I know it’s a small sample size at 3-1-1, but the Chicago Blackhawks are BACK. After an offseason full of “experts” feeding fans their bullshit about how the Hawks will struggle after moving on from key players, the Hawks are already looking like the best team in the NHL once again. Coach Q and company are on pace to win their 4th Stanley Cup in the Kane/Toews era, here’s why:
- A legit first line
Jonathan Toews has flat out underperformed the last few years (even though he is being paid to be elite). I still think he is one the best in the league, but his play had not been getting the job done. Many gave him a pass since he struggled through injuries and did not have the same level of talent around him that he had earlier in his career. But if you have been watching the Hawks open to this season, then you noticed that this first line is NASTY. Toews, Saad, and Panik all play a similar brand of hockey: big, physical, fast, and smart.
The Hawks once again have a legit top first line that can match up with any team’s and outplay them. This big boy line is going to absolutely wear teams down, which will also allow our other 3 lines to exploit tired groups.
- The depth
The Hawks have one of the deepest forward groups since possibly their 2009-2010 team. With the lines looking like: Saad-Toews-Panik , Hartman-Schmaltz-Kane , Sharp-Anisimov-DeBrincat , Hayden-Kero-Wingels/Bouma, the Hawks’ depth is championship quality. Plus, don’t forget they have talent like Vinnie Hinsotroza waiting down in Rockford, along with Stan Bowman having just under 3 million in cap space to play with at the trade deadline. I honestly even like our depth defensively. Seabrook has looked sharper than past years now that he is playing with Keith again. The pairing of Forsling and Rutta has surprised some people with their play. Kempny seems to have improved from last year, and while Connor Murphy has not looked super impressive, he has been throwing the body around (something no Hawks defenseman has wanted to do in some time). Add in Cody Franson and an underrated Jordan Oesterle, and the Hawks are set up nicely for success. Plus with that cap space, I fully expect Bowman to add a top defenseman from a struggling team around the trade deadline.
- The doubters
For the first time in about a decade, the Blackhawks faced harsh criticism from the media, many predicted the Hawks could even miss out on the playoffs. Moves like the Panarin and Hjarlmarsson trades were heavily questioned, and many doubted Bowman after signing an aging Patrick Sharp. It was evident in Nashville’s sweep that they flat out wanted it more than we did; this year I don’t think that will be the case. After an offseason dwelling an embarrassing end to their season, all of the media and fans that doubted this team did nothing but wake a giant. The Hawks are back to playing hockey with an edge, and I fully expect them to showcase what this new team can do in their first game against Nashville tonight. If you’re a betting person: the Hawks are sitting at 12:1 odds to win the Stanley Cup, so if you take only one thing from this article, it’s to jump all over that.