The Chicago Blackhawks season is coming to a close and as we come down to the final week of the season, we’ll take a look back to see how the year went and we’ll also look forward to the offseason and take a glimpse at what may lie ahead. Let’s start with a quick recap of the week.
The Hawks played three games this week, winning only one in a bizarre game to say the least. Collin Delia, a young goalie that was called up from the Rockford Ice Hogs, got his first start against the Winnipeg Jets. Delia went out early in the third and was replaced by emergency backup goalie Scott Foster. Foster has become a fan favorite since that night, stopping all seven of the Jets shots he faced, helping the Hawks 6-2 victory.
The other two games for the Hawks weren’t as favorable, as they lost in a shootout to the San Jose Sharks 4-3 on Monday night and were annihilated by the Colorado Avalanche 5-0 on Friday night.
In the last few weeks, the Hawks have made a myriad of moves to take a look at some of their prospects down in the minors. Players like Victor Ejdsell, who was acquired in a trade with the Nashville Predators and Andreas Martinsen have seen NHL action before. However, new on the scene were exciting prospects like Matthew Highmore, Dylan Sikura, Collin Delia and Blake Hillman. Although one or two of these players may see more permanent action next year, it’s customary for an NHL team with no shot at the playoffs to give these younger guys experience at the NHL level.
One specific player to take a look at would be Andreas Martinsen, who is a big physical body that the Hawks need in their relatively undersized lineup. The Hawks this year showed some promise out of the gate, but it was clear throughout the season that they lacked a true physical presence (among other things). Artem Anisimov was the only player for most of the season that was able to be that guy, at least In front of the net. However, once Martinsen came in, he provided a spark on his very first shift. He’s a bruiser who can stand in to fight or he can be the guy in front of the net to screen the goalie.
Another player to hopefully have a more prominent role next year would be John Hayden. We’ve seen Hayden before so we know what he can bring to the table. Although not the most talented goal scorer, he is willing to be a physical presence for the Hawks and stymie the opposition in the defensive zone. Expect the Hawks to take a look at these two to help fill out the bottom six of their roster next year.
Looking back at the year, disappointing would be quite the understatement. Projections for the Hawks were high, with many saying they would be a top team in the NHL again, as they had been for so many years. They ended up being the complete opposite. Goaltender Corey Crawford was the only reason the Hawks weren’t in the basement throughout the entire season, as he bailed them out night in and night out. He was able to mask an abysmal defense and the streakiest Hawks offense since Jonathon Toews and Patrick Kane were drafted.
At every turn, things didn’t pan out for the Hawks. Losing Crawford was the final dagger, but the problems really started in the offseason. After trading away Artemi Panarin and Niklas Hjalmarsson for Brandon Saad and Connor Murphy respectively, the Hawks lost one of their top point producers and arguably their best defensemen. Add to that Marian Hossa, who was unable to play and may never again due to a skin condition and the Hawks were a recipe for disaster from the start.
With one more week until the offseason begins, the Hawks will continue to look at their young players who will fight for a roster spot next year and into the future. Next week, we’ll take a look at the Hawks final week and break down a recipe for offseason success that could bring the Hawks back into playoff contention next year. The Hawks will finish off the season twice against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday and Friday and finish on Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets.