Blackhawks preview

Written by by Helen B. and Rachel B., friends of Metroblogging Chicago.

Team Name: Blackhawks
City: Chicago
Established: 1926
Stanley Cup: 3 – 1934, 1938, 1961
GM: Dale Tallon
Coach: Trent Yawney
Key Players: Nikolai Khabibulin, Martin Havlat, Adrian Aucoin

Long suffering Blackhawks fans might finally have a team on the ice this season that can relieve some of their hockey heartache. After a 7-1 preseason, we’re not saying Stanley Cup, but given the depth of young talent in the system, it doesn’t take much imagination to see that this is a team on the verge of becoming a Western Conference powerhouse in another season or two.

For the time being, the Blackhawks are clearly a bubble team to make the postseason and the first 22 games of the season will tell whether or not the Blackhawks have a legitimate chance at a postseason run. One of the key players to watch this year is Nikolai Khabibulin, who has changed his number in an effort to rid himself of last year’s demons, and who started the preseason healthy and with some solid play. Having legitimate goal scorers like Tuomo Ruutu and Martin Havlat should take some pressure off of Khabibulin to post shut outs every night. This year will be a watershed year for Martin Havlat, who will have the chance to establish himself as a legitimate NHL star and the go-to guy for the team. Whether Havlat can produce his record of a point per game without the talented Senators behind him remains to be seen. Rookie right winger Tony Salmelainen, who led the Finnish Elite League in scoring last season, will also be looked to as an offensive catalyst. The Blackhawks management and coaches believe that the Hawks have some strong young talent on the blueline as well. Rookies Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith dominated games last season with their solid play, performed with poise well beyond their years, and were the only bright spots in an otherwise dismal year. Seabrook, a strong, capable player, stepped in and was the team’s best defenseman. He has the makings of a future captain. Keith could be the next Scott Neidermayer – he’s extremely fast and exceptionally fit, plays smart, and is cool and collected on the ice. Seeing these two young men in their sophomore season is a good enough reason to watch the Hawks this year. Finally, if Adrian Aucoin can make a successful comeback from season-ending shoulder surgery, look for him to be the leader and 30-minute player that the team needs him to be.

Having learned some valuable lessons from last year’s embarrassing season, Blackhawks management made some big moves in the off-season to fill the serious gaps at center and strengthen the back-up goaltending situation. If the Hawks can stay out of the penalty box and build on the preseason success of the power play, all signs point to the beginning of a return to the playoffs for the Blackhawks.

7 Comments so far

  1. Bill V (unregistered) on October 3rd, 2006 @ 8:44 pm

    Nice try, really I’ll hold out for new owners and watch the real NHL teams ’til then. Or check out the Wolves. There is nothing with this franchise that could possibly interest me or thousands of other hockey fans.

  2. HelOnWheels (unregistered) on October 4th, 2006 @ 10:48 am

    “There is nothing with this franchise that could possibly interest me or thousands of other hockey fans.”

    Please speak only for yourself and NOT for us, the thousands of other hockey fans. Thanks!

  3. Bill V (unregistered) on October 4th, 2006 @ 12:32 pm

    There might be a few thousand that are interested (I have no idea why!), but there are many more that stopped going years ago. The last game I went to was about one third full. The Wolves were outdrawing the Hawks on some nights! So feel free to spend your time with probably the worst franchise in sports!

  4. ZebraHunter (unregistered) on October 4th, 2006 @ 3:49 pm

    Don’t you want to clearify that the Blackhawks play in the National Hockey League and provide a link, since the NHL gets no coverage in Chicago?

  5. Artemis (unregistered) on October 4th, 2006 @ 4:02 pm

    Zebra – The very first link is to the Blackhawks website, which is part of the network. The Stanley Cup link is also an NHL link.

    Bill – while I think many of us agree that the Blackhawks have shite management and ownership, that doesn’t mean that I, and others, don’t still like to go out and see some guys play hockey. I’m down with going to see both the Hawks and the Wolves (and I’m not technically a fan of either – I’m a Detroit fan, commence throwing stuff at me now), because I love to see live hockey.

  6. Bill V (unregistered) on October 4th, 2006 @ 9:21 pm

    I had a great time in Nashville a couple of years ago. I gave up my Hawks season tickets about 6 years back after being treated like shit. I went to the Predators game late, met a manager there who found out I was from Chicago and just checking out the facility and the game. He took my $15 ticket and replaced it with a main floor center ice ticket and said “have a great time, and don’t forget to come back!”. That my friends would and could never happen in Chicago.

    What about when they moved to the UC and put the season ticket holders in the corners and put the seats in the center on sale to the public. And then when those didn’t all sell, they still gave us an incredibly hard time getting back near center ice. So being a season ticket holder for 10 or 20 years means nothing to those folks. They’ll crap on you time and again if they can find a way capitalize. And what they’ve been playing really can’t be considered “NHL Hockey”, can it?

  7. HelOnWheels & Montbriac (unregistered) on October 5th, 2006 @ 2:29 pm

    Long time followers of the Blackhawks are not unjustified in their feelings of frustration.

    That fact acknowledged, all it will take to turn things around is for the team to start winning.

    The last season the Hawks made the playoffs it was difficult to get seats by the second half of the season, and there were many sold out games with teams other than Detroit. Season Ticket sales continue to be strong even with a loosing team, which again proves that all it will take for people to be interested again is for the team to start wining.

    It also wouldn’t hurt if some of the players actually courted fans and engaged the media. This is where Mark Bell will really be missed, and where an opportunity to win back some good will was passed up by the Organization when they didn’t bring back Roenick this season. According to published reports, Roenick reported to camp in Phoenix 20 pounds lighter than he was last season, with only 8.0 percent body fat and a determination to finish his career on a high note… and if we know anything about JR it’s that when he wants to win, he does. Not bringing back Roenick to have a chance to play his last season(s) with the team where he started and where the fans still love him may bite the Hawks in the butt this year if he returns to pre-lockout form, which he will most likely do.

    To anyone who says they don’t care if the Hawks win the Cup, they’re still not going to a game, we have to ask if they’re more a hater of the team than they are a fan of the sport. We love the sport, probably more than the team itself, or we wouldn’t have been going to games for the past few years.

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