After winning their second Stanley Cup in recent history, the Hawks are considered to be favorites in the Western Conference.
1. The Chicago Blackhawks had an incredible year in 2013. Do you think the shortened season had anything to do with that or should we expect dominance once again in 2013-14?
The shortened season shouldn’t have had an effect, but to say that it didn’t would actually be wrong. The Hawks as a team were focused on being ready and in shape to start the season (all players and teams should have been doing this on their own) which really helped them get the start they wanted. While the success in the first few weeks might have been a factor in their success, after that it was all on the players themselves. They went into every game playing like its a playoff game, and that is something that won’t be sustainable in a full season. They won’t be as dominate thanks to a short summer, and the target that will be on their backs, but with a similar roster you can expect them to do very well for themselves.
2. The Blues and Blackhawks have shared an intense rivalry for many years. With the departure of the Detroit Red Wings to the Eastern Conference, do you think the rivalry will heat up or will it be dispersed throughout the division?
You won’t ever get a rivalry like the one the Hawks had with the Wings. The rivalry evolved with the game. It was a brutal rivalry in the past, but as the game evolved so did the battles the teams had. It became a lot less about annihilating opponents with hits and more of a skill laden affair. You might see a new one pop up with the Wild since NBC wants it, and I’m sure that the first round trouncing will give the Wild a spark. At the end of the day, the Blues will pretty much be the only team to provide highlight games for at least a few more years.
3. What team are you most concerned about in the new Central Division and why?
It will continue to be the Blues. They have the defense and the goaltending for the most part, now they are just waiting for their offense to fully develop. They have young guys like Tarasenko that can easily develop into a top tier goal scorer for them. Berglund and Stewart had a great year last season as well. Then you got Backes who can do damage to your team on and off the puck. The Blues have all the components to be a scary team to play against.
4. What team entering the new division are you least concerned about and why?
Easily the Colorado Avalanche. They did surprise the Blackhawks and ended the streak, but they have a long way to go before they can contend in this division. With Dallas making some huge off-season steps in the right direction, Minnesota making the playoffs last season, and Winnipeg on the verge of doing the same, it leaves Colorado as the odd team out.
5. With the Western Conference having just 14 teams to the Eastern Conference’s 16, do you think another mid-western team makes sense? Where would you want to put one and would it make for a good rivalry?
From a rivalry standpoint, Milwaukee or Madison, WI would make sense. However from a business point of view, the Midwest doesn’t have a lot of potential for expansion, with Kansas City, the only viable option, failing once before to hold an NHL franchise, in 74-76. The NHL needs to look at Seattle and Quebec City before anything, as those cities are possible gold mines for the league.
6. Ray Emery left the Blackhawks before he even had a chance to think about staying. Are you confident that Corey Crawford will be able to hold this team up throughout a full season?
Yes. He’s had years in the past of struggle,and finally had one of success. All the hard work he put in during the 2012 off-season payed off, and he was one of the best net minders in the game. In 2013-14, his confidence should be sky-high, and with a great defensive core in front of him, he should easily handle the workload.
7. What kind of an impact do you think the Olympics will have on the Hawks this season?
With 8 players invited to Canadian and U.S. camps alone, we could see almost ten players go to Russia. It will put a few more miles on their bodies, but it will be just the same as every other top team in the league. I don’t see it being a huge issue, and it could leave the players better than they were before.
I want to thank Keith once again for taking the time to answer a few questions for us about the Chicago Blackhawks in the upcoming 2013-14 season. For more information about the Blues, Blackhawks and every other team in the league, stay tuned to Bleedin’ Blue and follow us on Facebook.
LET’S GO BLUES!
Chicago makes its first visit to the Scottrade Center on October 5th. You can purchase Blues vs. Blackhawks tickets here if you’re looking to see the defending cup champions in action this season.