The early offseason banter on the Blackhawks fan boards began when the trading began in late June.
First, there was the big Atlanta trade in which fans saw big-man Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, and Ben Eager traded.
Shortly after, many were devastated to see Kris Versteeg go to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and then Andrew Ladd dealt to Atlanta where he would join fellow teammates.
This clearly created holes, where depth was at one point considered just as much of the backbone as the Blackhawks defense. What many are quick to squander is what the Blackhawks have brought in to replace these important roles.
Viktor Stalberg (pictured above) will bring added speed to an offense that is noted as one of the fastest in the NHL. While on the upswing of development he is a young player that possesses the skills to score 30 goals in a season. Undoubtedly, he will play the position of Versteeg on the third line, likely alongside Dave Bolland and Bryan Bickell.
For those questioning the departure of the big Dustin Byfuglien, Troy Brouwer will be the one turned to in hopes of fulfilling this role on the first line. In comparison Brouwer will bring a frame that will be smaller, but much more mobile. On top of that the coaches are hoping to bring much more needed consistency to this role on the top scoring line.
While Byfuglien was outstanding at times, he endured streaky output. At times he could completely take over a game, but the regular season served as a polar opposite. While accumulating only 34 points throughout the season it is easy to assume the frustration of those wondering if Byfuglien suffered from lack of motivation.
Andrew Ladd may be one of the harder roles to replace. He had the much needed playoff experience that many on the team did not. Now that the majority of the team has that valuable experience, the Blackhawks will look toward Bickell to fulfill the position on the third line.
While not a scorer, Bickell will add defensive capability and a reliable body. Bickell will serve alongside Bolland, which means facing some of the best offensive weapons the other teams have.
As for Eager, and some may mention Adam Burish, the men were simply there to create headaches. The big bodies of John Scott and possibly the youthful Kyle Beach will be more than willing to step into that penalty-prone position.
The Blackhawks have the depth, but the familiarity is lacking. Obviously a fan favorite goes and the questioning begins. Look for that to change after the first month or so, as the new Hawks develop their new roles and names such as Stalberg and Skille become more chanted than criticized.