The NHL offseason is almost nearing an end for the Chicago Blackhawks—and the rest of the teams in the league. That means, all the work GMs have been doing this summer to make their teams contenders will be put under the microscope.
While Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman has shown to be active in trying to revamp the teams roster, there are still a few questions that need answering.
So, here are five of the biggest offseason storylines that the Chicago Blackhawks still need to work out.
It seems as if everyone is always taking shots at Corey Crawford—and the Chicago Blackhawks goalie situation in general.
Although Crawford has shown in the past he is more than capable of excelling at the position, last season did not do him any favors. He will need to make sure that he can find consistency in the crease. No one is doubting his abilities, but rather if he can handle the strains of being a true No. 1 goalie in the NHL.
Even with the consistent rumors surrounding the teams interest in Roberto Luongo—and their attempt at bringing in future Hall Of Famer Martin Brodeur—Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville still supports his starting netminder.
Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune reports:
I'm very comfortable and confident with Corey, Quenneville said. If you look back at the history of goaltenders, there's maybe a little bit of…a bounce factor in that second year. A number of top goalies have had that type of career path.
This means finding a way to keep Dave Bolland in his rightful spot as the third line checking center.
If it means playing Patrick Kane at center, or moving someone else into that spot, then so be it—something needs to be done in order to bring some stability to the line. In doing that, the first line will also be able to mesh and become much more dangerous.
The same goes for the second line.
If Joel Quenneville is able to stick with Kane at center, he will adjust. Kane is a top-tier player with a tremendous amount of skill and hockey sense. Give him a few games stringed together, or the majority of the season, and he will be fine.
Quenneville needs to surround Kane with two hard working wingers, and that line will be set. Andrew Shaw could be an option to place on Kane's right wing. Shaw will provide grit and tenacity to the line. He can draw the puck out of the danger areas in order for Kane to work his magic.
Leaving Kane on the second line also means he will not have to play against other teams top defenders—allowing his natural offensive talent to shine.
Last season, both the power play and the penalty kill were just not up too snuff. For a team that has such great offensive talent, the power play troubles can be no excuse. For now, we will leave the PK alone even though it could use some improvement as well.
The Chicago Blackhawks, at the end of last season, were a dismal 15.2 percent on the power play—good enough to place them in the bottom five of the whole league. When you have an offense comprised of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane, among others, a better ranking should be expected.
Throw in the fact that the team also has Duncan Keith and Nick Leddy, and you can see why this stat is not acceptable. Both these defenceman are extremely talented offensively.
The Blackhawks cannot even use the excuse that they had a great penalty kill to counteract the fact they could not put the puck in the net with the man advantage. A team such as Montreal—who were ranked second on the PK and 28th on the PP—can get away with something like that.
Even though the team made a very strong push to try and land coveted free agent Zach Parise, who would have improved the power play, they have not done much else to make sure this problem is fixed for the start of next season.
Boldly speaking, Marian Hossa may be the Chicago Blackhawks most important player behind Jonathan Toews. He is a tough opponent to play against every time he steps onto the ice. Hossa is able to contribute offensively, as well as play a sound defensive game.
If he is not able to return to the team this year, it would be a huge blow to the Blackhawks top six.
The most recent update on Hossa comes from Brian Hedger of NHL.com. He says Hossa has not yet begun skating—but has been working out off the ice. Hossa has said he is symptom free since he began these workouts over a month ago.
Hossa goes on to say the following, reports Hedger.
I'm going to take my time and first do everything at the gym, cardio, and the time will come soon when I step on the ice and start doing things on the ice, he said. The way I feel right now, I feel I will be ready for camp. It could be different on the ice, when I get my first hit.
Even though everything points in the right direction for a return at the start of the season, it is one of the biggest offseason storylines the Blackhawks are waiting to play out.
Above all else—for every team in the NHL—the biggest offseason storyline is if there is going to be an upcoming season.
The league and the NHL Player's Union talks are still ongoing, but if there is nothing set in terms of a new collective bargaining agreement by September 15th, a lockout will begin (via TSN). Of course, that does not mean the 2012/13 season will be immediately cancelled, but it will not create an optimistic view for anyone.
The two sides have both put their offers up front, and there still seems to be large gaps in what they want—particularly how to split all hockey related revenue (via NHL.com).
If the Blackhawks want to even see what there team is capable of doing next year, they will have to hope that a new agreement can be made in time for the season.