Chicago Blackhawks 2013-14 Season Preview

Blackhawks Patrick Kane
Blackhawks Patrick Kane
Jun 22 2013 Chicago IL USA Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane 88 skates with the puck along side center Jonathan Toews 19 during the first period in game five of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruinsat the United Center Rob Grabowski USA TODAY Sports

Short of an undefeated season, things could not have gone much better for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013. The dominant Hawks will have the distinct honor of hoisting another Stanley Cup banner to the rafters this October, but even before they finish celebrating their fifth championship, they will shift their focus to the chase for number six.

The Blackhawks cruised to the Presidents’ trophy in the shortened 2013 season by sporting the league’s best defense and its second best offense. After the Hawks claimed points in their first 24 games of the season, it should have surprised no one that they finished the season with a parade.

With most of their core returning, the Hawks may have the best shot at a title repeat since the Detroit Red Wings pulled off the feat in 1998.

The Blackhawks’ last repeat attempt fell well short of the mark, due in large part to a salary cap necessitated fire sale of talent. In the summer of 2010, the Hawks parted ways with key players Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Andrew Ladd and Antti Niemi.

The current Blackhawks haven’t lost nearly as much, but they won’t be without changes.

When Chicago opens the season, it will do so without Cup-clinching goal-scorer Dave Bolland. Less than a week after Bolland’s historic strike at Boston’s TD Garden, he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs during the draft. Michael Frolik was shipped out to Winnipeg the same day.

Chicago also lost Viktor Stalberg and Ray Emery to free agency. Emery’s contribution will likely be the most difficult to replace.

Though Corey Crawford established himself as a franchise goalie with a superb year, Ray Emery mustered arguably the greatest season by a backup goalie in NHL history. He was a machine, posting a 17-1 record. Despite his limited playing time, he won as many or more games than half of the starting goalies in the league.

While he battles for the starting job in Philadelphia, he will be replaced by former Blackhawk Nikolai Khabibulin. The 40-year old Russian was once a superstar, but at his age, he will be significantly less reliable in relief.

However, Khabibulin shouldn’t face too much pressure if Crawford continues his upward trajectory. Along with his Stanley Cup Final counterpart, Tuukka Rask, Crawford was one of 2013’s breakout stars. He has inspired plenty of confidence moving forward.

To replace their other departing players, the Blackhawks will look to their youth. Two year SM-liiga veteran Teuvo Tervainen is bound to make his NHL debut, barring a poor camp. The 18-year old Finn is an explosive scorer, and he stands to make the Blackhawks even more dominant.

In addition to a productive season with Finland’s Jokerit, Teravainen dazzled with 11 points in just 6 games at the World Junior Championships. His name should already be penciled in on preseason short lists for rookie of the year.

Returning their top five point producers, the Hawks don’t need more offense, but they just might get it from maturing youngsters Brandon Saad and Nick Leddy.

Saad showed flashes of brilliance in 2013. With 15 points in 14 March games, he announced his intention to become a star. His production should become more consistent  in his second full season.

Leddy’s numbers will be dependent on his playing time, which should increase significantly. The former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher can be a 40 point man on the blue line, but only if he proves to coach Joel Quenneville that he is no longer a defensive liability. The 22-year-old’s added responsibility this winter should give the Blackhawks a few more points to work with.

As always, the spotlight will be on the dynamic duo of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Each now has a Conn Smythe Trophy to his name, and both are under the age of 26. Between Toews’ Selke-winning two-way play and Kane’s razzle-dazzle, the Blackhawks have something truly special.

In particular, Kane’s magnificent 55 point 2013 season exhibited a new-found maturity that now makes a Blackhawk dynasty look well within reach.

In addition to Chicago’s two young superstars, the likes of Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith make the club a historically fearsome foe.

A little roster tweaking has done nothing to suggest that Chicago will be anything but a juggernaut this season, and the Detroit Red Wings’ move to the Eastern Conference should make their annual trek to the postseason even easier.

Unless a summer of hard partying leaves them with one heck of a hangover, the Blackhawks should be the early favorites to nab both the Presidents’ Trophy and the Stanley Cup.

Repeating as Stanley Cup Champions is nearly impossible in today’s game, but if anyone can do it, this team can. Minnesota and St. Louis could keep the Central Division race interesting, but the sky is the limit for the defending champs.

author avatar
Chris Blanchard
Chris Blanchard is a Boston, MA native and a student at Davidson College. He began writing about hockey as a Boston Bruins featured columnist for Bleacher Report in the fall of 2012. He has been covering the NHL for XN Sports since May of 2013. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+'://';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');