JN 2016-2017 Central Division Preview: Chicago Blackhawks

Today we are continuing our series that takes a look at fellow Central division rivals for the upcoming 2016-2017 season. Once again the Central Division lines up to be one of the toughest divisions in all of hockey. with all seven teams ( yes, even the Jets) being legitimate playoff threats. 

Today, we look at the Chicago Blackhawks. 

How they did last year?

Record: 47-26-9 ( 3rd in central)

Last season, the Chicago Blackhawks hit the golf course much earlier than they usually do. The Blackhawks fell to the St Louis Blues in the first round, marking the first time since the 2011-2012 season the Hawks did not advance past the first round. The early playoff exit is somewhat disappointing, but it should be noted that being matched up against the Blues in the first round is no easy task to conquer.

The Hawks had no shortage of individual accolades last season as Patrick Kane’s 106 points won him the Art Ross Trophy and Artemi Panarin blew out the rookie scoring race and captured the Calder Trophy. What was missing from the Blackhawks that prevented them from defending their title as Stanley Cup champions? Besides, the Blackhawks made a series of aggressive moves at the trade deadline to bolster their lineup when they acquired Andrew Ladd, Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann, how could they have been knocked out in the first round? 

The St Louis Blues were simply to much for the Blackhawks to handle and edged them out in a hard fought seven-game series. The once seemingly juggernaut lineup of the Chicago Blackhawks looked out-performed and out-worked as the 2015-2016 season came to a close. 

What did they do this summer?

After going all in on last year’s group and sacrificing prized prospects Phillip Danault and Marko Dano to acquire top nine talent, Chicago is back to square one and looking to improve their third and fourth lines.  The Hawks elected not to retain any of the players they acquired at last seasons deadline and shipped Andrew Shaw to Montreal for a pair of mid-round picks. Dano and Danault were supposed to be the next in line for the Hawks and now with them shipped elsewhere and the Hawks losing more than a handful of forwards up front, Chicago is desperate to fill in the gaps up front.

Rookie forwards Nick Schmaltz and Tyler Motte could insert some offence on the team’s bottom two lines. It’s likely that the impacts the two could make likely would not amount to what Dano, Danault, Weise and Ladd could do in a similar role. Ideally, if depth wasn’t so thin up front, the two would be getting some extra work put in with the Rockford IceDogs. 

The thing that needs to be remembered is with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane at the forefront for the Blackhawks, anything can happen. 

How did they do against the Jets last year?Chicago faced off against Winnipeg on five occasions finishing with a 4-1-0 record. 

What to expect this season?

Don’t be surprised if the Blackhawks don’t reach the postseason this year. While it’s hard to imagine a playoff sans Chicago, the overwhelmingly talented central division could knock out a team like Chicago this year. Last year it was evident the Hawks were falling behind the 8-ball and with even more causalities to the lineup, the Stanley Cup chatter will be on mute for the time being. 

More 2016-2017 Central Division Previews

  • Super tough division. I see it breaking down in the west as pre-season predictions (in no particular order):

    San Jose
    St Louis

    Out from last year: Ducks, Minnesota.
    In: Calgary and Winnipeg