After firing a three-time Stanley Cup winning head coach, a General Manager must definitely prove it’s the correct decision. With some questionable choices, such a bold move now puts Stan Bowman, Chicago Blackhawks GM, on the hot-seat. Late runs as the playoffs approach inspire hope amongst fans but history shows it does not indicate success the following year.
First Key Game: Winnipeg Jets – October 12, 2019
Odds to win the division
10:1 (6th overall) (via Betway)
Is this a bet worth taking?
Even though the division is tight, I would not take the bet. Despite a solid forward group, the Blackhawks are likely to continue their defensive struggles. A lot of offensive is due to come but can they keep pucks out of their net with an aging and battered d-corps.
Keys To The Season
Story to watch
Can scoring keep up with the goals they will allow? Unfortunately for the Hawks, it is a must. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews showed there is gas in the tank with their best offensive seasons to date. Alex DeBrincat broke out with 41 goals in this sophomore campaign while Dylan Strome‘s game did a 180 compared to his time with the Coyotes.
Head Coach Jeremy Colliton will need newcomer Alex Nylander to prove Buffalo was wrong in trading him. But even if that works, will improving the goaltending position (Lehner) be enough to keep pace in a tough division? Seeing as the only team to allow more goals against was the Ottawa Senators and there are next to no immediate improvements on defense, it will be a tall task.
Player to watch
Robin Lehner. After a bounce back season and no extension from the New York Islanders, there is undoubtedly a chip on the Masterton Award winner’s shoulder. The Blackhawks new netminder will also want to prove last year was no fluke. Barry Trotz’ coaching had a lot to do with suppressing shots but Lehner did his job.
With his new head coach going into his first full season, I am not convinced that it will be anything close to what Lehner had last season. It is more likely that the Vezina candidate will be required to face tough situations. Somehow, Lehner came up big while with Buffalo at times and he will need to be the x-factor once again.
Defense. Do I really need to explain this again? It is not good, the defense corps is old, and battered. Bowman traded Henri Jokiharju for a prospect (Nylander) that was falling out of favor in Buffalo (yes, Buffalo). Some thought the young defender fell out of favor with Colliton despite performing well under Quenneville.
Either way, the trade does not make the Blackhawks any better in their own end, even with adding Olli Maatta. The 25 year old has played one full season in the past 5 years due to injury. Maatta can still have a positive impact but will he stay healthy. And if 2018 first-round pick, Adam Boqvist, makes the jump, will it be overwhelming? My fear is that this group will have to rely on Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook once again, which is not what you want at this point.
If the Chicago Blackhawks were an animal, what would they be?
A wasp. When they are going, they will sting their opposition hard and plenty of others are allergic to them. They will buzz, buzz, buzz to drive everyone nuts, having some success in doing so. But if in a position where they are backed into a corner, they can be crushed by pressure due to their soft exterior.