Tag Archives: Season Preview

Season Preview: Nick Leddy – Changing Levels

photo credit: Zimbio / Getty Images

By Brad Gardner

Acquired from Minnesota along with Kim Johnsson in February 2010 in the trade that sent Cam Barker to the Wild, Nick Leddy was thought to still be a few years away from making an impact at the pro level. After making big strides in his game as a freshman at the University of Minnesota in 2009-10 and another strong showing at Chicago’s prospect camp the following summer, Leddy showed that he was much closer than originally thought. Blackhawks’ GM Stan Bowman signed the defenseman to a pro deal after just the one year of college hockey, citing the prospect camp performance as the club’s main reason for bringing him into the fold so soon.

Leddy continued to impress at training camp heading into the 2010-11 season. He stuck with the big club out of camp in large part because Brian Campbell was going to miss time at the start of the year due to injury, but the look at the NHL lasted only six games. In Rockford, Leddy was able to play a bigger role and earn more ice time, particularly on special teams. He scored two goals and eight assists in 22 AHL games as a 19-year-old and was tied for third among IceHogs defensemen in points by the time he left for Team USA’s World Junior camp. Leddy’s minus-7 at the AHL level was as much an indication of the team’s struggles in the first half of the season as it was a sign of his own struggles in the defensive end. Read more »

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Season Preview: Corey Crawford – To be The man

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By Brad Gardner

The Blackhawks’ goaltending position underwent more turnover last season, as another prospect overtook a veteran to earn a bulk of the load down the stretch. Longtime Chicago goalie prospect Corey Crawford finally had his chance with the big club last season and did not falter, appearing in 57 regular season games for the ‘Hawks and starting all seven playoff games against the Canucks.

Crawford’s surge came just one season after Finnish prospect Antti Niemi took the reigns from Cristobal Huet and eventually led the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup. Even dating back to the 2008-09 season, veteran Nikolai Khabibulin was halfway out the door at the start of the season but earned a bulk of starts down the stretch and in the playoffs for the ‘Hawks. It has practically been a revolving door in Chicago’s net and that trend continued heading into the 2010-11 season.

During the summer of 2010, with the salary cap looming large over all of GM Stan Bowman’s maneuvers, the organization opted to walk away from Antti Niemi’s $2.75 million arbitration award months just after the goalie raised the Stanley Cup. With Niemi out of the picture, Bowman turned to former Dallas Stars’ stalwart Marty Turco. Even at 35 years old by the start of the season, Turco was expected to carry the load as Crawford eased into his first full season of NHL duty. Read more »

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Season Preview: Jeremy Morin

photo credit: Hockey Broad

By Jon Fromi

Jeremy Morin is a name that has been at or near the top of the Blackhawks’ prospect list since Chicago obtained his rights 14 months ago. As last season’s training camp came to a close, it appeared that the Auburn, New York native was on a fast track to the NHL.

Almost a year later, Morin is playing what has to be a frustrating waiting game, one that will likely continue for the talented forward until two things occur. A spot on the roster will need to be won. First, Morin will need a clean bill of health in order for that to happen.

Morin, a product of the United States Hockey Developmental Program, was a second-round pick by Atlanta in 2009. Following his selection, Morin torched the Ontario Hockey League for 47 goals and 36 assists in 58 games with the Kitchener Rangers. He was also a point a game player in seven games for the U.S.A.’s gold medal team at the 2010 World Junior Championships. Read more »

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Season Preview: Marcus Kruger

By Jon Fromi

The circumstances surrounding the arrival of center Marcus Kruger late in the 2010-11 season set up the young Swedish import for scrutiny that was unrealistic as well as completely unnecessary.

Chicago GM Stan Bowman admitted that Kruger came into a tough situation last spring in his remarks to the media Friday. The head scratcher is that Bowman created that situation himself.

Kruger, the Blackhawks’ fifth-round draft selection in 2009, made an impression on the club in Chicago’s prospect camp and, according to Bowman, had a shot at making the team last fall.  This prompted Bowman to sign Kruger to an entry-level deal.  Kruger then chose to return to the Swedish Elite League, where he had played 53 games in his first two seasons as a professional.

Whether Kruger didn’t feel ready for the rigors of the NHL or simply wanted to cash some more SEL paychecks, Kruger returned home. Playing in 52 contests, he led sixth-place Djurgardens IF in scoring. Seems like Bowman misjudged that situation as well, but it’s what happened in the spring with which issue can be taken. Read more »

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Season Preview: Viktor Stalberg

photo credit: Zimbio

By Brad Gardner

The most immediate return from the Blackhawks’ summer purge in 2010, Viktor Stalberg skated in 77 games with Chicago during the ensuing season. With the exception of the nine-game debut of Jeremy Morin, Stalberg was the only player acquired last summer to suit up with the ‘Hawks during the 2010-11 season.  Much of the remaining returns came in the form of prospects and draft picks, so it will take years to determine just how effective Stan Bowman’s maneuvering turns out to be for the Blackhawks organization.

