IT’S HOCKEY TIME Five Tribune experts help you prep for Blackhawks season
After missing the playoffs for the first time in 10 years, the Blackhawks begin the 2018-19 season with more questions than answers. We put five of those questions to a panel of five Tribune experts: reporters Jimmy Greenfield and Shannon Ryan, columnists Steve Rosenbloom and David Haugh, and editor Joe Knowles.
Should the Hawks go full rebuild?
Greenfield: Even if they could move contracts that require player permission they can’t risk a return to total irrelevancy.
Knowles: They should but probably can’t. Too many immovable contracts. They’ll have to do a “rolling” rebuild, and those usually aren’t pretty.
Rosenbloom: They can’t. They have too many core players with no-movement clauses. Might as well ride what’s left of the guys who will have their numbers retired someday.
Haugh: When you examine how many young players they have added in the past year or so, they quietly already have begun the process. But with so many inflexible long-term contracts and proud veterans, the Hawks really can’t simply hit reset.
Ryan: Should and will are two different questions. It would be a nice luxury to be able to rebuild an aging roster but the Hawks aren’t ready for that just yet.
How many games will Corey Crawford play?
Greenfield: If Crawford can play one game he can play a lot. Fifty games sounds right especially if they’re in contention for a playoff spot.
Knowles: Given his age and health issues, 40 games would seem to be the limit for him this season.
Rosenbloom: He will debut in October, then alternate starts over 16 games before Alexander Ovechkin buzzes the tower, so my answer is eight.
Haugh: Concussions are tricky, so he will deal with the effects all season and be limited to 35 starts in net.
Ryan: Crawford’s health issues and the long secrecy around his recovery don’t encourage much optimism. He’ll play 35 games.
This year’s most surprising player will be …
Greenfield: Dominik Kahun. Not exactly Artemi Panarin but another good find by Stan Bowman and staff.
Knowles: Collin Delia, who could be the No. 1 goalie by the end of the season.
Rosenbloom: Jonathan Toews. He will get back to being the point-producing Jonathan Toews that was missing last season.
Haugh: German winger Dominik Kahun, who skated in the preseason alongside Jonathan Toews on the top line, will have Hawks fans Googling his name as soon as opening night. Kahun plays a solid two-way game and is smart and tough with skill.
Ryan: Henri Jokiharju has performed well enough to elicit compliments from coach Joel Quenneville and earn a starting day roster spot. The first-round pick will get his shot and if he continues to impress could help bolster the blue line.
Should Joel Quenneville’s job be in jeopardy?
Greenfield: Only if he wants it to be. Any coach who wins three Stanley Cups with one team should get a no-fire clause with that team.
Knowles: Not unless Stan Bowman’s is, too. Q hasn’t forgotten how to coach, and he only can coach the players he has.
Rosenbloom: No. He’s not going to have a goalie who can win games, and I have reservations about the defensemen in front of him.
Haugh: When Chairman Rocky Wirtz hinted at changes if the Hawks start slow, my sense was Quenneville wasn’t the employee whose face popped into
Wirtz’s head. That would be general manager Stan Bowman, whose inactivity guaranteed the Hawks will struggle again on the blue line.
Ryan: The man won three Cups here. He deserves a pass for last year because of the goalie issue. He certainly will be under more scrutiny, but, no he’s not in jeopardy. Again, the man won three
Predict the Hawks’ point total and playoff destiny.
Greenfield: Eighty-six based on a lot of things going right but it still won’t be enough for a playoff spot.
Knowles: Let’s say 82, which is more than last year but won’t be enough. There have to be at least four teams better than the Hawks in the Central alone this year.
Rosenbloom: Sixth in the Central Division with 83 points.
Haugh: Let’s say 82 and missing the playoffs will precipitate significant change that will be a year overdue.
Ryan: They will get to 80 points. It still won’t be good enough to reach the playoffs but if Crawford is healthy, they will be closer than last year.
Goaltender Corey Crawford gets a spray of ice at the United Center.