Chicago Blackhawks: 10 Bold Predictions for Their Offseason
With one of the biggest non-title series games in Chicago sports history on the horizon for Tuesday night, it is very difficult to look ahead to what is going to happen in the offseason for the Blackhawks.
The Canucks and Blackhawks certainly have played a series to remember in one of the most memorable first round matchups in recent memory.
But, as much as Blackhawks fans adore and remember all the great times of last season, the purge of salary space that came after it still sticks with many of the faithful of the Hawks.
The Blackhawks look to defend the title, but there are also many factors and changes that are on top for them once they play their last game in the 2010-2011 season.
10. Corey Crawford Will Get the Commitment He Deserves
No player in the Blackhawks organization bid his time more to this point than Corey Crawford.
The 26-year-old who was drafted by the Blackhawks in the second round years ago has the chance to add his name to the "core" group of players that include Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
The trust of the coaches and higher ups certainly has increased greatly in this postseason thus far against the Canucks. He will be a restricted free agent in the offseason and most likely will be locked up long-term.
9. Role Players Will Be on the Move
It has been quite the task for some role players to replace the likes of Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd.
Those players ended up rising above the tag as role players in the playoffs last season and are now flourishing with their new teams.
The adaption and learning curve into the system of Blackhawks hockey was not as smooth for some of the new guys this season.
Fernando Pisani and Ryan Johnson have shown to be decent at times, but will most likely be on the move. Chris Campoli, Jake Dowell and Viktor Stalberg may also be on their way out. I say that Dowell and Stalberg most likely will be back, Dowell being the best bet.
8. Stan Bowman May Shop Around a High Priced Player
The NHL salary cap has changed things in the league dramatically for the successful teams over the past half decade.
No longer can teams simply stockpile talent and pound the tight-pocked teams into submission. The playing field has been somewhat evened, and teams are left to make franchise changing roster decisions.
Look for Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman to actively pursue moving Patrick Sharp or Brian Campbell.
Campbell is near impossible to move with $7.1 million a year that runs through 2016. His ability on the power play has not lived up its reputation, and he has not been what is expected from the highest earning Hawk.
Sharp is signed through next season and will eventually command a sizeable contract with his All-Star MVP and his consistent scoring ability. The Blackhawks should entertain offers for his services because they could get a lot back, and it would free up a lot of precious salary space.
7. There Will Not Be a Blackhawk Gracing the Cover of NHL 12
What is always nice to see for fans of a franchise is one of the players being the cover boy of the latest edition of an EA sports game.
No time in the history of the sports franchise has that been done by teammates of the same team, and most likely will not happen again anytime soon.
With names like Tim Thomas, Steven Stamkos and several others as possible candidates, it might be the end of this short streak.
But, winning a Stanley Cup certainly can impress the good folks at Electronic Arts to consider a three-peat.
6. A New Back-Up for Corey Crawford Will Be Found
Marty Turco to this point has not had many moments on-ice that have made his Blackhawks career the least bit memorable. Most will recall his "betting incident" with fans in Montreal while on the bench.
Once a great All-Star goalie with Dallas, Turco is now giving his vast knowledge and support to Crawford who is shining under the bright lights.
But, with an expiring contract, it looks like Turco will in fact not be in a "Indian Head" uniform next season.
High ticket players like J.S. Giguere and Tomas Vokoun are not going to be on the Blackhawks radar. Perhaps Brian Boucher, Peter Budaj or former Blackhawk Craig Anderson would be the back-up in net. Of course, Hannu Toivonen could get his chance with the big club next year as well.
5. The Blackhawks Will Be in Play for a Defensemen
The Blackhawks very well could have more cap space this coming offseason than most people expect them to have.
That means that they can try to upgrade and bolster up on the back end. With Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on the top line with Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brian Campbell as well, the Hawks could always use another player to get it done on the blue line.
Depending on how much money they have left and how much they are willing to invest, players like now hated Kevin Bieksa and former Blackhawk Bryan McCabe could be available. But, more economical choices could be Ian White or Mark Stuart.
4. Patrick Kane Will Have a Quieter Offseason
Whether it was the famous picture in Vancouver from last season in a limousine, or the numerous stories that may or may not be true throughout Chicago. Patrick Kane has gained a reputation as a partier to behold.
From the tales that are told throughout Blackhawks nation, it would be assumed that Kane partied every night. And after his heroics of last season's Stanley Cup, who could blame him?
But, the partying led some to believe it affected his performance on the stat sheet this season, and it needed to be scaled back some.
I foresee Kane re-dedicating himself fully this offseason to becoming the most dominant open-ice player in the game, which he could be capable of being with the proper commitment. And, this rings true whether the Blackhawks win the Cup again or lose to the Canucks in the first round.
3. The Blackhawks Coaching Staff Will Remain Intact
John Torchetti was the only member of the coaching staff that did not return to try to bring another title back to Chicago after last season. He moved on to become an associate head coach in Atlanta, and the Blackhawks brought in Mike Kitchen.
The Blackhawks have made it clear in the Rocky Wirtz-Era that they strive for the best and will not hesitate to make a move when needed (Denis Savard and Dale Tallon's firings). But, the Blackhawks have shown heart in their playoff run to this point, and the coaches must be commended for it.
Joel Quenneville has done a masterful job rallying the team together to not give up. Mike Haviland and Mike Kitchen have been solid and should not be on the move. And, Stephane Waite remains perhaps the best goaltending coach in the game today.
2. Troy Brouwer and Michael Frolik Will Get Extended
It is very hard to say whether some fan favorites will have to yet again be let go of after what happened last season.
But, it is of my belief that Troy Brouwer and Michael Frolik will be in Blackhawks uniforms next season.
Brouwer had clutch moments in the playoffs last season, but had an inconsistent and injury-plagued season this year. He has yet to make much of an impact in the postseason, but he is a tough and likeable player that, despite not living up to expectations this year, is capable of big things.
Michael Frolik was sent to Chicago this year from the lowly Panthers and did not make much of an impact at all for much of his stay in Chicago. But, he delivered in Game 6 against the Canucks in the first converted penalty shot in Blackhawks history. I think that Frolik should be brought back, but it might be 50/50.
1. There Will Be a Parade in Chicago
When it is all said and done, the Blackhawks will have to do a heck of alot to match the off-season that they had last year. Being the eight-seed and giving the Canucks all they could handle proved that they have some pieces in becoming a favorite in the West in 2011-12.
But, the fans and people of Chicago want the pageantry and ability to embrace a team the way that they did last year in glorious fashion.
The Blackhawks very well might not win the Stanley Cup for the second time in two years, but their co-inhabitants in the Chicago Bulls very well could bring a parade/celebration in Grant Park in the Summertime.