin the season at 8pm and will settle into our normal 7pm slot after Thanksgiving… Monday’s on 102.5 the Game.
Our sponsor list continues to grow. Not only are we welcoming back Drs. Jane Bacon and Aileen Kruger at Hermitage Family and Cosmetic Dentistry
… make your appointment at (615) 872-7762 and Patrick J. Brown’s Farmer Insurance Agency in Mt. Juliet… I switched to them a few years back and their service has been incredible! Give Pat and his team a call at 615-288-2086. And of course… don’t forget our good friend Carter Church! Your Mufreesboro real estate expert with Weichert – The Andrews Group. And our newest sponsor… Cool Springs Wines and Spirits
! The largest spirit store in all of middle Tennessee! And now we also add the good folks at La-Z-Boy! Locally owned and operated, check out La-Z-Boy!
The new season promises to be the best yet and we get going on September 23rd.
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