Chicago Blackhawks: 8 Steps Toward Getting Back to Stanley Cup Form

Tyler JuranovichCorrespondent IIIJune 13, 2011

Chicago Blackhawks: 8 Steps Toward Getting Back to Stanley Cup Form

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    VANCOUVER, CANADA - APRIL 26: Troy Brouwer #22 consoles goalie Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks after losing 2-1 in overtime to the Vancouver Canucks in Game Seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoff
    Rich Lam/Getty Images

    The question of the Chicago Blackhawks returning to the Stanley Cup after winning it in 2010 became to be more like "Are they even going to make the playoffs?" 

    It was a mostly disappointing season for Blackhawk fans, but through all the mud there is some bright spots that could put the team back into the Cup race. 

    *Not in any particular order of importance. 

1. A Revitalized Defense

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    CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 17: Duncan Keith #2 of the Chicago Blackhawks skates up the ice against the Vancouver Canucks in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on April 17, 2011 in Chic
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    It was no secret that one of the main problems the Chicago Blackhawks dealt with was a significant drop in defensive play.

    Duncan Keith, 2010's Norris Trophy winner, numbers dropped like a rock compared to last year's. A 21 +/= rating feel to a -1+/- rating. Keith also saw a 24 point decrease. 

    These numbers reflect exactly how Keith's season went. Fans could tell that this wasn't the Duncan Keith from last season. He didn't look like the stone-wall defenseman, and it cost the 'Hawks a lot of games.

    But Kieth was the only defenseman to see a drop in play.

    His counterpart, Brent Seabrook, also became victim despite scoring more than last season. Seabrook gave the 'Hawks a more offensive season compared to the 2009-10 season, scoring five more goals and assisting 18 more compared to last season, but his +/- feel by 20.

    A top defensive line that can't prevent goals can be a killer to any team. Fixing this problem could do wonders for the 'Hawks.  

2. Better Chemistry Between Lines

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    VANCOUVER, CANADA - APRIL 21: Patrick Sharp #10 of the Chicago Blackhawks congratulates Patrick Kane #88 after scoring against the Vancouver Canucks during the first period in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley C
    Rich Lam/Getty Images

    With a lot of old faces gone and new faces on the team, Coach Quenneville had the tough task of trying to find the best lines with the players he had. 

    It didn't always work out so well, especially in the beginning half of the regular season.

    Maximizing a player's ability means placing them with the right group of players, but with a lot of moving around, a coach can experience difficulties with placing guys with the right set of players.

    The offseason is about to begin, and though some players will be leaving the 'Hawks organization, it won't be as bad as last postseason, making Quenneville's job of placing men in the right lines a little easier, giving the team a much better chance at clicking early on in the season.  

3. Maximizing Their Young Talent

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    BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 26:  Jeremy Morin #11 of USA chases the puck during the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship Group A game between USA and Finland on December 26, 2010 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    One of the pleasant surprises of the 2010-11 season was seeing Nick Leddy play. Almost immediately 'Hawk fans felt that they could have a very good player in their hands, and with the way Leddy played last season, they could be right.

    Leddy showed some promise, but he also made some rookie mistakes, which is fine as long as we see improvement from year to year.

    Marcus Kruger could also find a spot in the roster and make s positive impact on the team.

    But one player to keep your eyes on is Jeremy Morin. Morin was acquired from Atlanta in the trade that sent Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, and Akim Aliu to the Atlanta Thrashers.

    Morin put up[ some great numbers in the OHL, scoring 47 goals and tacking on 36 assists in only 58 regular season games. Her played 9 games with the Blackhawks this season, but I expect that number to go up as the years progress.

    I think the 'Hawks have a some very good prospects that can contribute to this team's future, but the organization must make sure to capitalize on their talent.  

4. Dave Bolland Staying Healthy

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    CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 24: Dave Bolland #36 of the Chicago Blackhawks controls the puck against the Vancouver Canucks in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on April 24, 2011 in Chica
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    I think there is a lot of potential in Dave Bolland. I, like a lot of other 'Hawk fans, like what Bolland brings to the table. He can score and be physical enough to shut down opponents' top players, but, most importantly, he can do both at the same time. 

