If someone was to make the prediction that the Chicago Blackhawks could miss the playoffs, one would think that person just got off the bus from Crazytown. Believe it or not, that is a real possibility for the Blackhawks for the upcoming 2016-17 season. The salary cap has been the big enemy to the Blackhawks organization, these last few years. The Blackhawks cap crunch could mean no playoffs this year.
The Chicago Blackhawks Cap Crunch Could Mean No Playoffs
There are a couple of big question marks in Chicago’s top six forwards. Yes, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Artemi Panarin are all big-time offensive players. Artem Anisimov is a two-way center that can chip in 20 goals as well.
How much can the 21-year old University of Michigan winger, Motte provide in the NHL? Is the success of Panarin’s rookie campaign clouding the Blackhawks judgment when it comes to Motte? It’s great that Motte is having a terrific training camp, but the proof in the pudding will come during the regular season.
In terms of Hossa, it’s the opposite problem. Experience is not an issue for the Slovakian winger. However, the wear and tear of Hossa’s body are another matter. Questions abound with Hossa in terms of staying healthy (missed nearly 20 games last year) and his declining production (only had 13 goals & 33 points last year).
This might be the Hawks biggest issue. Is Chicago going to get any scoring from their third and fourth lines? Can a hockey club be a contender without any secondary scoring? Can a hockey club survive these issues playing in arguable the best division in hockey in the NHL Central?
Third line center Marcus Kruger had zero goals in 41 games last season. His potential line-mates are rookie Nick Schmaltz (yet to play an NHL game) and Richard Panik who lit the lamp six times last season (30 games played). It’s more of the same for the Hawks regarding their fourth line.
The Blackhawks were sixth in the league in scoring last season at 2.85 goals per game. It’s hard to see that kind of production continuing.
No Injuries to the Core
The bottom line is the Blackhawks have a severe problem when it comes to the depth of their roster. Because of this, they are asking an awful lot from aging veterans, rookies, and fourth liners.
If the Hawks were to sustain one lengthy injury to any of Toews, Kane, Panarin, Anisimov, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook or Corey Crawford and this could be a lottery year for the franchise. Chicago’s lack of depth on the back-end of the blue line makes Brian Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson extremely valuable as well.
Yes, Chicago still has an incredible core and one of the best coaches in the league in Joel Quenneville. The Blackhawks always seem to find a way. If one researchs past years, you can find predictions that state the Blackhawks cap situation is finally going to come home to roost.
Having said all that a strong hockey club is one that is deep and there are a lot of questions if Chicago falls into that category. If one could see into the future and see the Hawks losing one of their key core players for even just a few weeks, that could mean this April is all about the ping-pong balls for Chicago.