Chicago had an historical and memorable 2012-2013 campaign. It was a season which few true hockey fans will forget and the Blackhawks put the cherry on top of that season by winning it all. The Blackhawks are returning most of their team from the incredible run and hopefully they will not suffer from the Stanley Cup hangover. Repeating in the NHL is extremely difficult but I certainly wouldn't count out the Blackhawks organization.
The moves made this off season were mainly made out of necessary and they are not very impactful. The biggest change is that Ray Emery is gone. Emery took advantage of his 17-1-0 record and 1.94 GAA by signing a nice deal with the Flyers. Emery has always been a guy that has been overrated in my opinion. Emery has a 2.63 GAA against average and a .908 SV%. His .922 SV% in 2012-2013 was likely an outlier over a small sample size. Chicago picked up veteran Nikolai Khabibulin who went 4-6-1 with a .923 SV% as a member of the Edmonton Oilers last season. Khabibulin is ready to embrace the role of a back up this year and we don't expect him to start more than 20% of Chicago's games.
The Blackhawks dealt second line centerman Dave Bolland to the Maple Leafs but made out with a good deal. Bolland was going to require way more money than he is worth and the Blackhawks were able to get three draft picks for him. This was a solid move from the Blackhawks organization. Enforcer Daniel Carcillo and forward Michael Frolik were dealt over the off season and forward Victor Stalberg left for free agency.
Chicago is returning most of its line up from the 2012-2013 campaign and the players they lost shouldn't be missed too much. The Blackhawks offense ranked second in the NHL with 3.10 goals per game. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Bryan Bickell, Brandon Saad, Adrew Shaw, and Marcus Kruger are all returning for Chicago. Marcus Kruger will likely be moved up to replace Dave Bollands contributions. There is plenty of room for young players in the Blackhawks organization to step up this season including Ben Smith, Brandon Pirri, and Jeremy Morin.
The Blackhawks defense didn't need adjusting. Chicago is returning 7 of their defensemen which boasted a 2.02 goals against average throughout the previous season. Workhorse Duncan Keith will lead the club on the backend. He put up the most minutes for any Chicago defender last season and had 27 points. Brent Seabrook will partner with Keith again and he had a tough season but ended it with 20 points. They lock it down defensively with the big physical Swede Hjalmarsson. Johnny Oduya will partner with him again. The third line will feature the pairing of pairing of Nick Leddy and Michal Rozsival, and Sheldon Brookbank is another option should either Leddy or Rozsival get injured. The Blackhawks are an elite team defensively and they retained all of the players needed to get the job done again.
Between the pipes, Corey Crawford is the number one guy. He went 19-5-5 with a 1.94 goals against average and .926 SV% during the regular season. In the post season he went 16-7 with a 1.84 goals against average and .932 SV%. Crawford silenced all of the critics with his 2012-2013 performance and the Blackhawks are hoping he can duplicate that performance.
The Blackhawks are just a great team. They might be slow out of the gate due to having a Stanley Cup hangover but they will surely make the playoffs. The Blackhawks are in the new Central Division which features 14 teams. Detroit is gone from the division and they are replaced by the Avalanche and the Jets. They will probably win the Central and make another deep run in the post-season. Will they win it all again? It's entirely possible.
Odds to win Stanley Cup: 13/2