For the quick triggers, though, Viktor Stalberg was most certainly not Kris Versteeg last season. Coming from Toronto along with prospects Chris DiDomenico and Philippe Paradis, the big Swede was coming off a solid NHL debut of nine goals in 40 NHL games with the Maple Leafs in just his first pro season out of the University of Vermont.  While thoughts of a blazing fast 20-goal scorer danced through the minds of fans, Stalberg instead struggled to carve out a role on the Blackhawks’ roster and was relegated to the fourth line for much of the season. Read more »

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Season Preview: Michael Frolik – More than a Skille

photo credit: National Post/Getty

By Jon Fromi

The Chicago Blackhawks thought they were picking up a certain type of player when they dealt Jack Skille to the Florida Panthers in exchange for winger Michael Frolik back on February 9th.

The two players were at the heart of a five-player swap back in February that served as a bit of organizational house cleaning for both teams.  GM Stan Bowman thought Frolik could snap out of a scoring funk and provide depth that Skille was not able to provide in Chicago.

At the time, both franchises were sending away players who had failed to live up to expectations. Looking back at the trade, the Blackhawks may have gotten a different player than they bargained for. Read more »

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Season Preview: Dave Bolland – Year of ‘The Rat’

photo credit: National Post/Getty

By Brad Gardner

Dave Bolland missed significant time due to injury for the second consecutive regular season, but again proved himself with a strong finish in the playoffs. The center helped key the Blackhawks’ turnaround in their first round series against Vancouver.  Bolland earned a goal and three assists in Chicago’s game four win. He finished the postseason tied for the team lead with six points and led the team with a plus-six rating despite playing in only the final four games of the series.

A high elbow from Pavel Kubina knocked Bolland out of the lineup for the final 14 games of the regular season and start of the playoffs, resulting in his second consecutive injury-shortened season. Despite the missed time, the center’s production rebounded from the previous season in which his effectiveness was limited by a back injury. Surgery on the back eventually cost Bolland half of the 2009-10 regular season and he registered a career-low .41 points per game when he was able to play.

Last season, he upped his output to .61 points per game, a notch better than the .59 mark that helped him earn a 5-year, $16.875 million dollar extension in the summer of 2009. It may not be the top-six production that some expected from a former 100-point scorer at the junior level, but Bolland’s reputation has largely been built as a shutdown center capable of throwing the opposition off its game. Read more »

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Season Preview: Marian Hossa – Juggling dominance, injury and aging

By Jon Fromi

In the two seasons Marian Hossa has played in Chicago since signing what is virtually a lifetime contract, he has played in 122 of the Blackhawks’ 164 regular-season contests. Throughout his tenure in the Indian head sweater, Hossa has flashed brilliance to the Blackhawks faithful. In turn, injuries have nagged at the veteran forward from the day he hit town.

Hossa’s success depends on his 32-year-old body’s ability to keep its end of the bargain. Unlike his contract with the Blackhawks, Hossa’s pact with his body has been a shaky one thus far.

Welcome to your thirties, Mr. Hossa. Here’s your pass to the trainer’s room.

Hossa’s health and his ability to make good on the huge financial commitment made by the team is always going to be at the forefront of conversation. Not to be lost is the fact that Chicago still has a hell of a player in Hossa. Read more »

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Season Preview: Bryan Bickell – Looking to add net presence

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By Jon Fromi

The Chicago Blackhawks had several rookies in their lineup throughout the 2010-11 season.  Backup goalie Corey Crawford won most of the raves based on his play down the stretch, but another young man in an Indian head sweater should garner props for his first full season with the Blackhawks.

How about a little respect for forward Bryan Bickell? Read more »

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Season Preview: Niklas Hjalmarsson; One Step Up

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By Brad Gardner

Niklas Hjalmarsson will have the third-highest cap hit on the Blackhawks’ blue line during the 2011-12 season, meaning increased expectations for the Swedish defender. Chicago GM Stan Bowman opted to match the offer sheet submitted by San Jose during the summer of 2010, so Hjalmarsson is owed 3.5 million dollars this season and two more seasons.

Originally selected in the 4th round, 108th overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Hjalmarsson spent parts of two seasons in Chicago before sticking with the big club full time for the 2009-10 season. He was one of the club’s most dependable blueliners throughout the 2010 Stanley Cup run, finishing third among defensemen with 21 minutes of ice time per night and ranking second with a plus-nine rating in 22 playoff games. Hjalmarsson also finished fourth on the blue line with eight points during the 2010 playoffs, giving a glimpse of the potential two-way defender the organization believes he could be. Read more »

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