Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Change We Can Believe In

On June 10th, the Blackhawks ended their 49-year championship drought, and they hoisted the Stanley Cup. The team spent the summer celebrating and partied like crazy. Now, the fall is here and so is training camp. It’s a new season, and quite a bit has changed since the Blackhawks won the cup.

The Blackhawks were able to keep their four superstars, Patrick Kane, Jonathon Toews, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa. However, many key players from the cup-winning team are gone. The list includes starting goalie Antti Niemi, playoff hero Dustin Byfuglien, key defenseman Brent Sopel, forward Kris Versteeg, and many other key role-players.

A new cast of players joins the cup-winning players to start a new season. However, there’s a different feeling around this year’s Blackhawk team. It’s a feeling of uneasiness. Now I’m just some blogger, and I’ve been wrong before, but I say calm down Blackhawk fans. Here are three reasons to get excited for change.

Young talent: Just a few short years ago, the Blackhawks welcomed up some young prospect with a lot of potential. Their names are Patrick Kane, Jonathon Toews, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook. Those four players have turned into superstars.

With the many veterans departing in the offseason, the door has opened for a new breed of young talent. Former first round pick Jack Skille hopes to stick on the roster, while fellow first rounder Kyle Beach may get his big chance. Another name to remember is Igor Makarov. Makarov has turned heads early in training camp, and could make an impact.

Another prospect looking to make the team is Nick Leddy. Leddy was acquired from Minnesota in the Cam Barker trade. Leddy is just 19-years old, but has been impressive in camp. He may not make the roster for opening night, but expect Leddy to get his chance at some point this season.

Another young player who has solidified his spot on the roster is Corey Crawford. Crawford will be the backup goalie behind Marty Turco (see below on Turco). With the departure of Antti Niemi and inevitable release of Cristobal Huet, Crawford will get his shot to be on the roster. Crawford made his NHL debut in 2005, but has only played in eight games since then. Now, the 25-year old will get his chance to prove he can stay around.

Turco Time: The Blackhawks were unable to bring back cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi. After a long arbitration process, Niemi left Chicago and is now a San Jose Shark. The Hawks acted quickly by bringing in veteran goalie Marty Turco.

Turco is 35-years old, and many people may argue that his best days are behind him, but Turco is still a top-tier goalie. In the 2009-10 season, Turco finished with a .913 save percentage. Just barely more than Antti Niemi’s .912 save percentage.

More importantly, Turco gives the Blackhawks a reliable veteran between the pipes.
The Blackhawks aren’t losing anything with Antti Niemi. He will go down as a playoff hero, but now, it’s Turco time!

Key Newcomers: With all of the notable departures in the offseason, most people forgot that the Blackhawks made a few signings.

The first pickup was 24-year old forward Viktor Stalberg, who was acquired by trade. Stalberg gives the Hawks a playmaking forward, to make up for the loss of Kris Versteeg. He should fit right into the mix.

A couple days later, the Blackhawks brought in their biggest signing. He is 6’8, 258 lb. John Scott, a defenseman who came from the Minnesota Wild. Scott will undoubtedly be known as the new enforcer on the ice. In just 51 games, Scott racked up 90 penalty minutes, many of those coming from fights. It won’t take long for Scott to become a fan favorite.

Toward the end of the offseason, the Blackhawks brought in veteran winger Fernando Pisani and 26-year old center Ryan Potulny.

The names like Niemi, Byfuglien, and others will be missed, but their production will be made up for with the key newcomers.

It’s a new season with some new players, but the one goal is still the same. The Blackhawks return most of the key players of the championship team, with some new players that are hungry to hoist the cup.

It’s been a long, crazy offseason of celebrating and enjoying the victory. The Blackhawks are champions, but that’s now in the past. In the words of Troy Brouwer, "As soon as the season starts, we raise our banner and give the Stanley Cup back to the league. From then on, it's just trying to win that again."

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