April 23, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Phoenix Coyotes right wing Shane Doan (19) shakes hands with Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) after winning game six of the 2012 Western Conference quarterfinals at the United Center. The Coyotes beat the Blackhawks 4-0 to advance in the playoffs. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE

Chicago Blackhawks – 2012 Central Division Preview


Only two years ago, the Chicago Blackhawks hoisted the Stanley Cup after a miracle goal by Patrick Kane.  In 2011, they almost pulled off the impossible and came back from a 3-0 deficit to the Vancouver Canucks.  Expectations were rather high last season but the Hawks fell short of these lofty goals.  The Blackhawks finished 6th in the Western Conference, at 45-26-11 with 101 points.  They were tied for 5th in Goals Scored while they were 22st in the league for Goals Against.  Their special teams were among the worst in the league; the Power Play and Penalty kill were 26th and 27th respectively, a major step back from what was once a cog for Chicago.

2011-2012 Blackhawks Recap:

The Hawks got ousted by the Phoenix Coyotes in six games in the First Round of the NHL Playoffs.  Their playoffs were quickly altered after Raffi Torres’ illegal hit on Marian Hossa, a hit that has left Hossa in question for the beginning of the 2012 season.  The Hawks were not able to find their groove in the regular season, only being able to muster a pair of 5 game winning streaks that were followed by periods of 500 hockey.  The low-point of the season was undoubtedly the 9 point losing streak, spanning from January to February.

Key Players:

The Core- Sharp, Toews, Kane, Hossa, Keith, Seabrook

As the Core goes, so does the Hawks.  These six players, when all healthy, could be considered the greatest core group of players in all of hockey.  When the Hawks made their playoff run towards the Stanley Cup, these players accounted for 122 of the 213 points scored during the 2009-2010 postseason.  Jonathan Toews was a contender to win the Hart this season until he suffered a concussion February 19th against the Blues.  Toews is the key to the Blackhawks moving forward, being one of the most dominant

Offseason Acquistions/Losses

There has been a buzz around Chicago Blackhawk fans, waiting for GM Stan Bowman to pull off a big trade or go after a highly touted free agent.  It was rumored that the Hawks went after Marty Brodeur, Zach Parise, and Ryan Suter.  However, all signed with different teams at prices that the Hawks honestly could not afford.  The Hawks were supposedly on the verge of a trade for Penguins Jordan Staal, but the Hurricanes pounced on the center, enabling him to team up with his older brother Eric in Carolina.

The Hawks main addition this year was defenseman Sheldon Brookbank.  Brookbank is a reliable second to third line defenseman, who will be able to bring the Hawks presence on the PK, something sorely lacking last season.  They re-signed Johnny Oduya, a defenseman that gave the Hawks a spark at the end of the season when they needed to make that final playoff push.

The Blackhawks did not lose anybody of honorable mention in Free Agency.

2012-2013 Projections:

Strengths: Core

As aforementioned, the major strength of the Blackhawks is its core.  Two years ago, the Hawks were proclaimed as a potential dynasty before their firesale got rid of very important role players, such as Dustin Byfuglien and Kris Versteeg.  However, the defensive pairing of Seabrook and Keith can eat up a lot ice time while still being productive. The Hawks ability to split up their skilled forwards onto two separate lines gives them two potent scoring options.

Weaknesses: Goaltender/Health

The Hawks were rumored to be in the Marty Brodeur sweepstakes, a move that would have been a short term fix for a long-term problem.  The Hawks have not had a consistent goalie in between the pipes up until the 2010-2011 season.  Corey Crawford went through somewhat of a sophomore slump this past year (30-17-7 2.72 GAA), after standing on his head and almost beating the Canucks for a historic comeback.

A major concern for the Hawks is with their two stars coming off of concussions.  Both Jonathan Toews and Marion Hossa suffered concussions and have gone through extremely long recovery processes.  Although Toews came back in the Coyotes series and played at a decent level, it was apparent that he did not have the speed that ‘Hawks fans were accustomed to.  Hossa’s health for this season is still up in the air, no one really knowing how the Hawks winger truly feels.

Projected Standing:

Given the current roster of the Blackhawks, I see minor improvement from last year.  The PK and PP have to be better last year and it is safe to presume they probably will be.  Their need for a 2nd line center will be interesting to see if they trade for one or look for a young player, possibly Marcus Kruger, to step up with Kane and Sharp.  Overall though, the Blackhawks should see a little improvement given another year under Crawford’s belt between the pipes.

48-25-9, 2nd in Central Division, 4th in Western Conference

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Tags: Brent Seabrook Chicago Blackhawks Corey Crawford Duncan Keith Dustin Byfuglien Johnny Oduya Jonathan Toews Jordan Staal Kris Versteeg Marcus Kruger Marian Hossa Marty Broedur Patrick Kane Patrick Sharp Phoenix Coyotes Raffi Torres Ryan Suter Sheldon Brookbrank Stan Bowman Vancouver Canucks Zach Parise