The first game of the 2017-2018 season, it seemed like this season was going to be amazing for the Chicago Blackhawks! Beating the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, 10-1 in the opening game of the season made fans feel as if the Dynasty was going to live on.. Sadly, that thought was short lived.
Summer of 2017
Problems began before the 2017-2018 season even began it’s training camps. Summer of 2017, the Hawks made a tremendous amount of trades. The more notable ones include Niklas Hjalmarsson, defenseman, being sent over to Arizona in exchange for Connor Murphy, another defenseman, and center Laurent Dauphin. The other trade was Artemi Panarin and Tyler Mottee for Brandon Saad, Anton Forsberg, and a 5th round pick. In the end, both of these trades were regrettable. Connor Murphy, while playing in 76 games, with 2 goals and 12 assists, does have one striking resemblance to Hjalmarsson’s game seeing as they’re both not the greatest two-way players. Laurent Dauphin was a bust considering he played 33 games with the Rockford IceHogs before being sent back to Arizona for two games. So in the end that trade wasn’t worth losing Niklas Hjalmarsson.
Artemi Panarin’s trade was a real heart breaker. I love The Saadfather as much as the next fan, but in actuality it was a tough break losing Panarin, whom did remarkable with Patrick Kane, the superstar right winger, and having Saad hit quite a slump this season. While Saad came out of the blocks strong, scoring a hat trick in his first game back as a Blackhawk, but he quickly ran out of gas and although he played in all 82 games last season he scored a meager 18 goals and 17 assists, going -10 for the season. Anton Forsberg did come in handy with the departure of Corey Crawford early in the season, playing 35 games with a 10-16-4 record. Meanwhile, Panarin is doing fantastic in Columbus, putting up a whopping 82 points this season, 27 goals and 55 assists. As I mentioned before Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin were fantastic on a line together, Kane admitted to being very upset by the trade.
“Me and Artemi are very close, I mean, not only on the ice but off the ice as well,” Kane said, according to NHL.com
, “We like to kind of goof around with each other and I think he’s a great kid. I think he’s going to have a great future. And, you know, sad to see him go, no doubt, I think, especially with the chemistry we had.”
It was also announced in June of 2017, that legendary Marian Hossa would not be returning for the 2017-2018 because of an allergy to his hockey equipment that made it impossible to wear even the basic amount of equipment to play. And this was the first of many injuries that plagued the roaster. There was a rotating bench, players being sent down and pulled up constantly because of various injuries among the team. Losses mid season as the deadline loomed sent players such as Ryan Hartman and Tommy Wingels, to different teams with their replacements moving around of fast that it made a difficult time for players to build chemistry with one another.
The injury that put a nail in the coffin for the season was the loss of Corey Crawford. Crawford was placed on IR back in December and had not returned the entire 2017-2018 season, as all Blackhawks fans painfully remember. In the 28 games Crawford played in, he had a goals against average of 2.27 a game. This left a hole in out goal tending, we had new goalies being pulled up left and right. Anton Forsberg, Jeff Glass, J-F Berube, Collin Delia, and of course, the famous accountant, Scott Foster. There was no consistency in goal tending which made getting wins even more difficult.
We even lost the Captain, Jonathan Toews, to an upper-body injury in mid-March. The Captain did not make a return for the rest of the season, shutting down not only Toew’s pushed for at least a 30 goal season, but finished off what little moral the team had left. There were good leaders to be there in his stead; Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp, to name just a few. But it would be hard as a rookie to look up at 3 of your A’s and two of which only have about 3 goals combined that season.
Last season was a tough one, considering we had stars in our eyes at the idea of getting players like Sadder and Sharpie back and trying to relive the glory of 2010, 2013, and 2015. Then getting wrecked with multiple injuries, a rotating bench, and poor group cohesiveness; it was a tough year to watch a team you knew could do so much better. In the end, no matter how hard the boys worked, nothing seemed to be sticking. This season was the lowest in points since 2006-2007, at a disappointing 76 points. Not to mention missing playoffs for the first time in 10 years. It felt like the team kept pushing and working hard but the moral and heart wasn’t there anymore. So the season ended quietly, and the Hawks missed the playoffs while we, as fans, prepared for this long summer.
July saw new signed players and trades for hopefully people worth the space. Stan Bowman giving Marian Hossa’s contract over to the Coyotes to make cap space and do nothing with it is still a kick in the ass. Along with that deal, Stan gave away Vinnie Hinostroza (center) and Jordan Oesterle (defenseman). In exchange we got back Marcus Kruger (center), MacKenzie Entwistle (right winger), Jordan Maletta (center and rumored to be retired), and Andrew Campbell. Don’t forget the 5th round draft pick too!
When Stan completed this trade in July it seemed as if there was another big trade coming up, seeing as we just dumped Hossa’s big contract along with dropping so many other players. But the other shoe never dropped and the Hawks are still sitting pretty at about $3.1 million in cap space. I know that I, and many other Hawk fans (mostly Chief at Barstool) are praying that there’s some kind of trade in the works that will be worth all the loss and available cap space but until then… let’s get into some of the newbies we picked up this season.
