To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.
Today’s team: Chicago Blackhawks
2014-15 record: 48-28-6, 3rd in the Central
How they finished: Won the Stanley Cup in six games against Tampa Bay
Coach: Joel Quenneville (8th season)
Notable additions: C Artem Anisimov, RW Marko Dano, D Trevor Daley, LW Ryan Garbutt
Notable subtractions: LW Brandon Saad, LW Patrick Sharp, D Johnny Oduya, C Brad Richards
Schedule against the Capitals: Thu. Oct. 15 in Washington, Sun. Feb. 28 in Chicago
Outlook: Few teams, if any, lost as much as the Blackhawks did this summer though that was largely by design. Chicago faced a major salary crunch and did what they had to do to get under the cap, but it still came at a cost.
The Blackhawks did the best they could in getting equal return for Brandon Saad, grabbing four players and a draft pick from Columbus in what turned into a seven-player deal. Two of those players, Artem Anisimov and Mark Dano, will have an immediate impact this season for Chicago. The same cannot be said for the Patrick Sharp deal.
In exchange for the veteran winger and a defensive prospect, the Blackhawks received defenseman Trevor Daley and LW Ryan Garbutt. I have heard some analysts praise the Sharp deal as a steal for Chicago and I could not disagree more. They could have gotten much more for a player of Sharp's caliber despite his price tag. That's not to say they should not have traded Sharp, they had to. Even with his $5.9 million cap hit off the books Chicago is still right up against the salary cap, but there had to have been better deals out there.
If you believe the Blackhawks received a top-pair defenseman in Daley you are sadly mistaken. Daley is 31-years-old and is a highly flawed defenseman who will be better suited for the third pair in Chicago than the first. Garbutt, 29, can generate shots, but is not a major point producer. His career high is 32 set in 2013-14 to go along with his 106 penalty minutes.
Having said all of that, this is still the Blackhawks. They still have Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Kris Versteeg, Marion Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook plus a rising Teuvo Teravainen. Obviously there is a very serious investigation regarding Kane which may cast some doubt on his availability for next season, but no charges have been filed as of yet. Barring some kind of suspension for Kane, Chicago will be just fine.
Expectations: When comparing the players lost to the players gained this summer, you can't really say the Blackhawks got better, but they did what they needed to do to stay under the cap. Their offseason moves will put them in a better position for the future, but for right now, they are not as good as they were last season.
Obviously, the Kane situation could dramatically change their outlook for the year and for the future, but as of right now you can never count count out the Blackhawks. There is no doubt they will reach the playoffs and with players like Toews and Keith they are always capable of a deep run, but they should not be seen as head and shoulders above the rest of the West.
With three Cups in six years, are they still the team to beat? Of course, but this roster looks eminently more beatable than the team that hoisted the Cup in June.
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See more team previews:
Colorado Avalanche 8/9
Dallas Stars 8/10
Minnesota Wild 8/11
St. Louis Blues 8/13
Winnipeg Jets 8/14
Boston Bruins 8/15
Buffalo Sabres 8/16
Detroit Red Wings 8/17
Florida Panthers 8/18
Montreal Canadiens 8/19
Ottawa Senators 8/20
Tampa Bay Lightning 8/21
Toronto Maple Leafs 8/22
Carolina Hurricanes 8/23
Columbus Blue Jackets 8/24
New Jersey Devils 8/25
New York Islanders 8/26
New York Rangers 8/27
Philadelphia Flyers 8/28
Pittsburgh Penguins 8/29
Washington Capitals 8/30