    If you could just persuade him to stay healthy. 

    Bolland has played a combined 100 games the past two seasons. With the potential of being such an impact player, missing 64 games is a big deal.

    Bolland's best attribute to the team is not scoring, though he can score 20+ goals if he stays healthy. It's his ability to be a dynamic player, using his physical, defensive with his offensive abilities.

    I hope Bolland can stay healthy next season because the 'Hawks could really use his skills.  

5. Sticking with Corey Crawford

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    CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 24: Dave Bolland #36 of the Chicago Blackhawks knocks down Henrik Sedin #33 of the Vancouver Canucks as Corey Crawford #50 rejects a shot in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at t
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    For some reason the 'Hawks have been blessed with amazing second string goaltenders the past few years. When Cristobal Huet started to suck, Nikolai Khabibulin was right there to replace him. When Huet, again, started sucking, Antti Niemi was there, and when Turco wasn't performing like the organization wanted him to, Corey Crawford was there.

    Well, now it's time to stick with Corey Crawford. His new, five-year contract makes almost every 'Hawk fan happy after seeing their beloved Niemi be released after failing to agree on a new contract.

    Crawford has been in the 'Hawks' system for awhile now, and I truly believe they have found their franchise goaltender. Crawford has worked and has been patient to get where he is now.  

6. Become Less Dependent on 1st Line

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    CHICAGO - DECEMBER 10:  Jonthan Toews #19 of the Chicago Blackhawks warms-up before the game against the Ottawa Senators on December 10, 2008 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Last season I noticed that the Blackhawks heavily relied on their top line scoring in order for them to win games. While it's not terrible to rely on such stars as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp, it does create a level of dependency that hinders a team's ability to be potent at all lines. 

    What the 'Hawks need to do is create fear in their opponents not only in their first line, but the second, or even the third. There's nothing better in hockey then when a bottom line can give just as amount of contribution to success as the first line. 

    With up-and-coming players like Michael Frolik, I am optimistic about the 'Hawks chances of doing just that. 

7. Keeping the Lead in the Third Period (Please)

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    GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 20:  Patrick Sharp #10 of the Chicago Blackhawks lays on the ice after an injury as Brent Seabrook #7 looks down during the first period of the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena on March 20, 2011 in Glendale, Ar
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    To say lightly; the third period was hell for the Blackhawks.

    Great teams go into the third period with the lead and tough it out and keep that lead. The 'Hawks just couldn't do that, and it count them countless games.

    If the 'Hawks could've won at least half the games they blew, they would've been in a better spot in the standings and maybe even in a better moral.

    But one's thing is for certain: it can't happen again next season.   

8. Returning to Being a Clutch Team

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    VANCOUVER, CANADA - APRIL 26: The Chicago Blackhawks wait dejectedly for the handshake with the Vancouver Canucks after losing 2-1 in overtime of Game Seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 26, 2011
    Rich Lam/Getty Images

    Despite all their woes last season the Blackhawks had their playoff fate directly in their hands. Beat Detroit and you were in, or loss and pray that Minnesota won. 

    As many of you know, the 'Hawks lost, but(by some miracle) Minnesota won, giving the 'Hawks the eighth seed in the playoffs.

    But who could really be proud of an entrance like that?

    The fact that the 'Hawks couldn't rely on themselves to put them in the playoffs was the season in a nutshell; a half-hearted and "where's the intensity and desire" season.

    Us, as fans, didn't see a hint of it until MAYBE the last few games of the first round of the playoffs. Even though the 'Hawks came one goal away from advancing and knocking out Vancouver, it wasn't because Chicago played spectacular.

    In fact, the 'Hawks played like crap most of the series.

    The Blackhawks didn't play like a Stanley Cup caliber team because teams that go far, win the games that matter most.