After an extensive off-season, the Chicago Blackhawks are looking for that ray of light that was generated a couple seasons ago on their trek to Western Conference Finals. While losing to their rivals, Detroit Red Wings, the Blackhawks found the playoff experience they needed for the past seasons march to a Stanley Cup Championship.
The biggest key to last year’s success was the confidence and belief in each other. The youngest team in the NHL bonded over the 2009 off-season and it showed from the very beginning. Not only by proving the their age, but by proving roster roles and providing growth.
This season the Blackhawks are tasked with an even greater challenge, defend the Stanley Cup. A Cup that many on the current roster aren’t even on, including the starting goaltender. With this many questions are asked and many concerns have been voiced.
First and foremost has been that of the Blackhawks depth. The flood of player departures over the off-season have left many faithful fans to wonder and has seemingly added more fuel to opposition criticism.
In saying that, let it be known that the 2010 Blackhawks are for real. While the depth of the third- and fourth-lines are unproven, the upside is great. What the Blackhawks will miss the most this season will be the ability to juggle lines with continuous productivity.
Often last season, Coach Joel Quenneville rolled the dice on creating lines and more often then not he came out on the “genius” end. The Blackhawks were unique in the sense that no other team had the chemistry they did. It proved to not only push the leaders to perform, but for the third- and fourth-lines to make their mark on a regular basis.
This season may be a different story in the sense that the Blackhawks are not nearly as deep as last year. Should a forward go down with injury or just by fails to perform, the ability to replace is very minimal. Depending on a healthy roster is a very risky move, but with the tightened salary cap there isn’t really any other direction the Blackhawks can go.
It was that same cap that brought about the most controversial move of dumping Antti Niemi, in exchange for the elder Marty Turco. While seeking a payday after assisting in delivering the first championship in decades, the quiet and reserved Niemi ended up on the first train out of Chicago.
What Turco brings is experience at a cheap price. While statistics are very similar, the opportunity of playing beside proven talent can’t come with a big price tag. With a defense led by reigning defenseman of the year, Duncan Keith, and a young star in Niklas Hjalmarsson it is hard to imagine that Turco will struggle.
The easiest way to overcome critics and reinstall any kind of lost confidence from their fan base would be to start fast. While a positive start would be stealing a couple of away wins, the ability to prove its level of competition is key to winning support.
Obviously by starting with two away games (Colorado and Buffalo) and two home games (Detroit and Nashville), should they at least get two wins it should be considered a good start. With a very strong team in Colorado and nerves being high in the home-opener against Detroit, the Blackhawks will truly have a very legitimate test right out of the gates.
Should the Blackhawks desire to right the doubters they will need to dig deep and be sure they are clicking right away. With many relegating the defending Champions to the back of the playoff contender bus, it is imperative to instill faith into the new-comers. Whether it may be the potential Jeremy Morin proving his worth or Marty Turco proving his value, the belief in the team from a fan stand point starts with a teams belief in itself.
Starting at step one and approaching one goal at a time as the team did last year is the exact process that must be repeated. A team full of new faces will provide new strengths. Ignoring those strengths would cause failure, while harnessing and utilizing those strengths could very well return the magic that seemed to diminish as pieces of a Championship puzzle were lost over the Summer.