Predicting the Statistical Leaders for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2014-15
The Chicago Blackhawks seem to be a lock to make the playoffs once again in 2014-15. Once they get there, they should have an excellent chance at making a legitimate run at their third championship in six years.
The Blackhawks are led by a crew of veteran superstars who are capable of carrying the team in the biggest games. The best and brightest are Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who signed long-term contract extensions with the team that should keep them in the Windy City well into the next decade.
But as dynamic as the Blackhawks are, they usually don't find themselves among the league leaders in the major statistical categories. In this piece, we make predictions on who will lead the Blackhawks in points, assists, goals, plus/minus and penalty minutes next season.
Jonathan Toews: 83 points
Jonathan Toews is the best player on the Blackhawks, and he is easily one of the top five all-around players in the NHL.
While he has many more responsibilities on the team than simply scoring, this should be the year that Toews starts to climb the charts in the NHL and on the Blackhawks in that category. Toews was third on the team in scoring last season with 68 points, but a late-season injury that caused him to miss the last six games of the regular season may have been the key reason he finished 10 points behind Patrick Sharp for the team lead.
Sharp and Patrick Kane should be able to give Toews a run at the team's scoring lead this season, but if Captain Serious can stay healthy for a full season, there's no reason he won't be able to gain the top spot in that category.
Toews has a nasty wrist shot and he is a sharp passer. Head coach Joel Quenneville wants him on the ice in all critical moments, and he will get his share of points. Look for him to top his career best of 76 points, which he accomplished in the 2010-11 season.
Patrick Kane: 45 assists
Patrick Kane is known for his clever stick-handling, skating speed and goal-scoring ability. He made a name for himself when he scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 and has made a habit of scoring overtime goals in the playoffs.
There's a lot more to Kane's game than goal scoring. When he is with the right linemates, he is capable fo making tape-to-tape passes that result in quality scoring chances and a ton of goals.
While Kane was playing with the slowish Michal Handzus (16 points in 2013-14) for a large portion of the 2013-14 season, he still managed to rack up 40 assists. This season, Kane should be on a line with speedy Brandon Saad and veteran Brad Richards. That should allow him to increase his assist total, perhaps to a much higher level than we have estimated.
Kane recorded a career-best 58 assists in 2009-10, and he recorded 43 or more helpers during the first five years of his career.
All signs point to Kane having a banner 2014-15 season, and that should include recording more assists than any of his teammates.
Patrick Sharp: 35 goals
It's fairly remarkable that Patrick Sharp is often considered in the second rank of stars on the Blackhawks. He happens to be a goal-scoring machine who combines a wicked wrist shot with excellent instincts. He has topped the 30-goal mark four times during his eight-plus seasons with the Blackhawks.
Sharp scored 34 goals last season to lead the team, and it seems he can pick the top corner anytime he takes aim at the net. Sharp connected on 10.9 percent of the shots he took on goal last season, and he knows how to bury the puck when opponents give him just a couple of feet of daylight.
Sharp is a power-play fixture with the Blackhawks, and he scored 10 of his goals with the man advantage in 2013-14. It won't be easy for Sharp to win the team's goal-scoring title again this season, as he will have to hold off Toews, Kane, Marian Hossa and perhaps young stud Brandon Saad, who is starting to come into his own.
Marian Hossa: Plus-33
This is a bit of a risky pick given Hossa's age and injury history.
The 35-year-old Hossa has been relatively healthy the past three seasons, but he has suffered concussions and other health problems (upper body, shoulder) over the years.
However, if Hossa can stay healthy for another full season, he has an excellent chance of ending up on top in the plus/minus category this season. He led the Blackhawks last season with a plus-28 mark and held off Toews (plus-26) and defenseman Brent Seabrook (plus-23).
Hossa's physical strength plays a big part in his success on both ends of the ice. He can hold off a defender with one arm, which often leads to quality scoring opportunities, and he can also use his strength to foil opponents in their offensive zone.
Hossa is a very intelligent player who regularly puts himself in the proper position to succeed, and that gives him an excellent chance to dominate in plus/minus again this year.
Andrew Shaw: 80 Penalty Minutes
Head coach Joel Quenneville will probably miss Brandon Bollig's presence in the lineup since he was the player who usually served as the Blackhawks' policeman.
Bollig led the team with 92 penalty minutes last season, and his primary role before being traded to the Calgary Flames this offseason was establishing his presence so opponents would not take liberties with Toews, Kane, Sharp and Hossa. That responsibility will now fall to either Bryan Bickell or the feisty Andrew Shaw.
Quenneville has asked Bickell for a more consistent effort in all areas of his game. He is bigger than Bollig at 6'4" and 233 pounds, but he he has not used that size often enough to get his point across. Bickell had just 28 penalty minutes last season, so it's unlikely that he will approach Bollig's penalty total.
Shaw had 76 penalty minutes a season ago, and he's never afraid to engage opponents. With Bollig now out of the picture, Shaw could come in to wrest the penalty-minute crown.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story said Brandon Bollig would lead the team in penalty minutes, but he was traded to the Calgary Flames this offseason. We regret the error.