Up next in our look around the league is the Chicago Blackhawks. As a recent Cup Champion, the Blackhawks have struggled to keep their core together heading into the future. They managed to keep at least their stars, while dismantling much of the supporting cast. The exodus of players certainly hurt their chances of repeating at Cup Champs last season, but they have retained the centerpieces of the franchise that certainly make them competitive heading into the 2011-2012 season. Over at Blackhawk Up, they’re pretty optimistic:
With an elite and rested core, offensive firepower, a tougher defense that promises to still be among the league’s best in transition, and better overall depth, the Blackhawks should be favored to win the Central Division and be among the league’s top regular season teams. 110 points is well within reach, but this team wasn’t built primarily to complete for the regular season crown. The 2012 Blackhawks are a team that is retooled to handle the physical game that was often lacking last year and that is needed to go deep into the playoffs. How far they actually go is the million dollar question, but heading into the season their chances are as good as any – and better than most.
November 26th – vs. Chicago
December 28th – @ Chicago
February 25th – vs. Chicago
March 11th – @ Chicago
The Blackhawks have been a measuring stick for the Kings over the past few seasons, and this will be no different. I don’t see the ‘Hawks at the top of the Conference, but barring significant injuries or an unexpected collapse, I’d anticipate them being comfortably in the playoffs. As we all know, at that point anything can happen. I wouldn’t rule out a deep run, and certainly central players like Toews, Kane and Keith to name just a few could spur some real success this season. Frankly if the ‘Hawks were in the East, it would be a slam dunk to put them in the top 2 or 3 teams in the Conference. While such a result in the West would be anything but a surprise, it will be a much bigger struggle if they want that level of success. The Kings are going to match up against them at fairly regular intervals heading into the post season, so it will be interesting to see how they match up.