Chicago Blackhawks: A New Team
When I decided to write this article, I actually had to look up how long it has been since the Blackhawks made the playoffs, because I couldn't remember just off the top of my head.
I found out that the last time Chicago saw a playoff berth was in 2001-02, when they lost in the quarterfinals (4-1) to the St. Louis Blues.
But, if you look even farther back, the Blackhawks have made the playoffs once since 1997, and that was in 2001-02, as I said before.
And also, people talk about Toronto having a Stanley Cup drought, but not many give attention to the Blackhawks, who are also an Original Six team. Their last Cup win was in 1960-61. Yes, 47 years ago (although 41 years for the Leafs isn't much better).
But I think this season will be different. No, I don't think they'll win the Cup, but making the playoffs would be a big accomplishment for this organization.
They've shown improvement this past season, with the help of the young talent of Jonathan Toews and Calder winner Patrick Kane. Last season was also the first season the Blackhawks have had a winning record (40-34-8) since that 2001-02 season I've been mentioning so often. Still, they didn't make the playoffs.
However, with the signings of 29-year-old defenseman Brian Campbell, and 32-year-old goaltender Cristobal Huet, the Blackhawks have a seemingly bright future.
Brian Campbell, who spilt last season with the Buffalo Sabres and the San Jose Sharks, is a two-way defenseman who also had his best point season this past year (8-54-62). He was also a plus-8, and for the past four seasons, Campbell has had over 40 points, which shows his consistency.
Cristobal Huet, who also spilt his season with two teams (Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals), has produced good numbers for a number of seasons now, and also was fantastic for the Capitals (who picked him up at the trade deadline) and was a major part to their Southeast Division title and playoff spot (although they lost in seven games to the Flyers in the opening round).
With the Capitals, Huet had a record of 11-2-0, a G.A.A of 1.63, and a save percentage of .936. In the playoffs, he had a record of 3-4, a G.A.A of 2.39, and a save percentage of .909, and in the season as a whole, he played 52 games, had a record of 32-14-6, a G.A.A of 2.32, and a save percentage of .920.
Huet will likely have to battle with veteran goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, but I have no doubt in my mind Huet will win the starting job from the aging 'Bulin Wall.
Chicago is a big, physical team. Every player is six feet or taller, except for Patrick Kane, who is 5'10", but has proved he doesn't need size. They even converted defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (who stands at 6'3" and is 246 pounds) to a forward, so they can have some size and power in front of the net. It proved as a good idea, as he came fourth on the team with goals (19).
And don't forget players like centre Patrick Sharp, who led the team in goals (36), or defenseman Duncan Keith, who finished this season with 32 points in 82 games, but was a plus-30, and appeared in this seasons All-Star Game. There's also Martin Havlat, but who knows if he can stay uninjured this year.
So, with this roster, I think it's safe to say the Blackhawks have a good chance at making the playoffs. And who knows, maybe in a couple seasons, they'll end that 47 year Cup drought.
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