The Chicago Blackhawks are just 16 months removed from winning the Stanley Cup.
Over those months, fans have seen a lot of favorites and familiar faces depart, while some younger and cheaper guys came in to replace them.
Last offseason, we saw a lot of that, while this offseason, we saw some guys leave but some proven guys were added to step into their place. Most importantly, the salary cap hell is over. General manager Stan Bowman has locked up the core and some other pieces as well.
During the summer, both Michael Frolik and Corey Crawford received new three year deals, while Patrick Sharp got a five-year extension that may allow him to retire as a Blackhawk.
Coach Quenneville has 15 of the guys who were on the ice for Game 7 against Vancouver last season, while nine of them remember what it was like to hoist that cup, and trust me, they are ready to do it again.
Heading into training camp, everyone knew Corey Crawford was the unquestioned No. 1, but we did have a battle for the backup job.
Gone is Marty Turco, and Christobel Huet remains over in Europe.
Veteran Ray Emery beat out 24-year-old Alexander Salak. Emery struggled a bit during the preseason, but the Hawks decided to go with the veteran over the young guy. Salak was sent down to the AHL Rockford Icehogs and will get the call up if anything were to happen to Crawford or Emery.
The best part, unlike years past, is everyone expects the guy who starts as the main goalie to finish that way as well.
The Hawks have returned a lot of familiar faces and are throwing in some new ones as well.
First, Troy Brouwer, Fenando Pisani and Tomas Kopecky are gone. Replacing them will be Dan Carcillo, Andrew Brunette, Jamal Mayer and Rostislav Olesz.
Of course, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, Michael Frolik, Bryan Bickell, Viktor Stalberg and playoff stud Ben Smith are all back to go along with the new guys.
The most interesting guy who did make the team is 18-year-old Brandon Saad, who was just drafted by the Hawks in June in the second round of the draft. Saad has signed a three-year entery level deal with the Hawks. If the Hawks were to send him down, he would actually have to go to juniors instead of the AHL.
The Hawks have so much faith in the youngster that he will be skating on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp on opening night against the Dallas Stars.
Coach Quenneville decided to keep eight defensemen, some old and some new.
First, the guys we know: Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Nick Leddy, John Scott and Niklas Hjalmarsson. The new guys are Steve Montador, Sean O'Donnell and Sami Lepisto.
Gone are Brian Campbell, Jordan Hendry and Chris Campoli.
Even though it looks like they will start the season broken up, everyone knows Keith and Seabrook will see plenty of time on the ice together. Leddy has been paired with Keith most of the preseason, while Hjalmarsson has been with Seabrook.
With the three new guys and Scott, how that shakes out will most likely be a game by game basis and also depending how Nick Leddy handles being a top four defensemen.
Scott could see some games as a forward like he did last season, while I would expect Montador to be in the lineup most nights.
Has there been a more talked about position than center on this team for the last few years?
Gone are Ryan Johnson and Jake Dowell.
What we know for sure is that captain Jonathan Toews is centering the top line and Dave Bolland is on either the second or the third, but after that, I am not even sure coach Joel Quenneville knows.
Right now, it looks like Patrick Kane is going to get the first shot centering the second line, while veteran Jamal Mayers is going to man the fourth line. If Kane isn't up for the task, I would expect Patrick Sharp to reclaim that second line center job unless general manager Stan Bowman makes a move.
Another guy who could be in the mix at times during the season is Michael Frolik, as well as Brandon Pirri and Marcus Kruger, who were sent down to Rockford. Mayers may be just a stop gap until management decides to call up either Pirri or Kruger since he is probably better suited on the wing.
So opening night, expect to see Toews on the first, Kane on the second, Bolland if healthy on the third and then Mayers on the fourth, or maybe even Toews at times taking a double shift
This is the one group that I would say is very unsettled, and we could be seeing a lot of different faces in that faceoff circle this season.