Hockey is back and everything seems right again. In my opinion, preseason is one of the best times of the year. Seeing the prospects (and potential future of an organization) vying for a spot alongside guys in new sweaters and returning faces has always given me a fresh outlook and optimism for the upcoming season.
Coming into this year, I have the same optimism I have every season for the Blackhawks, however, I'm not so sure that's the consensus of many fans.
The cloud surrounding Kane and rumors of a potential trade (whether true or bogus) have seemed to cause many fans to adopt the mindset of "We lose Kane, we don't win anymore." This, combined with many still hung up on the Saad trade and loss of female fanbase favorite, Patrick Sharp along with the with cool name, Johnny Oduya, have left many people believing that the Hawks have lessened in ability to win.
I like to look at the glass half full.
Let's say a trade was to happen and Kane is no longer in the Indian head sweater. The sun will still rise in the morning and the Hawks will go on as an organization. Sure, they’d lose a top talent, but I don't think that would cripple them as much as people think. There is still a tremendous core with Toews, Hossa, Keith, Seabrook and Hammer--a core that most teams would love to have. Let's not forget budding star Teuvo Teravainen.
In regards to Saad, I still think the Hawks won out in that trade. Is Saad a potential star? There's a good chance. Will he put Columbus on his back and carry them this season? Probably not, but that remains to be seen. The supporting cast he has around him is a lot different looking than what he had here in Chicago. I still think if he wanted to be a Hawk, he'd be here, but he took a nice payday and good for him if that's what he wanted. He seems like a good guy and I wish him the best. But that's in the past....looking at Anisimov and Dano, I can't help but be excited. Anisimov is a solid Center with a good NHL resume with consistent play. Dano is in the early stages of putting together his NHL resume and it has a lot of potential. He's coming off strong play with Columbus, and in my opinion, will only get better playing with the Hawks. Plus, he seems to be built solid!
Saying goodbye to Sharp felt strange. He put in some good work over the years as a Blackhawk, but it was time to move on. Oduya's silky smooth skating and unbelievable beard will be missed, but the acquisition of Daley gives you close to an Oduya back and a little more offense (in my opinion) than Oduya--he can jump into plays very nicely. Hopefully he's paired with a more stay-at-home guy. Garbutt was a nice sweetner in that deal, too. I know there's a lot of guys who don't care for him, as he has a reputation as being a bit of a dirty player, but I haven't seen anything in the preseason that has soured me to his play or personality. I like that the Hawks are getting some more Shaw-type guys who have a little edge to them. Like my father-in-law says, the Hawks have a lot of pretty faces; it's good to get some ugly guys in the mix. I will say that I was bummed to see Stephen Johns go as I was hoping to see what he could do at the NHL level for the Hawks, but hopefully we'll see a little bit of him on 10/3/15 and see what he's got.
What I've been most excited watching is guys like Desi, Kruger, Shaw, Baun, Ross and Hartman. I'm a sucker (and big fan) of the blue collar/hard working player who goes out and just does his job. It's nice to see the Hawks continue to bring guys like this into the fold. They add a nice compliment by contrasting the finesse of the other Hawks by playing a physical and tough brand of hockey. Not to mention the addition of very talented imports via Russia who seem to be defensively responsible.
A lot of this optimism for the upcoming season wraps into the crease for me. I really like the idea of hopefully seeing more of Darling this year. While I'm not a big fan of Crawford from a stylistic standpoint, he has clearly gotten results and I think the tandem of him and Darling is right at the top of the league. On a side note since we're talking goalies for a second, I'm really curious to see how the Lehtonen and Niemi experiment goes for Dallas.
To be honest, when looking around the league, I don't see a team that the Hawks can't compete with. I think the standard rouges gallery of Hawks villians: Kings, Ducks, Jets, etc. will give them the usual trouble, but I think they look solid. There will be growing pains of course. That's bound to happen for any team with guys new to the system and guys who are just coming up, but I have complete faith that the solid core Chicago has and the coaching staff. I don't see any reason the Hawks can't go all the way again. We'll see what the season brings...
Now it's time for hockey...onward and upward!