2017-18 Chicago Blackhawks Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
Things did not go according to plan last year for the Chicago Blackhawks. They won the Western Conference regular-season crown and went into the playoffs as the top seed. And then they fell without a fight, losing in four straight to the eventual Western Conference champs from Nashville. It was ugly. Really ugly. Some teams would have made excuses and stuck to what got them there. Chicago hasn't won three Stanley Cups since 2010 by making excuses. Instead, they went nuclear. Ten significant contributors were traded or allowed to leave in free agency. Another is out for the year with a long-term injury. So, the best team in the West last year is coming into this season with half of their roster different than last year. Change is something this team is very comfortable with, but this is extreme even by their measure.
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Chicago Blackhawks Offseason Moves
Where to begin? Let's go with trades. There were some big ones. They sent Niklas Hjalmarsson out of town to save money. He went to Arizona in exchange for young defenseman Connor Murphy and younger forward Laurent Dauphin. Then they sent Artemi Panarin and Tyler Motte to Columbus for Brandon Saad and goalie Anton Forsberg. Panarin was Rookie of the Year two years ago, and had 74 points last year, but the Blackhawks knew they wouldn't be able to afford him when he needed a new contract after next year. Saad isn't quite as productive, but he's younger, he's locked up long term, and the Blackhawks know him well because he played his first three years there. Jonathan Toews also hasn't been nearly as good the last two years since Saad has been gone as he was playing with Saad, so that was clearly a factor in the move, too. Finally, they traded Marcus Kruger to Vegas for future considerations in a deal made to ensure that the Golden Knights picked a selected player - Trevor Van Riemsdyk - in the expansion draft. Earlier, the team had traded pending free agent Scott Darling's negotiating rights to Carolina. Darling was a very effective backup goalie, but the team wasn't going to be able to afford him going forward. Forsberg or Jean-Francois Berube, who was added as a free agent from the Islanders, will replace him.
The team was left with just three defensemen from last year. They also felt like their defense was outmatched by Nashville in the playoffs. Murphy will get a lot of time to shine, and youngsters will be looked at to fill the gap. It is an approach that could work, but there will be nervous times because they don't have much cap space to find a solution if things aren't working on the back end.
Patrick Sharp was brought back for a last hurrah, but at 35-years-old there
is only so much he can give. He cost only $1 million, though, so he doesn't
owe them much. Another interesting addition to the offensive ranks is going
to be Alex DeBrincat. The 19-year-old had an incredible 332 points in 191
games in junior, so he has a crazy scoring touch. He's only 5-foot-7,
though, so it remains to be seen if he can find his role in the NHL.
On a sad note the team will be without Marian Hossa all year because of a serious skin condition that he is unable to play with.
Chicago Blackhawks NHL Outlook
I have no end of respect for the fearlessness with which this team approaches their rosters. They make moves that would terrify other squads - like trading away Panarin. I think they have made themselves more competitive this year. Toews should benefit from having Saad back, and the offense should pick up where it was last year. There are questions on defense, but the changes have been positive, and there are guys who could step up and fill the role. And the goaltending will continue to be strong - at least as long as Corey Crawford is playing. This is a different team, but it remains a very dangerous one.
Chicago Blackhawks Schedule
The first eight games of the year for Chicago are as brutal as they could possibly be - Pittsburgh, Columbus, at Toronto and Montreal, Minnesota, Nashville, at St. Louis and Edmonton. All six are legitimate contenders, and Pittsburgh and Edmonton are the two Stanley Cup favorites. We'll know a whole lot about this team after just two weeks.
Chicago Blackhawks NHL Futures Odds
Bovada has Chicago at +1200 to win the Stanley Cup. That is tied with Dallas as the third choice to win it all, behind only the Penguins and Oilers. BetOnline has them as the second choice to win the Western Conference, behind only the Oilers at +500. They are co-favored to win the Central Division with Nashville at +350, just ahead of Dallas and Minnesota at +375. The season win total is at 44.5, well down from their 50 wins last year.
2017-18 Chicago Blackhawks Predictions
The West is brutally tough this year, and so is the Central. I don't like Chicago to win either - I prefer Edmonton and Dallas. I think this is a very competitive team, though, and I still expect big things from them. This team isn't going out in the first round again. I would lean towards the "over" on the season win total.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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