NHL Predictions: Chicago Blackhawks Futures Odds
by Alan Matthews - 8/28/2013
Hard as it is to believe, but NHL training camps open in less than two weeks with the puck dropping on the 2013-14 season on Tuesday, Oct. 1. It's going to be a very compact season, and I don't mean as in lockout form. With the players taking a nearly three-week break for the Olympics, that means games will have to be crammed in more than in a normal season. It also could lead to some late-season fatigue for teams who have several Olympians and who played deep into the summer. A team like the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
When the Hawks won the Cup in 2010, they had to gut the roster because of salary concerns, saying goodbye to stalwarts like goalie Antti Niemi, forward Kris Versteeg and defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. This time, there was much less attrition. Chicago did lose valuable backup goalie Ray Emery as well as forward Viktor Stalberg to free agency and traded Dave Bolland -- he scored the Cup-clinching goal in Game 6 against Boston -- along with Michael Frolik (valuable penalty-killer), but those are the only losses, and they aren't major. The Hawks' big moves were signing playoff stud Bryan Bickell to an extension -- he could have tested free agency -- and bringing Nikolai Khabibulin back to Chicago to potentially back up No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford, who can become a free agent after next season. The Hawks also signed top Finnish goalie Antti Raanta to potentially be Crawford's backup if Khabibulin doesn't have much left in the tank.
The big names are in place for the foreseeable future in terms of long-term deals other than Crawford: Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Toews, 2010 Conn Smythe winner Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa (he should be ready for the opener despite back issues; Hossa was an amnesty candidate because of that back problem), Patrick Sharp, Bickell, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. The team also re-signed defenseman Nick Leddy. The big question heading into camp is who will be No. 2 center. Brandon Pirri and Brandon Saad are the leading candidates. Pirri led the AHL in scoring last year and Saad was a Calder Trophy Finalist as a rookie. It's also possible Sharp could move back to center, but the team prefers to keep him at left win.
2013-14 Chicago Blackhawks' Schedule Highlights
Chicago will raise its second Stanley Cup banner in the past four seasons at the United Center on Oct. 1 against the Washington Capitals. Because of last year's lockout, the Hawks didn't face Hart Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin and Co. It will be Washington's only visit of the season. The Hawks' first game in their new division is Oct. 9 at St. Louis. Every year an ice show kicks the Blackhawks out of the United Center for a long period. This year, it's seven-game trip out West that starts Nov. 19 in Colorado and ends Nov. 30 in Phoenix. The Avalanche ended the Hawks' record 24-game points streak to start the year in Denver last season.
Chicago hosts the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 15 in the first meeting between the clubs since the Western Conference Finals. Now that the rival Red Wings are in the Eastern Conference, the teams play only twice: Jan. 22 in Detroit and March 16 in Chicago. Probably the most anticipated game is March 1 in a potential Stanley Cup Finals preview against the Pittsburgh Penguins. That will be held in prime-time on NBC at a sold-out Soldier Field. The Hawks have their Stanley Cup rematches with Boston on Jan. 19 at home and March 27 in Beantown, where the clinched the Cup with that epic Game 6 comeback late in the third period. The regular season ends April 12 in Nashville.
Every team's schedule includes a break from Feb. 9 to Feb. 26 for the Olympics in Russia.
2013-14 Chicago Blackhawks NHL Futures Odds & Past Trends
At Bovada, the Blackhawks are 6/1 favorites to win the Stanley Cup again and 5/2 to repeat as Western Conference champions. In 2013, Chicago was 18-26-4 “over/under” -- 9-11-4 at home and 9-15-0 on the road.
NHL Predictions for Chicago Blackhawks in 2013-14
I think it is concerning that nearly every key Blackhawks player will be competing in the Olympics after playing so many games in such a short period last year. But it worked out pretty well in the last Olympic year for the Hawks. If Bickell is the beast he was in the playoffs, then this team should win the West again.
Crawford is the big question mark. He had an off 2011-12 season but was very good last year and mostly stellar in the playoffs but for a bad game or two. That's something you have to live with on Crawford. He will have to adjust to a new goaltending coach as the team hired Steve Weeks to replace Stephane Waite, who left for the same job in Montreal. Waite had been the Hawks' coach for 10 years and shaped Crawford and Niemi. That could be a significant loss.
There are no division title odds out yet, but Chicago should win the new-look Central. The Red Wings and Jackets are gone now, and the only legitimate challenger in my mind in St. Louis. As things stand now, I do like the Hawks to win the West, but it's just too hard to repeat as Cup champions. That will come from the East in 2014.
Get free picks from any Doc’s Sports handicapper – there is no obligation for this offer and no credit card required. Just sign up for an account, and you can use the $60 in free picks for any Doc’s Sports Advisory Board handicapper and any sport. Click here to get started now.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews