On-Ice Success Will Put Up-and-Down Blackhawks Offseason Behind

Geoffrey ClarkCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2009

Normally, hockey doesn't become a roller coaster ride until the games actually begin. 

For Blackhawks fans however, that ride carried over from the end of the playoffs to the summer activities.  It went from signing high-profile free agents to becoming involved with the law.

Big splashes were made via free agency as the 'Hawks added veteran forward John Madden and Detroit center Tomas Kopecky. But the cream of the crop came with the signing of a 12-year deal by Marian Hossa, who found himself on the losing end of back-to-back Pittsburgh-Detroit Stanley Cup Finals. 

While the first two are ready to contribute immediately, Hossa will have to wait until around Thanksgiving or so, as he recovers from shoulder surgery.  It was revealed not long after this setback that the 'Hawks knew about his shoulder before he signed the deal.

Of course, the 'Hawks lost some of their high-profile players to free agency.

Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin signed with Edmonton and high-scorer Martin Havlat took off for Minnesota

They nearly lost a lot more when players like Kris Versteeg and Ben Eager could have been free to roam the market following a fiasco that involved NHL Players Association and the qualifying offers made to those players.  This ended up costing Dale Tallon his position as general manager, with Stan Bowman left to fill the gap.

There was also the fiasco involving Patrick Kane, his cousin, and a Buffalo cab driver. But that will be forgotten along with everything else if the 'Hawks can meet the high expectations for this season.  Some media outlets have actually picked them to win their first Stanley Cup in 48 years.  The pieces are in place to make it happen.

Kane and captain Jonathan Toews have emerged as one of the best forward duos in the NHL ,and they're young enough to be in college.  When Hossa returns from his injury, that could make for one heck of a scoring line.  Other forwards like Versteeg, Patrick Sharp, and Dave Bolland can also be very dangerous with the puck.

The defensemen also show few weaknesses.  Brian Campbell can also score when he wants to, but there have been questions about his performance on the penalty kill.  The duo of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook has come a long way since the two were paired together, and there's no denying their value to the team.  Their combined +/- last season was an astounding 56.

As for the goaltending, it's Cristobal Huet's job now after splitting time with Khabibulin last season.  Many have questioned his ability to perform in the postseason, so whether the 'Hawks hoist the Cup or not will depend largely on him.  Backing up Huet will most likely be Antti Niemi as Corey Crawford was placed on waivers.

Despite the vast improvements made to the team, there's one team from a city that is home to the same team that gave the Bulls fits in the years leading up to their dynasty. 

That's right folks, it's the Detroit Red Wings. 

Although the 'Hawks strengthened their roster in the offseason and even stole a couple of good players from the Motor City, the Wings are still the team to beat in the Western Conference. 

With all this in mind, there will be no shortage of the playing of Chelsea Dagger in front of sold-out crowds at the United Center this season.  The 'Hawks took everyone by surprise last season by advancing to the conference finals, but now, they're expected to be ready to play every night. 

They are that close to achieving that "One Goal."