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Aligning the Stars

November 16, 2020, 2:17 AM ET [130 Comments]
Theo Fox
Chicago Blackhawks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
If the Blackhawks can simply follow the recipe outlined in this blog, the 2020-21 season and beyond will be easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Kidding aside, let’s take a dive into what ideally needs to happen for the Hawks to bang on all cylinders to not only make the season really fun to watch but also build a contender again.

Many of what is described below -- or some positive variations of them -- could very well play out. However, every single item on the list coming to fruition may be a bridge too far.

In this exercise, the operative term is ideally. Have fun with this one.

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Forwards

Dominik Kubalik: Avoid a sophomore slump and continue to pepper shots every which way to reach the next level of goal scoring (35-40 range) and have a power play role more suitable for his skillset. Bonus: Be more of an impact player without the puck.

Alex DeBrincat: Regain his scoring touch to get back to the 40-goal plateau in a manner that is sustainable year after year. Bonus: Reach his goal ceiling again without sacrificing improvements in his defense and playmaking ability.

Mattias Janmark: Apply his speed and heavy style to role model a consistent forecheck and backcheck for the bottom 6 and penalty kill. Bonus: Flex his offensive muscles that he claims he has and be a secondary scorer in the 30-35 point bracket.

Zack Smith: Give the Blackhawks a tangible benefit by getting healthy again to be a valuable spare forward and/or a trade asset or having persistent health issues that force him onto the LTIR on Day 1 of the season. Bonus: Be flipped for a mid-range draft pick.

Dylan Strome: Improve his skating, defense, and faceoffs while not giving up much from his vision and playmaking so he can be an effective 3C. Bonus: Bounce back srong to his 0.75 PPG offensive pace (or better) from two seasons ago.

Jonathan Toews: Turn in his third straight outstanding all-around season (60-70 point range) and maintain his solid play in all zones and in all situations (ES, PP, PK). Bonus: Stick it to the other teams that he’s still one of the league’s best two-way Selke-worthy centers.

Ryan Carpenter: Keep his game simple as a veteran presence with a physical, grinding style on the 4th line and the penalty kill. Bonus: Amp up his value with dependable play so that he’s a valuable trade commodity or expansion draft option for the Kraken.

Pius Suter: Translate his game successfully from the Swiss elite league to the NHL and serve reliably in the top 6 or 3rd line, wherever he is needed most by the Hawks. Bonus: Post a stellar rookie season en route to being a finalist for the Calder trophy.

Matthew Highmore: Take his game to the next level as a potent and poignant 4th liner who defends, grinds, agitates, and hustles all while putting home opportunistic goals. Bonus: Show off his offensive talent to make him even more of a threat.

David Kampf: Continue to improve with his capacity to play big minutes, shut down the other team’s top lines, win faceoffs, maintain possession time in the offensive zone, and kill penalties. Bonus: Stop being a black hole on offense.

Andrew Shaw: Stay healthy for most of -- if not the entire -- season and be his typical pestful persona up and down the lineup agitating at even strength and taking away the goalie’s eyes on the power play. Bonus: Return to his prime form as a garbage-collecting 15-20 goal scorer.

Lucas Wallmark: Hold down the fort as a bottom 6 center, be ready to slide over to wing if needed, win draws, and be a principal penalty killer. Bonus: Open up his offensive potential as a secondary scorer capable of being a 0.50 PPG forward.

Brandon Pirri: Be the veteran leader needed for the Rockford forward ranks while trying to reinvent himself as a defensively responsible pro pivot. Bonus: Hit on these two things to be a serviceable call-up if the center depth starts to get decimated in Chicago.

Kirby Dach: Pick up where he left off with explosive growth from his rookie regular season to his first postseason being an offensive force from the center line in. Bonus: Leverage his size to his advantage like Ryan Getzlaf and make optimal plays utilizing his teammates.

Patrick Kane: Exemplify the common high school yearbook quote “Stay just the way you are” and keep dominating the league as one of the top players at any position. Bonus: Give Connor McDavid and Leon Draisatl a run for their money for the Art Ross trophy.

