Everyone is aware of the disaster that was the 2017-18 season and we’re all ready to put it behind us. I know it’s easy to have a negative disposition when it comes to the future of the Blackhawks right now, but it’s not all doom and gloom.
The ongoing narrative this season will be whether or not the aging core players that we’ve grown to love will get things back on track, or continue steering the ship on its current course and let it sink even further. Maybe the young guys will step up to the plate and make the Blackhawks relevant again after 2 consecutive failed seasons. It will be interesting to see that’s for sure, especially since StanBo and Coach Q could very well be on the Hot Seat this season.
We will take a look at all of the positives that Blackhawks’ fans have to look forward to this season and beyond.
2018-19 Blackhawks Home Opener
The Blackhawks open the season on the road this year, against the Ottawa Senators on October 4th. The 1st home game for the Blackhawks is scheduled October 7th against the Toronto Maple Leafs and their newly signed hometown hero, John Tavares. Even though the Blackhawks had an off-year, the team still managed to be scheduled for 19 nationally televised games this season against big-name opponents.
Which of these #Blackhawks games are you looking forward to most?
— Blackhawks Talk (@NBCSBlackhawks) August 13, 2018
This could be a good thing and a bad thing. If the team continues where they left off last season, not only do we as fans get to see it, but the whole country does as well. Nonetheless, the season opener signifies a fresh start for the Blackhawks which they desperately need and so do we. Let’s stay positive here.
Blackhawks vs. Bruins – 2019 Winter Classic
This will be the 6th time that the Blackhawks have been selected to play in an outdoor game – 3 Winter Classic games, 2 Stadium Series games. Although the Blackhawks have only won 1 of the 5 previous games, outdoor games are always fun and entertaining to see. Not only do the players have to deal with the physical nature of the game, but they also have to deal with the other nature, Mother Nature.
This year, the 2019 Winter Classic takes place at the historic Notre Dame Stadium and it’s a rematch of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final which was an instant classic.
The 2019 NHL Winter Classic will feature the Chicago Blackhawks & Boston Bruins outdoors on January 1st, 2019 at Notre Dame Stadium. pic.twitter.com/8K8kIYMK3D
— Only In Boston (@OnlyInBOS) June 22, 2018
Theme: Will familiar faces take the lead in this matchup, or will the young guns handle the passing of the torch?
Blackhawks’ Budding Stars
If the Blackhawks are to have any shot at a bounce-back season this year, their young stars will need to step up and capitalize on their playing time and opportunities. There are plenty of players in the Blackhawks’ system who are on the verge of becoming a star. My top players on the NHL roster to watch out for this season are Nick Schmaltz and Alex DeBrincat.
Nick Schmaltz could very well have a breakout season this year. Schmaltz has been playing for 2 seasons and has improved his numbers and production every year. This will be a big year for him since it is a contract year. It’s now or never for him, as he will likely be called upon to take a bigger role with the loss of the irreplaceable Marian Hossa.
Alex DeBrincat had a solid 1st year for the Blackhawks last season.
DeBrincat led the team in goals (28), was 2nd in points (52) behind Patrick Kane (76), and also had the 2nd highest +/- rating (6) behind Michal Kempny (13).
Alex DeBrincat has shown flashes of his potential during the 2017-18 regular season, as well as during this offseason. DeBrincat and Kane displayed some fantastic chemistry in the local Chicago Pro Hockey League.
— ✶ ✶Tony Gianares✶ ✶ (@Certified_TonyG) August 16, 2018
Blackhawks’ Line Pairings
Could we be looking at two-thirds of the Blackhawks’ 2018-19 2nd line here in the video above? I think so and the perfect guy to pencil in at center would be Artem Anisimov. Maybe that line pairing could have similar results that the once deadly Panarin-Anisimov-Kane line had.
I could also see DeBrincat on the 1st line. He could bring some much-needed offensive firepower to the top line with Saad and Toews. Another line suggestion that I like is Saad-Schmaltz-Kane. This line pairing would have enough scoring power along with a good balance of speed and strength.
Per @ByScottPowers, Coach Q is looking at a Saad-Schmaltz-Kane line. “This year was no different, as Quenneville threw out the possibility of making Brandon Saad, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick a line.” #Blackhawks
I like it… this much ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/yUUe32MlY8
— ✶ ✶Tony Gianares✶ ✶ (@Certified_TonyG) August 1, 2018
Coach Q will be using the random line generator a lot this season until he finds some lines that stick. This will definitely keep things interesting.
Adam Boqvist and the 2018 NHL Draft Picks
The Blackhawks had a really solid showing in the 2018 NHL Draft. They had two 1st round picks and loaded up on defense by selecting Adam Boqvist and Nicolas Beaudin. They also selected highly touted center prospect Jake Wise in the 3rd round. To round out the 2018 NHL Draft, the Blackhawks also selected Niklas Nordgren (RW), Philipp Kurashev (C), Mikael Hakkarainen (C), Alexis Gravel (G), and Josiah Slavin (F).
Adam Boqvist has looked good during the offseason training camp so far and he will be playing for the London Knights of the OHL this upcoming season.
We have signed a member of our 2017 CHL Import Draft Class. Check out the #KWELogistics of the agreement!
— London Knights (@GoLondonKnights) July 5, 2018
The Blackhawks were also recently named as having the 14th best farm system in the NHL.
Farm system # 14: Chicago https://t.co/iovvdT08JW
— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) August 16, 2018
2018-19 Trade Deadline Drama
According to Cap Friendly, the Blackhawks are currently sitting at $5,491,955 in cap space. Then, there’s also the Curious Case of Corey Crawford that has made headlines since he last played in December. The Blackhawks could place Crawford on LTIR if he is unable to play this season and free up additional money on top of the $5.491 mil that they currently have. This gives them the flexibility to make additional moves during the season to complement the 2018 NHL Free Agency signings.
The Blackhawks are lacking in center depth and desperately need a Top 9 center who can come in and contribute immediately, so depending on how the 2018-19 season goes, it wouldn’t be out of the question to see a trade for a true center.
2019 NHL Free Agency
Yes, we’re already looking ahead to next year’s Free Agency and there’s a reason why. You may have heard of this guy before. He’s had success here before and he is a fan favorite, Artemi Panarin. Various sources around the NHL have linked Panarin to the Blackhawks on multiple occasions this offseason. Panarin is in a contract year and the Blue Jackets are in a pickle right now in regards to money. They have 3 key players that need to be re-signed next offseason.
Artemi Panarin (UFA), Sergei Bobrovsky (UFA) and Zach Werenski (RFA) are all up for new contracts next summer. Good luck with that, Jarmo.
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) June 19, 2018
This kicks the door wide open for the Blackhawks to bring the Bread Man back home if they choose to do so. They will have the money to do it. More specifically, the Blackhawks will have $20,708,205 mil in cap space next offseason which is more than enough to add a difference maker.
StanBo will need to save at least a little bit of that $20+ mil to re-sign Schmaltz and DeBrincat, as well as other rookies who will be finishing up their Entry Level Contracts.
This season will be interesting for the reasons I listed above as well as a few others. All I know for sure is that I will be watching and keeping an open mind along the way. This offseason has been extremely long for Blackhawks’ fans. It sure wasn’t fun watching other teams in the playoffs. Well, here’s to keeping the faith and hoping for the best this season.
Is it October yet?
For more Blackhawks news and updates, follow the author @Certified_TonyG on Twitter.