What Must the Chicago Blackhawks Do to Become an Elite Team in 2013

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What Must the Chicago Blackhawks Do to Become an Elite Team in 2013
Harry How/Getty Images
Corey Crawford has played well to start the season. Right now there is no need for outside help but he will have to keep playing sharp.

The season has only just begun, but the Chicago Blackhawks have been able to come flying out of the gates like no other team in the NHL. Their 6-0 start is the best ever in team history.

It would seem like the Blackhawks are the cream of the crop in the NHL, but that can change just as quickly. There are still things the team must do to gain respect from the rest of the league and solidify themselves as a truly elite team.

One of these things is to find a solid No. 1 goaltender. 

Right now it seems like Corey Crawford has locked that spot up with his play. He has gone 5-0 and has been, on numerous occasions, the reason why the team has been able to hold onto their wins.

Crawford was just named by the NHL as the league's second star for his play during the first week of action.

However, he still has to prove he can keep that play up for a whole season, let alone be able to handle himself once everyone gets back into tip-top shape. Some players may still be off their games, but when they return to full form, Crawford has to be able to handle the extra attack.

If he is able to keep up what he has done so far, then the Blackhawks' issues in net will shape themselves out. If not, then they will never be considered an elite team without a capable goaltender between the pipes.

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If, for whatever reason, Crawford cannot handle the job, then the team will have to look to make a move.

Another thing the team must do if they plan on becoming an elite team in the league is make a move involving one of their many defensemen

With Michal Rozsival, Sheldon Brookbank and Steve Montador rounding out the sixth, seventh and eighth spots on the Blackhawks' defensive corps, one of these players should be moved in order to get something of value in return.

Of course, especially early in the season, it may be wise to hang onto these extra guys and see how everyone is faring. After all, you would not want to trade away the player who turns out to have an excellent year because you never gave him a good look—or, even worse, get yourself stuck in an injury situation. 

With the season still young, the team should consider its options and deal one of these players when the time is right. It may not be for something big and special, but it may be the type of player a team needs for a long playoff run.

Just as the Blackhawks want to become an elite team in the NHL, so too do some of their players.

One player in particular has yet to launch himself over that barrier. His name is Patrick Kane.

Kane has played well during his time in Chicago, but this season, it seems like he is a man on a mission. Whether it's the fact he has matured, was playing overseas during the lockout or everything is just coming together for him at the moment cannot be answered. What can be answered is that he is playing like an NHL superstar.

Kane has nine points through six games so far and has been clicking with fellow stars and linemates Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp.

Whether the Blackhawks retain their elite status or not will rest on these players. 

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
With a rejuvenated Pat Kane, the Blackhawks possess one of the best sets of hands in the entire league.

Most of all, however, the team really needs to just keep playing the way they are. 

When a team starts the year at 6-0, it is tough to bring them down. The Blackhawks are the real deal right now and are showing that the talent in their room alone is enough to be considered the cream of the crop.

As much as some outside pieces could help fill the so-called holes they have, it seems like they have found all the right pieces from inside the organization.

The team has the second-best penalty-kill rate, only behind the Boston Bruins, who have yet to let in a goal with the man down. They also sport a respectable 26.9 percent on the power play. Both these stats are huge improvements from last season and show that the Blackhawks have taken the necessary steps to make the team better.

The only thing that will stop them from dominating the NHL this year is if they stop doing exactly what they are doing now.

The real test will come after their first loss. If they can show resilience and bounce back with a win or a strong outing, then the rest of the NHL should take notice.

 

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