Chicago, IL – This week, all week-long the National Hockey League Network has been re-airing the 2011 playoff series between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Vancouver Canucks and while it is painful to see, much can be learned by looking at these games with emotions detached. Now I am a Blackhawks fan so I may not always view things clearly but after watching this series and to think what might have been had Sharpy’s SOG went one inch one way or another ah who knows. To be “One Goal” away from a possible return ticket to the Stanley Cup finals is frustrating but maybe the best thing that could have happened and that it was the Canucks adds more motivation. All of that is in the past and it is now time to look forward to a new season with a new roster as well. Can the newbies help get the Blackhawks back to the finals? Or maybe more importance should be place in another direction?
There is no question the Blackhawks had a terrible start to the 2010 season and a very taxing schedule especially coming off all the partying with Lord Stanley’s chalice. The Blackhawks won’t have that problem again this year in fact they might be too well rested if there is such a thing so there should not be a repeat of their starting performance. So with the off-season personnel changes let’s take a look statistically to see if there is anything that jumps out.
If we look at the above chart we can see that the Blackhawks are pretty even with where they were except on the offensive side of things with almost 8 points less and the departure of a 15 goal scorer in Kopecky and 17 goals from Brouwer with only Brunette coming back with 18 goals. Now most of these players that were brought in were not gotten for their scoring fire power but rather for their grit so what the Blackhawks are giving up in fire power they are hoping will be made up in toughness. The scoring they will be looking to their core and youngsters like Frolik, Stahlberg & Smith to be making up the differential. What is glaring though is Soupy’s +/- differential which was the best on the team and will be missed no doubting that but not to the tune of his big salary. Daniel Carcillo will also need to work on his +/- numbers, tough hitting is great but not when you sacrifice position or but your D or Goalie in a bad spot. If he can improve on that number it will only help the Hawks. All in all though I would not look to this group of players to be the ones getting the Blackhawks back to the SCFinals.
The core is what will determine if the Blackhawks can go on another magical run. For those that don’t know who the core are – Toews, Kane, Keith, Seabrook, Sharp, Hossa & that irritating SOB we in Chicago all love so much Dave Bolland. When I looked at the teams stats from 2008, 2009 & 2010 seasons the glaringly obvious stat was the +/- number and how it had decreased which indicates the Hawks need to work on their defensive zone hockey. In 2008 the Hawks had 4 players with a +/- of 20 or more (Keith, Seabrook, Ladd & Havlat). In 2009 there were 5 players (Sharp, Hossa, Toews, Keith & Seabrook). In 2010 there was only two (Toews and Campbell). The numbers also bears this out in 2008 the +/- number was 45, in 2009 it was 46 & in 2010 it was 21 quit a significant drop-off. If the Hawks can turn this number around they have an excellent chance to go along ways in playoffs.
So can the Chicago Blackhawks revisit the Stanley Cup Finals? Well rested, a bitter taste from being knocked out by your hated rival, the audacity of youth coupled with seniority and veteran leadership, a world-class organization with great coaching, toughness and grit coming to the team to lay the foundation for the skills to shine, a hungry fan base waiting for their heroes to rise, and renewed partnerships – Keith/Seabrook; Toews/Kane and throw in Sharp, Hossa and Bolland to the mix look out NHL you will have your hands full. Here come the Hawks – the Mighty Blackhawks!
1 all stats were taken from either NHL website or Chicago Blackhawks websites