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Poll: Are the Blackhawks in better or worse shape than last season?

St. Louis Blues v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Six

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 23: (L-R) Patrick Kane #88, Andrew Shaw #65 and Jonathan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate Shaw’s third period goal against the St. Louis Blues in Game Six of the Western Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on April 23, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Blues 6-3. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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This post is part of Blackhawks Day on PHT...

The case for ‘better':

Chicago’s biggest issue last season was solved by the signing of Brian Campbell. Once again, they’ll have four top-four defenseman, with Campbell joining Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson. That means less pressure on Trevor van Riemsdyk, who maybe wasn’t ready for a top-four role but should absolutely be fine on the bottom pair. Long story short, the Blackhawks’ defense has gone from a weakness to a strength.

Meanwhile, there’s been way too much made about the losses of forwards Andrew Shaw, Teuvo Teravainen, and Andew Ladd. After all, there’s still Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Artemi Panarin. And besides, the NHL is a young man’s game, and the ‘Hawks have youngsters Ryan Hartman, Vincent Hinostroza, Tyler Motte, Tanner Kero, and Nick Schmaltz knocking on the door. That group should provide a great boost of energy and enthusiasm, and they’ll do it for cheap.

The case for ‘worse':

If the NHL is a young man’s game, then the ‘Hawks should be worried, not excited. That defense that apparently got so much better? Campbell is 37 years old, Keith is 33, Seabrook is 31, and Hjalmarsson is 29. The biggest concern is Seabrook, who has five years left at a cap hit of $6.875 million; his possession numbers were awful last season, and that’s not a good sign.

As for the forwards, none of the youngsters mentioned above have proven they can play in the NHL. Schmaltz, arguably their top forward prospect, may be an NHLer one day, but he only just turned pro. Chances are, he’s going to need some AHL time. Make no mistake, losing Shaw is going to hurt badly. He was a huge part of the 2015 Stanley Cup run, a hard-nosed contributor in whichever role he was handed. And let’s not forget about Marian Hossa, who will be 38 when the 2017 playoffs start. His production fell off a cliff last season, no real surprise given his age. And you don’t just replace a guy like Hossa in the top six.

OK, time to vote:

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