Blackhawks champions

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Thursday, November 19, 2015 Michael Shayler

As fans in Chicago are coming down from the excitement high the Cubs and their championship aspirations provided over the summer, the defending Stanley Cup champions and the NHL's current dynasty, the Chicago Blackhawks season is under way.

The Blackhawks begin their title defense after an offseason roster shake up which has become the norm seemingly every offseason for the Hawks.

Looking to become the first team since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings to repeat as Stanley Cup champions, as expected, the 2015-16 Blackhawks sees a few new faces join the organization as well as a few fan favourites and key pieces to the Hawks success playing elsewhere in 2015-16.  

The trades of Brandon Saad (Columbus) and Patrick Sharp (Dallas), along with Johnny Oduya (Dallas), Brad Richards (Detroit) and Antoine Vermette (Arizona) leaving via free agency were all tough news for Hawks fan's to overcome but fans have seen this before with the Hawks and look forward to the new additions.

Newcomers include Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano (acquired in Saad trade) and Artemi "the bread man" Panarin (nickname comes from his last name being pronounced like "panera"), a 23 year old free agent signing from the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) out of Russia.

With Panarin's speed, puck handling skills and instincts, his transition to the NHL has been smooth.

Panarin has been a bright spot on a surprisingly lacklustre Hawks offense.

"The bread man" is fitting right in along his fellow Blackhawks and making a smooth transition to NHL. image courtesy of sportspyder.com
 A team that includes Jonathon Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Andrew Shaw and Teuvo Teravainen along with newbies Panarin and Anisimov is finding it difficult to put the biscuit in the basket.
(The offense isn't exactly a disaster, the shots are there and the team is playing their game. The pucks are just not finding the back of the net.)  

The defense on the other hand looks a tad worrisome due to depth and now injury.

2015 Conn Smythe award winner Duncan Keith recently sustained a knee injury that will keep him out the next 4-6 weeks.

The injury to Keith is a major hit to a defense that was already top line heavy, with Keith, Brent Seabrook and Nikklas Hjalmarsson. Now the team takes a "next in line" approach hoping to fill the production on both sides of the ice that Keith provides.

This is what makes not resigning Oduya, in my opinion, a rare blunder during Stan Bowman's tenure as Hawks General Manager. 

Oduya's presence is missed and it shows on the ice.

With a lack of defense playing in front of them, the goaltender's may be asked to bear down more than usual. Whether it's Corey Crawford or Scott Darling, both will have there work cut out for them but are more than capable of handling the job. 
Goaltenders Corey Crawford (left) and Scott Darling (right) may have their hands full in net this season. image courtesy of chicagotribune.com

What's done is done and now the Hawks must play next man up.

The Hawks are 5-3 to start the season.

Coach Joel Quinnville is having a tough time finding the right lines to pair together and he may be looking at one of his more difficult seasons as Hawks coach.
Coach Q and staff may be looking at their most difficult task during the 2015-2016 season. image courtesy of blackhawkup.com
The early season struggles should bear no concern. The leadership on the team is too strong

An eight straight appearance in the playoffs is inevitable.

This team will need its time to get everyone on the same page. The leadership on the team is too strong and this team will get in sync soon enough.

As for a fourth victory in the Stanley Cup Finals in the past seven years?

Let's talk around the All-Star break. 


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