Blackhawks

Setting and predicting five early prop bets for Blackhawks in 2018-19

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USA TODAY

Setting and predicting five early prop bets for Blackhawks in 2018-19

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling to overturn the federal ban on sports gambling, here are five early prop bet predictions for the Blackhawks in 2018-19:

1. Brandon Saad's point total: 48.5

In April, we detailed Saad's struggles from this past season and predicted that he'd have a big bounce-back year after recording only 35 points, a career-low in an 82-game season. This came after he put up back-to-back 53-point seasons in Columbus, and 52 previously with the Blackhawks in 2014-15.

You can imagine Chicago's frustration when that point total dipped to 35.

Still, we're setting the bar at 48.5 next year, because that's his average over the last five years — we didn't count his rookie season in 2012-13 when he appeared in just 46 games and had 27 points.

The pick: Over

2. Duncan Keith's goal total: 4.5

What a weird season for Keith, who found the back of the net twice on 187 shots for a 1.1 shooting percentage. In 2016-17, he had six goals on 183 shots for a 3.3 shooting percentage. His career average is seven goals per season on 4.4 percent shooting.

But with Keith turning 35 in July and his goal total declining for three straight seasons, we have to be realistic about our expectations. 

Knowing Keith, he'll probably score two goals in the first two games of the season because hockey's weird. So...

The pick: Over

3. Corey Crawford's win total: 32.5

Crawford was on his way to setting a career high in wins (35) before he got injured — something we predicted he would do before the season — and it would've been interesting to see how many he would've finished with had he stayed healthy. He was at 16 through 27 starts.

All indications are that Crawford will be ready to go by the start of next season, but there's still some uncertainly regarding how much time he'll need to get back up to speed. So we'll be a little cautious with this number and tab it at 32.5 for now but predict he'll have no problem returning to an elite level.

The pick: Over

4. More goals: Alex DeBrincat or Jonathan Toews?

It's very hard to score 28 goals in a season. DeBrincat did that as a rookie. But it's asking a lot for him to top that next season, even though there's no reason to believe he won't take that next step.

Meanwhile, Toews has scored at least 20 goals in each of his first 11 seasons, and is averaging 26.5 per season despite scoring a career-low 20 last year and 21 the year before.

We expect him to get closer to that 26.5 range, and if he does that, he'll make this head-to-head matchup interesting.

The pick: Toews

5. Blackhawks point total: 93.5

The Blackhawks' over/under last season was set at 99.5 by Bovada. They finished with 76, their lowest since compiling 71 in 2006-07.

And there were lots of reasons for that, most notably the injury to Crawford which we mentioned above. According to corsica.hockey, Crawford had a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 8.5 over an 82-game season. That's a 17-point difference, so we put the number at exactly that: 93.5.

While a 17-point jump seems significant at a quick glance, it shouldn't when you look at the bigger picture.

The Colorado Avalanche clinched the final wild card spot in the Western Conference with 95 points, coming off a season in which they recorded 48 points the year before — an astounding 47-point increase.

That's a little extreme, but 93.5 points would still put the Blackhawks outside the playoff picture. And that's what they are as of right now: a bubble team.

The pick: Over

Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

The London Knights set high expectations for themselves going into the 2018-19 OHL campaign. They always do. Their roster is usually loaded with top NHL prospects and this season was no different.

After finishing No. 1 in the Western Conference with 99 points, the Knights looked poised to go on a deep run. They got off to a roaring start in the playoffs by sweeping the Windsor Spitfires (4-0) and kicked off the second round by winning three straight against the Guelph Storm. But then, for the first time all season, the Knights lost four in a row to squander a 3-0 series lead and were eliminated just like that. It was a disappointing finish for a team with Memorial Cup aspirations.

One of the bright spots of the postseason was Blackhawks prospect Adam Boqvist. He was tied for first among all skaters with 10 goals through two rounds; no other defenseman had more than six. And he finished with 13 points in 11 games for a points-per-game average of 1.18.

