Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Questions Facing the Team Next Year
The NHL free agency has come to an end, bringing us to training camp and much closer to the beginning of the 2011-12 season.
The Chicago Blackhawks had a very busy free agency that included a lot of pleasant and unpleasant surprises, leaving many fans to speculate whether or not this 'Hawk team will better perform last season's team.
Here are the top five questions facing the Blackhawks this season.
5. How Will Joel Quenneville Fair in Is Fourth Year?
It's not easy for a coach to duplicate a 52-22-8 season that included dethroning Detroit in the NHL Central and a Stanley Cup victory after all the player changes due to salary cap issues, but that's exactly what Blackhawk coach, Joel Quenneville, found himself trying to do.
It was clear early on that the 'Hawks were not going to have the same success as they did the season before, and some of that was because of the drastic change of personnel. It not only weakened the team, but it created a mess for Quenneville to try to put back together.
Lines were being constantly changed because no combination seemed to work out, leaving the team in a very inconsistent playing state.
You could put most of the blame on the drastic player changes, but some blame must also go on the coach. He knows his players more than anyone else.
With the team more stable and (I think in some areas) better, it'll be interesting to see how well Quenneville's lines stack up.
4. How Will the Newly Added Age Affect the Team?
With all the new signings and releases, the one aspect that really stood out, on a superficial level, was how much older the new signings were compared to what fans had been seeing for the past couple years.
Jamaal Meyers is 36. Andrew Brunette is 37, and Sean O'Donnell is 39 and will be turning 40 during the season.
They are all only signed to a one-year deal, but all the added age has some people worried or wondering how it will affect the speed of the 'Hawks.
Will the added grit and veteran presence make up for it?
While it may in some parts, speed is one aspect that you can't take too lightly in hockey.
3. How Much Will the Prospects Develop?
Stan Bowman has made it really clear that developing the 'Hawks' prospects is very important to him. He is still relying on the team being driven by the core players, but by giving the young players NHL ice time, hopefully they will start making positive impacts.
Nick Leddy and Marcus Kruger are the top two names that most people will have the biggest impact on the team this season, but how quickly will they become definite players on the team?
Putting them on the ice this young puts a lot of pressure on Leddy and Kruger, but the 'Hawks management is confident that these two players are the real deal.
What do you think?
2. Do the Blackhawks Have Enough Depth at Center?
This question comes up over and over again anytime anyone is discussing what the 'Hawks need, and it's a very good question that needs to be answered.
As of right now, the 'Hawks only have two proven centers: Jonathan Toews and Dave Bolland. You could (and Bowman has) make a case for Patrick Sharp being in that group with Bolland and Toews, but Sharp is a much better player at the winger positions.
Most of the 'Hawks' offseason was centered on defense, and the center position seemed to be completely overlooked.
Bowman seems to be content with the centers he has, but I can't see the harm of adding another one. Then again, if Bolland remained healthy, we might not have this question.
1. Will Corey Crawford Continue to Improve?
I think I speak for most 'Hawk fans when I say that I hope Corey Crawford continues to play extremely well and cements a spot in the roster. He had some big shoes to fill after Antti Niemi left, but Crawford shattered those expectations.
If Crawford can perform and put up spectacular numbers with the below average defense that was around him, I can't imagine what he can do with the veteran and more gritty defense he has around him now.
The goaltender position has been the least stable aspect of the 'Hawks game for the past few years, and though it may have worked out in some cases, I think fans are ready for some stability.