With all the movement that has been seen this off-season for the Chicago Blackhawks many fans are feeling the same way at this point. They understand the mathematics with the salary cap that were placed on the front office and Stan Bowman. Fans are still a little shell-shocked that so many of the familiar fan-favorites will not be at puck drop when the banners raise to the rafters against Detroit in October.
The Wound is Deep But Can Be Healed
Many aspects of the 2010-2011 will in fact be different from the hockey club that celebrated throughout the streets of Chicago in June. The most talked about loss in these recent transactions was that of power forward Dustin Byfuglien to Atlanta.
Many fans feel that the presence that he showed in the playoffs was the beginning of something special in his career. It is hard to argue with his commanding plus/minus ratio that he had, but it definitely is not a sure thing he will be a legend in Atlanta with his inconsistent play in the regular season.
Other players like Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd's departures will be a hard pill for some to swallow because of the roles they have played with the team over the past two seasons. Ladd will try to rekindle the magic with Big Buff and defensemen Brent Sopel in Atlanta. Versteeg will try to end the long drought in Toronto.
Ben Eager and Adam Burish's toughness and blue-collar attitudes on the ice will have to be replaced because there is only one thing that Blackhawks fans want second only to winning, and that is a tough group of players that will not back down from a fight.
Colin Fraser also has been shipped away and perhaps one or two more may be gone, but even with all this movement the core of the team remains.
The Future Remains Bright
Even with the lose of such dynamic and influential players on a dominant Stanley Cup Champion team the Blackhawks are a power that is unmatched in the Western Conference.
Jonathan Toews is likely to be a mainstay with the organization for the remainder of his career. Though this is a rare occurence, players like Steve Yzerman with Detroit and Mike Modano with the Stars are exceptions to the rule (who's been rumored to join the Hawks).
His brand as a cultural figure is exploding not only in Chicago and Canada, but in all regions as he is slowly creeping into the superstar category with Ovechkin and Crosby. The Blackhawks will build around him.
Patrick Kane is going to be around for a long period. Like Toews Kane has marketability the brass will not part with. Marian Hossa and Brian Campbell, who came in the form as hot and expensive free agents, should be with the team for a long time. They're going to be expected to play an even larger role with the continuing amount of Rockford players that will be getting extended playing time next season. Dave Bolland will play a much larger role next season, and his value should be fully appreciated in his return to the team.
You also will not be seeing the great duo of Seabrook/Keith broken up for at least another five seasons. These two are the "glue" that holds the team together in many ways. They both came through the organization in the 'thin' years, and many fans appreciate that Keith and Seabrook stuck it out like the fans did.
What about the Rest?
The long-term signing of goaltender Antti Niemi is very important because of the bond that he struck with many in his playoff run. It would be very hard to see him come back to the United Center to get his ring in a Lightning or Kings sweater and drop a shutout on the Blackhawks. However, if some team comes in with a unmatchable offer to Niemi than players like Steve Mason or Marty Turco would have to pick up the ball.
Patrick Sharp will be with the team going forward along with Troy Brouwer. Look for the team to sign Niklas Hjalmarsson in the coming week or weeks to give them that third stud on the blue line to give them an ace on a second line. John Madden for all intents and purposes is gone from the team.
Mike Modano is rumored to perhaps sign a one-year deal to replace Madden as the veteran on the club. It would be nice to see Modano retire as a Star, though.
Cristobal Huet will most likely be in the minor leagues this season, but a trade is not out of the question. I would like to see Corey Crawford get some serious time in net as he easily could have been the backup last season like Niemi, and gotten the call near the end of the season in net, and than who knows could have performed like Niemi.
The new acquisitions will need to fill some pretty big skates as not only there hockey ability will need to be shown, but their charisma and connection with the Chicago community will need to be up to par. The best way for the to do this is to keep on winning.
The Blackhawks will do plenty of that next season with the key pieces that are not going anywhere for a very long time.