To summarize his season: Boqvist scored one goal in his first 15 games. From that point on, he finished with 29 goals and 60 points in 50 games, including playoffs. He became an offensive driving force.

It's unclear what his future holds, but with Evan Bouchard expected to turn pro and secure a full-time roster spot on the Edmonton Oilers next season, returning to London would put Boqvist in a position where he could be the No. 1 defenseman in all situations.

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Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Front office

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AP

Blackhawks 2018-19 season grades: Front office

If we're evaluating Stan Bowman's moves as a whole, we have to go back to July 1 when the 2018-19 season really started.

On that day, the Blackhawks announced three signings: Chris Kunitz (one year, $1 million), Brandon Manning (two years, $2.25 million cap hit) and Cam Ward (one year, $3 million). Not exactly splashy additions after missing the playoffs for the first time in 10 years — although, to be fair, it wasn't a great market to throw money around.

Eleven days later, the Blackhawks traded Marian Hossa and his $5.275 million cap hit to the Arizona Coyotes in a seven-player deal that included top-nine winger Vinnie Hinostroza. Bowman acknowledged after the trade that he tried exploring every possible avenue before surrendering that the financial flexibility became more valuable.

But the trade might've put the team in a better position going into free agency had it been executed before July 1. Because of all that, Bowman's grade isn't looking great so far.

Then we get into the actual regular season.

The biggest move Bowman made was the coaching change on Nov. 6 in going from future Hall of Famer Joel Quenneville to Jeremy Colliton, which was a controversial decision in and of itself, especially the timing of it.

“There’s no perfect way to do things," Bowman admitted. "I think we made the best of it at the time. It’s one of those things where you’ve just gotta get through it. I think he’s gonna benefit from not only having a training camp next year but also we had this whole long stretch of a season. ... We’ve got a lot more things we want to get to, and I think we did a good job of — it’s a good start, but I’m sure Jeremy will tell you that we want to be way better next year and we’re gonna push our players to be better. We’re gonna try to do things differently. It’s not just taking this exact same program and we’ll start that. We want to do different things as well and enhance our team. I think there’s reason for hope there.”

Where did Bowman start to earn high marks? The roster tinkering, beginning in late November.

Perhaps recognizing that Nick Schmaltz wasn't progressing the way the team would have liked in a contract season, Bowman dealt him for a potential future second-line center in Dylan Strome and replenished the top-nine forward they lost in Hinostroza with Brendan Perlini, who showed flashes down the stretch. That's turned out to be a win-win for both sides.

The trade that was very clearly one-sided is the one Bowman pulled off with Peter Chiarelli, who was later relieved of his GM duties with the Edmonton Oilers.

Not only did Bowman acquire rugged winger Drake Caggiula, who became such a valuable part of the Blackhawks' second-half turnaround because he was a perfect complement for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the top line, but he unloaded the contract of Manning without having to retain salary or giving up an important piece of the roster. It essentially gave the Blackhawks an extra $2.25 million to work with this summer, which shouldn't go unnoticed when you look at how deep the 2019 free agent class is.

Bowman essentially undid the mistake he made and put the Blackhawks in an even better position going into this offseason by adding a useful player on top of it. So he certainly upped his overall grade.

Now it's time to spend the money he cleared in getting rid of the contracts of Hossa and Manning, and continue building around the current core.

"We're not going to bring the same group back," Bowman said. "That's clear. We don't do that really any year. There's changes to every team, even a team that ends up winning the Cup this year will have some different players. We're going to have some new players next year. What we're going to do is try to improve in the areas where our team needs some help and the way that looks isn't completely clear right now, but we have time over the next couple months to dive in and look at our team in greater detail and figure out how we're going to make that happen.

"There's obviously free agent signings, there's trades, there's growth from within. Those are the ways that your team improves from year to year and we're going to do that. So we're going to have some new players here next year for sure but we have a lot of players that are going to be back and I think a lot of the key guys who had good seasons they're coming back for sure, so we don't need across the board changes but we do need some new players."

Front office: B-

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