At this time, I would like to take a second to smell thy roses. People so often tend to be constantly moving forward having shorter memories than they’d like to admit. I would be lying to you if I told you I wasn’t guilty of it myself.
So, with that being said, what a perfect time to look back at the Hawks season, not from a team perspective but an individual level. Johnny Toews… Patrick Kane… yes, those guys are good and are putting the finishing touches on their Hart Trophy caliber seasons. That stuff is boring; Blackhawks fans are used to hearing how great those cats are!
No, I would like to look at the new wave Hawks that should have fans hopeful for years of success. These guys all offer the Hawks something else but all should be a staple of success next year and beyond.
Some of these players took baby steps in the right direction towards the cookie jar that are their potential big rewarding future contracts. Others managed to climb up on the chair they pushed across the kitchen and are going in for the kill.
Cheers to a great season and cheers to a time to reflect.
Marcus Kruger (22): the progression of a budding star culminated at the 8-minute mark in the 3rd period vs. the Flames. Marcus Kruger wins the faceoff, gets open and snaps a wicked shot top corner. It was long ago when the Blackhawks staff was showing Young Marcus how to properly workout in an actual gym. It’s this professional strength and conditioning program that will see him put on a little more weight and become even stronger overall as a player.
2013-14 Prediction: Kruger (RFA) signs a 1.3M/year deal and slides into lineup as the 3rd line C with spot duty on the 2nd and PP time. He will continue to be a menace on the PK.
Nick Leddy (22): Hawks fans witnessed their son Nick really grow into a man this year. After getting pushed around for the better part of the 2012-13 season, he’s since started his upward trend to acquiring “old man strength”. While in Rockford during the lockout it was concerning to some to see the lack of points on the stat sheet. I do believe he was working on other areas that have benefited him greatly as he’s taken huge strides this year.
2013-14 Prediction: Leddy (RFA) signs a $2.3M/year and sees himself continuing to grow as a top-4 d-man. The annual salary might be a little low but considering P.K. Subban was awarded a 2.8M/year puts it into perspective. Young defenders are difficult to negotiate with and most are paid on potential. Marc Bergevin did a great job with Subban even if it took a little longer. Bowman needs to follow suit.
Andrew Shaw (21): This year saw a transformation of Shaw forming into the player he was meant to be in this league. His play this year makes more sense than his incredible emergence onto the scene with 23 points in his 37 games in the NHL. He has moved into his natural centre position where he’s endured growing pains but should benefit the Hawks long-term. While the novelty of the #shawfacts has worn off, his heart and determination has not.
2013-14 Prediction: With his modest contract ($577,500/year), Shaw will find himself as the 3rd/4th line centre. He will continue to be a physical player offering the Hawks’ lineup some grit night in and night out.
Brandon Bollig (26): The Blackhawks appear to have gone the homegrown route in finding their “tough guy”. Rather than going out and signing a mammoth on skates, a la John Scott, the Hawks brought Bollig up through their farm system. Many disagree with his presence on the team but I for one will always support a tough guy who is smart defensively and is transparent with his mission to constantly improve. The two reasons being, the smaller players on the team genuinely appreciate a guy who will take a punch in the face for them and a player working that hard on his game to stay in the lineup is infectious. He’s working hard in the AHL, in the gym and at practice looking to bump someone else to the press box.
2013-14 Prediction: Being on a one-way deal will leave Bollig with a little more confidence heading into next year. He will continue to fight (no pun intended) to get into the lineup every game. He’ll serve as a valuable combatant for the Hawks as a 12/13 forward.
Brandon Saad (20): I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t think the 1st line was the right spot for youngster Brandon Saad. I had nothing against him personally, I am of the mindset that you have to pay your dues and nothing to me warranted Toews/Hossa treatment. However, once I understood Coach Q’s balanced approach to his lines and ice time, it made more sense. Saad has taken massive leaps in his game and seems to be fitting in with the team as he’s already earned a nickname, “Man Child”. His confidence is soaring and he adds a nice skillset to an all-world top line.
2013-14 Prediction: With a couple years left on his entry-level deal, Saad will continue to round out his game. He will be top 6 again next year with PP time galore.
Who have you been most impressed with this year? Who’s disappointed you?
~ The Hawks will find out today who their 1st round foe will be in the 2013 playoffs. Will it be Columbus, Detroit or Minnesota? After watching Minnesota last night, fingers crossed for them.
~ Drew LeBlanc’s first game was relatively uneventful. As shaky as a newborn fawn out there, he finally shook off the jitters and strung together a couple nice shifts in the 3rd period. I’m not sure where he fits in long term with the Hawks, as he is on the slower side but it’s very evident he has a high hockey IQ. I think resigning him and having him start in Rockford is the appropriate path.
~ Speaking of Rockford, their season came to a close last week and the Black Aces have been recalled to Chicago. Ben Smith, Brandon Pirri, Jimmy Hayes, Jeremy Morin, Adam Clendening, Shawn Lalonde, Ryan Stanton and Henrik Karlsson got the call to join the squad. I thought it was telling that Ryan Stanton was in his own class getting the nod before the others. My prediction, Stanton will be potential the 7th/8th defenceman next year in Chicago.
~ Blackhawks fans will get a big taste of the future as they will ice most of the players mentioned above. Along with these Black Aces, Carter Hutton looks to get the start. Perseverance has paid off for the 27 year old. Although it’s a game that means absolutely nothing, he’ll be looking to show the Hawks he’s worth another contract as he’s a UFA in the off-season.
Ty Cam out!
Filed Under: NHL
About the Author: I am a rare Chicago Blackhawks fan from Canada, one might describe me as a hockey connoisseur and a solid checking line centre to your local rec hockey team. I once lived in a town of 500 people and now work in the hockey mecca that is Toronto. I work for the Score Television Network so I couldn't get away from sports if I tried. These opinions are one of my own and not of Score Media Inc. - don't get it twisted.