2014 Chicago Blackhawks Predictions and NHL Futures Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 9/29/2014
A year after winning both the President's Trophy and the Stanley Cup, the Blackhawks finished just third in their division. That would be more of a concern than it was if they didn't play in a deep division - there was no shame in falling behind Colorado and St. Louis, and they lasted longer in the postseason than either team. Despite the third-place finish, I was far from the only one who expected a repeat Stanley Cup win. They came extremely close - they lost in overtime of Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals to eventual champs L.A., and they would almost certainly have beaten the Rangers as convincingly as the Kings did in the final. Now we need to see if this team can shake off that frustration; take advantage of their depth, experience and immense talent; and earn yet another Stanley Cup.
This is a team that has been built the slow and patient way, and the biggest accomplishment of their offseason was ensuring that the two players at their core will likely be with the team throughout their careers. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who would have both been free agents after this season, signed identical eight-year, $84 million contracts this summer. That makes them the two highest paid players in the league right now, but given the rate at which the salary cap is rising you certainly couldn't make an argument that they aren't worth the money. Getting them on board rids the team of a potentially huge distraction and should have a very positive effect on the team. Given all that they have already been through in their careers - two Stanley Cups, Olympics and so on - it is hard to believe that the pressure of the huge deals will have any impact on them at all.
Chicago Blackhawks Offseason Moves
You can tell that management is confident about their team when they basically do nothing in the offseason. They made only one move of any note. Michal Handzus, a second or third line center, is gone, and Brad Richards arrives in his place. Richards won one Cup with Tampa Bay and lost with the Rangers last year, so he brings experience to the squad. He doesn't have to deal with being a primary contributor with this team, though, and he comes at a bargain price. It is a strong addition.
The only other place that could see some change - or at least some uncertainty - is with the final defensive pairing. The top four defensemen are as good as any in the league, and the top pairing is definitely the top pairing, but there are as many as six different players in the organization who could make a viable argument for the third pairing. It's worth watching, but it's not an area of major concern.
This year's first-round pick, Nick Schmaltz, will be playing at the University of North Dakota this fall. 20-year-old prospect Teuvo Teraveinen, a center who was selected in the first round in 2013, is a more ready prospect and is closer to contributing. He has top two line talent but will likely spend some time in the AHL before getting his chance for real time in the pros.
Chicago Blackhawks NHL Outlook
This is, quite simply, the best team in the league. Their top line is ridiculous. They are deep up front. They have outstanding defense, and their goaltending exceeded expectations last year. The coaching is superior as well, and they have more big game experience than any team other than the Kings. Add it all up and you have a team that can go as deep and as far as they decide to. They are the team to beat this year - just as they were last year and the year before.
Chicago Blackhawks Schedule
The schedule makers want to make sure that the Blackhawks get off to a strong start. After a tough game at Dallas to open the season, the next three games for the team are at home against Buffalo, Calgary and Nashville - three of the four teams tied for last in the league with 75/1 odds to win the Stanley Cup. In other words, if the team isn't at least 3-1 after four games we'll know that their heads aren't quite into things yet, and we'll have to be patient when it comes to trusting them.
Chicago Blackhawks NHL Futures Odds (from Bovada)
I'm not the only one who is high on this team - they are favored across the board. They are 13/2 to win the Stanley Cup - far better than the Bruins and Kings, who are next at 10/1. They are 15/4 to win the Western Conference and 7/4 to win the tough Central Division.
2014-15 Chicago Blackhawks Predictions
I like everything about this team. They are deserving favorites and, as they have been each of the last two years, are my personal choice to win it all. The potential for this team is unlimited - even in a conference as brutally tough as the West is. There are so many good teams in the Western Conference that anything could happen, but if every team in the conference were to play at their best then the Blackhawks would have the best chance of coming out alive. They are deserving favorites.
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