IT’S HOCKEY TIME Five Tri­bune ex­perts help you prep for Black­hawks sea­son

Red Eye Chicago - - Winter Sports Preview - By Chicago Tri­bune staff

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

Cups.

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.

BRIAN CASSELLA/TRI­BUNE FILE

Goal­tender Corey Craw­ford gets a spray of ice at the United Cen­ter.

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