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Chicago Blackhawks Season Preview

By John O'Callaghan
On September 28, 2010

The Stanley Cup has made its way around various parts of North America as well as Europe, and the Chicago Blackhawks have big shoes to fill this upcoming season after an incredible championship victory over the Philadelphia Flyers. The question on all of ‘Hawks fans' minds is will they be able to do it again?

The ‘Hawks had to ship out many players this offseason due to the salary cap restrictions enforced on Stanley Cup Champion franchises. Some of these players include Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Antti Niemi and many more. Though many fans were upset about losing these players, it's safe to say that Stan Bowman, the ‘Hawks General Manager and Vice President, did a great job in keeping the team below the salary cap as well as retaining other bigger stars.

Offensively this year the ‘Hawks are looking just as good as they were last year. The team still has many of their core players such as Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who as a trio piled up 207 points during the 2009-10 regular season and 72 points in the playoffs. Along with players like Patrick Sharp, Thomas Kopecky and more, the ‘Hawks will be looking strong offensively.

The real question on everyone's mind is who will replace Dustin Byfuglien, the 6 foot 4, 257 pound giant. This may be quite a big uniform to fill, but it is safe to say the ‘Hawks might just have this covered. The most likely candidates to take his position are Troy Brouwer at 6 foot 2, 214 pounds or 6 foot 3, 224 pound Bryan Bickell. Both had a combined 35 points last season with the Blackhawks and their American Hockey League affiliate, the Rockford Icehogs. This season, the ‘Hawks will still be the same fast, break-out style offensive team that they were last year, but even though they lost some big names, the core is still there and fans can expect a lot from them.

The ‘Hawks defense didn't take too much of a hit in terms of losing players. They still have their big names and big players. Defensive leader Duncan Keith is one of the best defensemen in the league with 69 points last season, a plus minus of 21 and the winner of the Norris trophy (best defenseman in the league). Also backing him up is his defensive pair partner Brent Seabrook, who had a plus minus last season of 20 and is the perfect man to be shoulder to shoulder alongside Keith. Of course, the second defensive pair, Niklas Hjalmarrson (plus minus of 9) and Brian Campbell (plus minus of 18) are proven defensemen which ‘Hawks fans can put a lot of trust in to keep their net protected.

Receiving lots of big talk in the defensive line from the team is John Scott. Signed in the off-season as a free agent, Scott is going to be the ‘Hawks new tough guy at a staggering 6 foot 8 and 258 pounds. The ‘Hawks now have a new enforcer to help protect their stars. The role they really hope to put him at is to be Chicago's new Byfuglien. The team may be planning to throw him in front of the net to screen goalies and make his presence known. If he is able to do the job as well as Big Buff did then, he will be making a big name for himself very quickly in the lineup, and the defense may even be able to step it up a notch from last year.

The biggest talk from the off-season was the loss of newborn star Antti Niemi. The rookie goalie really proved himself as a star in the playoffs and will truly be missed by all ‘Hawks fans, but don't count our new goalie out. Marty Turco was signed by the ‘Hawks as a free agent in August. Many still obsessing over the loss of Niemi haven't noticed what the team has picked up. Though Turco is 35 years old and starting to get old for a goalie, he is still proven as one of the best in the NHL. He is a two time winner of the Roger Crozier award, which is awarded annually to the goalie with the best save percentage in the season. He also has the record for most shutouts in a playoff series. However, Turco is showing that his age is catching up with him as he doesn't use the butterfly style of goaltending which has rapidly invaded the NHL. Will this be a ball dropper? No, of course not. Turco is a proven MVP and is still one of the best at his position. With the ‘Hawks defense in front of him, Turco should be a great replacement for Niemi and with his experience, might prove to be even better.

This coming season, the ‘Hawks have a great running for the Stanley Cup, but will they be able to do it again? It's not a sure thing since we have yet to see the new players in the regular season. Will they make the playoffs again? Absolutely. They are the strongest team in their division with a skilled and young, speedy offense with a rock solid defense in front of one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. With all that said, the Blackhawks will be a big player in the upcoming season, and all of Chicagoland will be singing "Chelsea's Dagger" into the postseason.

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