From the various trades this off season the Blackhawks acquired some new blood, even though some are more aged than others.
Chris Kunitz, a free agent left winger from Tampa Bay, scored 13 goals in 82 games, as well as managing 16 assists, and finishing the season with a +8. Kunitz has won 4 Stanley Cups, 3 of which were when he played on the Pittsburgh Penguins. Kunitz is an experienced vet that can help the 3-Cup-Core teach all the kids what it takes to win the Cup.
Brandon Manning, free agent defenseman from Philly, last season, played in only 65 games, scored 7 goals, and collected 12 assists. In Manning’s 6 seasons, he has never played a full season. Let’s hope that this year he can keep healthy and help out the Hawks’ struggling defense.
Cam Ward, a goalie from Carolina, played in 43 games last season and had a record of 23-14-4. Hopefully, Ward, with a stopping percentage of .906, can help bring stability to the goal tending that proved our Achilles’s Heel last season.
Marcus Kruger, a center from Arizona, is on his second Chicago tour like Brandon Saad. He’s not exactly a newbie but where else was I supposed to put him? Kruger played in 48 games last year with 1 goal and 5 assists. We can only hope that Kruger’s return does not turn out how Sadder’s did, with his counterpart setting records while he hits a slump.
Of course, you always lose players that are hard to depart with. Maybe it’s there dedication or their personality, but you feel a little sad when you remember that they’ve been shipped off. These are some of those people that the Hawks lost in the off season.
- Patrick Sharp, a good looking left winger, is retired after his one year stint at home last season. The man has really meant a great deal to the Blackhawks organization seeing as he lead the team to three Cups. He’s a personality in the locker room that meant something to not only the people in it but the fans at home. In his last season Sharpie scored 10 goals with 11 assists. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see Sharpie and Adam Burish up to their old shenanigans as broadcasters for NBCS Chicago.
- Jeff Glass, a goalie, waited 14 whole years since his draft to get his chance in the NHL. Glass really stepped up when he was needed this past season where our goal tending was on the fritz. Glass had a SP of .898 in the 15 games he played with the Blackhawks this season. He signed a contract, today, with the Toronto Marlies, an AHL team.
- Vinnie Hinostroza, a center, was the second to last Chicago born boy after losing Ryan Hartman (earlier this season) and Scott Darling (last summer).The last remaining one is John Hayden. Vinnie is a player who does not give one shit that he’s only 5 foot 9, and a whopping 173 pounds. Vinnie played 50 games this season, collecting 7 goals and 18 assists, but Vinnie was a leader, even though he has only been playing in the NHL for 3 years and a total of 106 games.
- Jordan Oesterle, a defenseman, was the king of One Timers. The man took a shot every change he got and that’s the intensity that the Hawks should have held onto. He scored 5 goals with 10 assists in the 55 games he played this season but he was not afraid to drive the net which, again is something we need this season.
- Marian Hossa, a right winger, had to sadly stop playing prior to the 2017-2018 season due to an skin condition that flared up when Hossa put on even basic equipment. Hossa was another guy that lead us to the three Cups, and he’s a player that is close to irreplaceable on the ice. I think it’s impossible for the Hawks to just let Hossa retire as a Coyote, I have a feeling they’re going to sign a one day contract with him like Bryan Bickell had done after his career ended in 2017.
There’s been a lot of movement and dust kicking up, clouding up our sights on the post season but all we can do now is focus on our upcoming season.
This preseason ended with the Blackhawks being 2-4-0, a little disappointing of a start but you can’t base a whole season off what goes down in preseason. It was mentioned by Patrick Kane that the main goal right now was about staying consistent.
“It’s just about being consistent, so, try to get off to a good start and no matter what happens throughout the season just try and stay positive. Just keep finding a way. It’s all about the start right now, that’s where our thought is.” Said Kane in an interview following practice on October 2nd.
Hopefully with the addition of Cam Ward, the Hawks will be able to find some of the consistency they’ve been missing. Goal tending was all over the place last season and it was anybody’s net but let’s hope Cam can take a load off of Forsberg and Crawford when he makes a return.
Duncan Keith, a piece of the 3-Cup-Core and a d-man with a lot to prove after last year, has brought up how there really is no room to slack in the off season anymore. It’s been said by a few veterans, the game is changing and it’s becoming faster. It’s getting tougher for the veterans to catch and keep up, and that’s definitely one reason why the league has gotten away from the hawks these last two seasons.
Another big name to look at this upcoming season is John Hayden. Hayden played 47 games with 4 goals and 9 assists. The right winger was even given an ‘A’ to wear in the preseason in the absence of Toews, Kane, Seabrook, and Keith. It is evident in his game that Hayden is a hungry player, he wants to get out there and prove that he’s just as smart on the ice as he is in the classroom (the man attended Yale). I personally feel like Hayden has a big year ahead of him and now in the absence of Vinnie Hinostroza, another leader, Hayden has room to step up and really prove himself again.
Going forward, the Blackhawks are going to have to find ways to get after the puck and teach some old dogs new and faster tricks. This season, our focus should not really be the Cup but more building back into a playoff contending team.
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