Alex Nylander: Put everything together finally with persistent effort in all zones to open up more opportunities for him to apply his strength and scoring ability. Bonus: Untap his full potential as a top 6 winger with 25+ goals and 50+ points.

On Deck: MacKenzie Entwistle, Brandon Hagel, and Philipp Kurashev.

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Defensemen

Duncan Keith: Step up as a true #1 defenseman on a consistent basis minimizing the boneheaded plays and putting on display his prowess as a dominant roving ice flipper. Bonus: Make a late career campaign for his 3rd Norris trophy.

Connor Murphy: Hit his stride now that he’s in the prime of his career and continue being depended as the team’s best defensive defenseman. Bonus: Elevate his game to place himself in the upper tier of defensive defensemen in the league.

Brent Seabrook: Come back strong from surgeries and other personal setbacks to deliver impactful physical defense on the 3rd pair and another cannon from the point. Bonus: Make it really hard on Jeremy Colliton to relegate him to just a 7th man.

Nikita Zadorov: Play reliable defense while protecting Adam Boqvist, delivering his famous hits, and smothering opponents along the boards. Bonus: Unload offensive bombs from the point to the tune of 7-10 goals of his own.

Adam Boqvist: Unleash his offensive potential with slick skating, dynamite moves, and top shelf scoring from the blueline. Bonus: Maintain his commitment to improve defensively in order to contribute in his own end and avoid getting ragdolled.

Calvin de Haan: Stay healthy so he can be the steady 2nd pair defensively wired rearguard that he was brought in to be two summers ago. Bonus: Play at his expected level to increase his appeal and value on the trade market at the TDL or in the next offseason.

Lucas Carlsson: Wait patiently for a spot to open up, even if as the 7th defender. Bonus: Arrive as a trustworthy bottom pair blueliner who can take on minutes, lend a physical style on the backcheck, and transition the puck with pinpoint breakout passes.

Ian Mitchell: Live up to the hype and hold his own to shoulder the load and expectations of an all-around defenseman with little intimidation by the big bad NHL. Bonus: Ascend the D depth chart in short order as a top player reminiscent of his idol Keith.

Nick Seeler: Hope that Stan Bowman can find him a home elsewhere in the league or else be happy being an experienced leader with Cody Franson on the Hogs blueline. Bonus: Play well enough for the Hawks to trade him for a mid-range draft pick.

On Deck: Nicolas Beaudin and Chad Krys.

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Goalies

Malcolm Subban: Take the bull by the horns and nail down the first chance in his career to become the #1 goalie by putting up respectable numbers. Bonus: Play so well that he can steal wins for the team whether the offense dries up and/or the defense in front of him stinks.

Kevin Lankinen: Push Collin Delia aside in decided fashion to emerge as the backup goalie. Bonus: Play lights out in the 2nd string role to propel him past Subban as early as this season but perhaps flip flop roles for 2021-22.

Collin Delia: Put his money where his mouth is with his confidence to take the reins as the backup goalie making Lankinen the starter in Rockford. Bonus: Fulfill the many predictions anointing him as the Chicago starter and run with it from training camp onward for many years.

Matt Tomkins: Continue to trend up the goalie depth chart with incremental growth and development. Bonus: Surpass Lankinen or Delia to usurp the starting role in Rockford and set his sights next on earning a recall to Chicago if the need arises.

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Team Play

Offense: Get to pucks first, win battles, make smart plays, work hard to get open, connect on passes, drive hard to the net with and without the puck, and shoot (stop looking for the fancy play).

Defense: Shrink the ice by closing in fast on the puck handler, manage gaps, shut off passing lanes, block shots, contest every puck, play the body, stop puck watching, and support teammates.

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Special Teams

Power Play: Be more dynamic with constant player movement as well as creative movement of the puck to expose the other team opening up passing and shooting lanes.

Penalty Kill: Keep passes to and shots from the outside, collapse low when pucks get to the slot, and clear the zone with purposeful and emphatic efforts.

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See you on the boards!

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