The Blackhawks had one of their worst seasons in 11 years, being one of the few NHL teams to win three Stanley Cups in the last 10 years they certainly did not have the season many expected. One of the teams in the NHL that constantly is #1 in attendance every year, built on years of success in Chicago the Blackhawks had a blunder of a season.
The Blackhawks posted a 33-39-10, 7th in Central with 76 points, ranking 21st in goals for(228), 9th in goals against(254), 28th in power play percentage(16.0), 20th in penalty kill percentage(79.1). The Blackhakws had a terrible season across the board and now have a ton of questions to answer. After acquiring Brandon Saad for Artem Panarin and to see the left winger Saad only produce 35 points in 82 games looks terrible for Chicago. On top of Artem Aminsov having a down year, Patrick Sharp scoring 21 points in 70 games and Jonathan Toews with 52 in 74 games the Blackhawks signings and top guns did not get the job done, nor did anything on the back end click this year.
The Blackhawks problems are relatively small, yet it was obvious as to why they did not do too well either. They lack defensive depth a ton, their forwards did not produce and Corey Crawford was out all year basically.
What went wrong with the Blackhawks?
(1) Defensive depth. At one point Brent Seabrook their once superstar and number two defenseman was left in the stands due to poor performance. They scratched Seabrook this year so right there we knew how this was going to go for Chicago. Duncan Keith is getting older(34) and maybe playing the 3-time Stanley Cup defenseman for 30+ minutes a game is not do able anymore, he struggled a bit this year, posting a -29 rating. Only the third time in his 13 year career he ever posted a negative +/-. After those two the Blackhawks had to rely on Jon Rutta, Erik Gustafsson, Jordan Oesterle and Connor Murphy combined these four players have played in a total of 547 games, without Murphy’s 334 the other three combine for 213 games, and two of these players, Rutta and Oestrerle played in their first full year as an NHL defenseman. Pretty clear as to why the Blackhawks had a down year.
(2) Saad was non existent, other veteran players and top six guys were not consistent. The whole Saad ordeal looks bad for the Blackhawks now especially after Saad’s 35 point year and Panarin’s playoff appearance and 82 point year. That is number one as to why the Blackhawks forward group ranked 21st in the NHL for goals for. Sharp was also not expected to do much but he still did not live up to his bargain, Aminsov was definitely expected to produce more than 31 points and without Marian Hossa it was obvious this top six lacked production. When Nick Schmaltz and Alex Debrincat, one first year player and the other in his second season produce 52 points as the next top producer it is obvious their is some in balance in the line up. Without Kane’s 76 points, no one on this roster besides Debrincat, Kane and Schmaltz had a solid year. Also acquiring Anthony Duclair to add some depth did not work out as he produced a total of 8 points in 23 games. They lacked consistency and depth on the front end, but have some young and up and coming players to look forward to.
(3) Corey Crawford was MIA. At one point they had their 9th string, mens league goalie play a game for them because they were hurting so much in the crease. Crawford played in 27 games missing 55 games, essentially the whole season. Not much needs to be said as to how this hurt the Blachkawks. To supplement Crawford was Anton Forsberg who posted a 10-16-4 record, a 2.97 GAA and .908 save percentage. Not great numbers to help a team be successful at least.
Will things better?
Probably it is hard for things not to get better but the Blackhawks problems are easily fixable. Saad needs to step up, you now have young forwards that have seen time and played well so that’s good, Kane and Toews are always a solid mix, and adding one to two more forwards is not terrible. The defensive side of things basically adding one top four and one sixth defenseman is not a bad idea, but the other young guys did not have terrible years just inexperienced and young. They saw NHL time and will be ready for next year. Crawford stays healthy that is the key, if so they are destined to have a better season.
The positive though the Blachawks now have two 1st round picks and two 3rd round picks, and also 6 million in cap space. The negative their division is only getting better, Nashville, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Blues, Stars, Avalanche were all at one point battling for a playoff spot so this division is extremely tough it will be interesting to see what Chicago can do in this division next year. The only players they need to resign are Vinnie Hinostroza, others like Duclair, Tomas Jurco and Michael Rosival can all walk. The Blachawks have the 8th overall pick, hoping to get a defenseman as well as the 27th in the first round. That is a huge positive. Possibly trade the 27th if a top four defenseman hits the market.
Anyways we can expect around a 5th place finish out of Chicago next year and not making the playoffs, on the bubble but not making. The division is tough and not getting easier so I just cannot see this Chicago team out dueling Minnesota, Nashville, Winnipeg, Dallas or St. Louis next year.