The Chicago Blackhawks have been the NHL's most successful franchise the past several years with Stanley Cup victories in 2010, 2013 and 2015. In last year's quest for a championship repeat, Chicago finished the regular season third in the Western Conference (47-26-9, 103 Pts) before being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the higher-seeded St. Louis Blues in a seven-game slugfest.
The Blackhawks will try for another run at the Cup with little roster turnover from a season ago. In fact, the entirety of the projected top three lines both up front and on the blue line are all returning. This standout group includes at forward the brilliant Patrick Kane, who with 46 goals and 60 assists earned the Art Ross Trophy as the league's top scorer; 50-point man Jonathan Toews (28 G, 30 A); and Artemi Panarin, who as a rookie last season put the NHL on notice with 30 goals and 47 assists to earn the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.
That's some serious firepower up front, but this team is more than just an offensive juggernaut. The defense also ranked in the Top 10 in goals allowed (2.52 per game). This unit will once again be led by the top-line pairing of two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith and fellow veteran Brent Seabrook (14 G, 49 Pts). That duo has been one of the top shutdown pairings in the NHL for several seasons. Add All Star and two-time Stanley Cup-winning goalie Corey Crawford between the pipes and this team has no discernible weakness.
Chicago Blackhawks 2016-17 Outlook
There will again be plenty of star-power on display in Chicago. Kane is arguably the best pure scorer in the NHL, while Toews-though already a nine-year veteran-is just entering his 28-year-old season and could produce even better numbers.
The only notable offseason addition for the 'Hawks was defenseman Brian Campbell, a member of Chicago's 2010 Stanley Cup champions. Though 37-years-old, Campbell last season led the Florida Panthers in ice time at 22:16 per game. He won't have nearly the workload in Chicago, but adding depth was a need for the Blackhawks this offseason. In fact, if there's one concern with Chicago it could be its lack of depth. The bevy of stars on the Blackhawks roster has led to some serious salary cap issues, which forced GM Stan Bowman to shed LW Teuvo Teravainen (13 G, 35 pts) and center Andrew Shaw (14 G, 34 pts) this offseason. Those losses should hurt. Plans are for the departed duo to be replaced from among a group Blackhawks' prospects, including former NCAA scoring stars Tyler Motte and Nick Schmaltz, as well as AHL Rockford leading scorer Vinnie Hinostroza.
Chicago Blackhawks 2016-17 Schedule
The Blackhawks open the season at home against the Blues in a rematch of last year's playoffs. But besides that, the opening month should be relatively friendly. Among the 'Hawks October opponents are the Flyers, Blue Jackets, Maple Leafs, Flames and and Devils, none of whom reached the playoffs in last season.
Chicago Blackhawks 2016-17 Future Odds
The Blackhawks are the favorite at +750 to win the Stanley Cup. Chicago is the +290 favorite to win the Central Division and is a heavy +375 favorite to win the Western Conference.
2016-17 Chicago Blackhawks Predictions
Perhaps last season's abbreviated playoff run was a blessing for the Blackhawks. This group has endured some long and taxing postseasons the past several seasons, so perhaps an extended summer break is just what was needed for the 'Hawks. This team certainly has the chops to earn its fourth Stanley Cup since 2010. However, the Western Conference seems as deep as it's ever been, and that could potentially pose problems. At barely 7.5-to-1 to win the Cup, betting value would seem to lie elsewhere.
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