This season, the Chicago Blackhawks will be once again a top team in the Western Conference and a team many throughout the league would rather not play against.
What makes this team so good? Is it its goaltenders, its defense or its offense? Whatever it is, the 'Hawks will once again have a very strong team going into the 2013 NHL season.
Without further adieu, here is a thorough look at the depth chart of the Chicago Blackhawks. After a quick examination of the team's goaltending, defence and offense, a predicted opening-day lineup for each position will be created.
Feel free to comment on whom you would take out and whom you would replace that player with.
After all, it is anyone's guess.
Corey Crawford has the support of the organization but can he finally win over all of the fans. A good goaltender, but this is the year he needs to take the next step.
Starting with the simplest of positions to predict on the Blackhawks lineup, it is a no-brainer to have Corey Crawford etched in as the No. 1 goaltender.
Crawford has the talent to succeed in the NHL but needs to make sure he can compete on a consistent basis. Nothing deflates a team more than letting in a weak goal at the wrong time. If the Blackhawks defense can step up its game to the next level, then Crawford will have some added protection. If he can get that support, then his game will rise considerably.
Backing up Crawford is Ray Emery. Emery will be there to provide a break for Crawford when needed and will be trying hard to put some pressure on him in order to get some games of his own.
With a shortened season, you can expect a busy schedule. That in itself may mean the Blackhawks will need Emery more so than they planned. Not to worry though, Emery will be battling to prove he can play solid in the NHL in order to get a contract for next season.
No matter what, the Blackhawks have a good, but not great, duo in between the pipes. At the very least, they should be able to provide the 'Hawks with enough saves to keep them in every game. But again, it all comes down to how well the goaltenders are protected by the 'Hawks defense.
- Corey Crawford
- Ray Emery
- Carter Hutton
A well-rested Duncan Keith should mean a return to the same type of play we saw during his Norris Trophy winning year. If not, his play will still be at a high level in comparison.
To make things easy, we can assume Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will be the No. 1 pair on the blue line. Not to say they will always be playing with each other, but it is the simple pick when going through the Blackhawks depth chart and choosing the top two defensemen.
No other players on the 'Hawks lineup may face as much pressure to perform than Keith and Seabrook. If these guys play as well as they can, the Blackhawks will be a tough opponent. However, if they are not able to control the game on both ends of the ice, then it will be a lot simpler for the other teams' top talents to expose the big weakness of the Blackhawks, their goalies.
Although a lot of the load does rest on the top pair, the Blackhawks will have a deep defense pool to work with. With the signing of Johnny Oduya and the calm presence he had over the 'Hawks team as a whole last season, you can expect him to be a part of the second pairing. Joining him will be young up-and-comer Nick Leddy.
Last season, Leddy showed he has a ton of talent but will need some more time to fully refine it. Playing second-line minutes with a dependable Oduya, and still getting power-play time, will do wonders for his game.
Rounding out the defense will be Niklas Hjalmarsson, assuming he is able to stick around that long considering he is constantly involved in trade rumours. Nonetheless, he plays solid defensively and can fill out the remaining minutes to a high degree of certainty. Not to forget his skill at blocking shots can be very useful on the penalty kill.
Playing alongside Hjalmarsson could be either Steve Montador, Sheldon Brookbank or newly signed Michal Rozsival. Best guess would be for Montador to fill the hole, assuming he is fully healthy and ready to go.
- Duncan Keith—Brent Seabrook
- Johnny Oduya—Nick Leddy
- Niklas Hjalmarsson—Steve Montador
Brandon Pirri could be the Blackhawks answer to the hole at center on their second line. If not, Marcus Kruger will be waiting patiently.
The Blackhawks are the proud owners of one of the best, and deepest, offenses in the NHL. They have a little bit of everything. Speed, scoring, hands, grit and toughness are all present in the lineup each and every night. These all contribute to making the 'Hawks one of the most offensively gifted teams coming into this 2013 season.
The top two lines are full of star power.
You have to expect that Kane will finally be moved back up to the top No. 1 line, at least to start. That will mean he will be matched up once again with Jonathan Toews. Patrick Sharp will fill the empty slot on the left wing.
This line will be full of offense but will also have be able to play well in their own end. Both Toews and Sharp bring the added defensive capability that will round out the full extent this line will be able to provide the 'Hawks.
The second line brings just as much firepower and should leave many teams with tough decisions on how to handle what the 'Hawks are able to throw at them. One of the most controversial spots in the lineup in recent years, the second line pivot position will have many players ready, and willing, to fight for the job.
Of course the team is still hoping that Marcus Kruger can improve and show he is capable of playing the role. So far he has been having a good year in Rockford, point-wise at least. On his heels, though, is going to be Brandon Pirri, who also has been having a very good year in the AHL. Also, you can not rule out the option of the 'Hawks bringing in some added help.
Nonetheless, whoever is able to win the role will be playing with Marian Hossa, a force anywhere on the ice.
On the bottom two lines you can expect to see a nice mix of toughness, skill and, most importantly, role players who can provide the type of leadership this team will need to survive a long playoff run.
Dave Bolland will once again be in his comfortable home as the third-line pivot, a spot where he belongs. Matched up with both Saad on the left side and Andrew Shaw on the right, this line provides an excellent mix of skill, defensive play and toughness.
Rounding out the lineup will be Bryan Bickell, Jamal Mayers and Danial Carcillo, who is back from his season-ending injury he endured last season. Carcillo could move his way up the lineup, but as of right now, considering he has not played NHL hockey in a while, should start on the fourth line. Match him up with the strong and ever-improving Bickell and the consistent defender that Mayers is, and again, the 'Hawks boast another strong line.