The start of the 2013 NHL season is practically here.
Amongst all the excitement that surrounds the start of a new hockey season, and this Chicago Blackhawks team, there are also many questions waiting to be answered.
This is the case with the 'Hawks.
A lot has changed with this team and the organization since last year. However, it is yet to be seen whether these were all done for the greater good.
Brandon Saad will be one of many young 'Hawks' who will be expected to make a contribution in the lineup.
Although the majority have already proven themselves in the NHL, there are some players on the Blackhawks who still have to show they can bring the level of play needed each and every night to excel at this level.
One player in particular will be Brandon Saad. As impressive as he can be at times, Saad is a young player with limited NHL experience. He will be expected to play a big role on the team and will need to step up and bring a consistent game.
Saad has tremendous talent, but the big question is whether he can he can show that on a consistent basis.
Other young players in the 'Hawks' lineup that will need to make sure their games keep improving are Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw and Nick Leddy.
Kruger needs to take the bull by the horns and take that centre position that has been kept open for him. That could be either on the third line or maybe the second line depending on how Dave Bolland performs.
Shaw needs to keep playing like he always does and find ways to contribute on the score sheet. He should see some time playing in front of the net on the power play and needs to make the most out of that opportunity.
Leddy will need to compete hard, day in and day out. His stats down at Rockford were not spectacular, but now that he is playing where he belongs he will have to put up points and work even harder in his own zone. His play on the defensive side of the puck will be the real tool for judging Leddy's performance.
All of these players could end up playing big roles for the 'Hawks. If the team expects to do well this season then they will need this guys to play as expected, or maybe even better.
There is no questioning Dave Bolland's offensive talents but will the 'Hawks miss his defensive capabilities on the third line.
This issue is two-fold.
One, how is Dave Bolland going to adjust to playing in an offensive role and will he be able to deliver with that added pressure, while still maintaining his solid defensive play?
On the other hand, how is the third line going to handle the loss of such a great defensive checker like Bolland? Is that line still going to be as effective against the other teams top players as it was before?
Lots of questions and no answers, yet. However, it is something that looks like a positive move. It allows the 'Hawks to address the second-line center issues that have plagued the team in recent seasons.
They have the top talent, so why not live and die with your top lines?
It means the Blackhawks will depend solely on their offense to take their opponents down from the front end. And, it may just work.
Dave Bolland can be an offensive catalyst and is a smart enough player to be able to handle the roles he will have at both ends of the ice.
The third line could be the problem, but it allows whoever is playing in the center spot, assuming it is Marcus Kruger, to ease into a role rather than being thrust into a top line spot. Especially if that player does not quite fit into the role expected of him just yet.
Quenneville had hand picked his assistants, change needs to happen and fast.
Above almost everything else, the achilles heel of the Chicago Blackhawks last season was their inability to perform well on special teams.
This season, however, Joel Quenneville got the opportunity to bring in the guy that he wanted. With this new addition to the coaching staff, hopefully the 'Hawks can turn themselves into a league leader in both special team categories.
In the offseason, Quenneville brought in Jamie Kompon, who he is familiar with from their time spent together in St. Louis. Kompon's job working with the Blackhawks power play will be put under the microscope right away.
He will be expected to improve the power play, first and foremost. In the long run though, if he does in fact fail to improve the 'Hawks it may be Quenneville who sees his job gone first.
Basically, that is unacceptable. When you have a team full of all stars, who can play in both ends of the rink, the team is expected to boast better stats.
Things will have to change this year if the 'Hawks expect to take their play deep into the playoffs.
A big year is expected out of Corey Crawford. Can he live up to the expectations of being a No. 1 goalie.
It is as simple as two words.
So much rides on the shoulders of the Blackhawks No. 1 goalie.
When someone looks at the roster the 'Hawks are going to be putting out for the 2013 season, the weak point many would automatically see is their goaltending.
Crawford is going to have to come through big. If he does not, Ray Emery will be in the same boat. But as the declared No. 1 on the team, the pressure right now is all Crawford's.
He will be getting a lot of offense out of the team playing in front of him but will be expected to make the easy saves when needed. No letting in any weak stuff and he should be fine.
Crawford has the support, it seems, from everyone. Especially the coaching staff in particular. That should boost his confidence. A prolonged break away from the game should also allow the young goaltender to refocus his play.
Hopefully, returning it to the way he played two seasons ago.
Patrick Kane is one of the many players on the 'Hawks who need to be a lot better.
The Chicago Blackhawks are a team full of stars. However, all these guys are capable of playing like all stars and that is where they need to be at.
Players like Pat Kane and Duncan Keith need to turn around their games. By no means are they slouches out on the ice but they do have more in the tank to give.
Kane's scoring has been going down ever since his sophomore season and if that continues it will not be good for him or the Blackhawks. He has had a head start on most NHL players having played in Europe, so hopefully he comes ready to go and gets off to a hot start.
As for Keith, last season was not a Norris Trophy kind of year.
Keith will be expected to up his defensive play and also add more to his offensive game than was shown last season. Keith is a top notch defenceman but when you have that label it also means your name should be mentioned in Norris talk at the end of every year.
That did not happen last season.
Also, Marian Hossa will need to return to the same player he was before he took the Raffi Torres hit that sidelined him with a concussion. He says he is ready to go and that will have to be shown early in the year to prove to everyone he can be the same player.
It will be important for these players in particular to continue to be the go to guys in Chicago and prove that they can be looked upon in that way.