Looking back 2 years into the Blackhawks franchise we see many things to be happy about. A Cup winning squad, olympic medals galore, and other misc trophies around every corner. It was a large leap above the preceding years of missed playoffs and down right terrible teams without home games televised in Chicago. I have learned something as result of winning a Cup. I am greedy and I want another one. Which is why I can get overtly excited about this coming season. Here are my other reasons why.
The team has gained some much needed experience and age over last year's roster and I dare even say that it looks like a possible improvement over the 2009-10 roster. Im glad to see a guy like Jamal Mayers and Steve Montador, but most of all, I am excited about Andrew Brunette. A guy who can bring some grit, experience and a 20+ goals season is a great addition to the team. Look for this winger to find those long untouched loose pucks in front of the net. Another less mentioned name is Sami Lepisto who just might surprise Hawks fans with some offensive skills on the back end.
All of the main players who have been a part of building this team are present and holding extended contracts. No playing with doubt, no worries about the future and all with less salary constraints. They have a bit of space for future changes around a core that happens to make up the most players payed over 5 mil than any other team in the NHL. Plus, I am expecting career years in terms of points and production out of most of them.
Bolland is a priceless center in this league. He can win draws, deflates the games of the best players in the league, adds energy and defense to the Hawks game, is one of the best PK guys, and can score amazing goals while at it. I am hard pressed to find a guy (besides Toews) who ignites the team like he does. Add to all of this the fact that Bolland has spent his offseason in the gym, bulking and strengthening up more than any other Hawk, trying to build what he expects to be a breakout season and we have only good things to watch for. He wants to avoid future injuries and is doing everything in his power to play a full season next year. Dare I say a 20+ season of goals?
Rest and Relaxation:
While Bolland is using his time off to workout, other players are getting the much needed rest and in some cases surgeries that are left over from nagging pains over the past year. One such player taking the time to rest is Marian Hossa who is quoted as playing 100 games (an extra season) more than most players in the past few years due to his consistent appearances in the Finals. Hossa has commented on how badly he needed to rest his body up, and the result has me expecting the best production out of him as a Hawk so far.
Like him or not, Carcillo adds a touch of angst and grit to a team that seemed deflated last year. Other players like Mayers, Montador, and O'Donnell bring a more controlled toughness to the roster. Physical abilities along with age and experience. The Hawks are a much tougher team and they haven't really given up much of their speed to get it. These new faces know what to expect in this league and will surely aid Toews in coaching his team to victory.
This doesn't mean we should see a different line combo out there every game, but Q and company have places to look when something isn't working or someone gets injured. There has been a lot of talk about Marcus Kruger and how ready he is to fill in at a center position. The returning of a player like Ben Smith with his hockey smarts and larger than life energy with the puck, and players like Olesz and Lepisto who promise much more than previously produced. If something goes wrong in the D core, we have experienced and large Sean O'Donnell to fill some shoes. All of this and a bag full of hopeful prospects that show possibilities.
With how well he did in net last year with a shaky defense and inconsistent team, I am expecting big things from Crow. Frankly, I expect to see his name in the top 3 in goals against throughout the year and most likely in shutouts and save percentage as well. This team will be much better at controlling where shots are coming from and clearing out loose pucks in front. All of this will allow Corey to settle into position well which is his strong suit.
There are many reason to be excited and ready to watch this coming season. Many things I haven't even mentioned, but one other important element that will create another winning year is the man wearing the big C. Captain Serious is arguably the best choice of anyone in the NHL to have on the ice at any given time. He is a true leader and getting better at it with every game. Having him in our arsenal of fire power has a calming sense to it. If the Hawks have a chance at huge successes this year, Toews will make sure that it happens.