It’s been a busy off-season preparing the Chicago Blackhawks lineup for 2017-18. There were moves involving trades and free agency, as well as rookies pushing hard for a spot on the team. The opening lineup is set with only a few questions remaining.
Chicago Blackhawks Lineup Is Almost Ready
Rookies Crack The Chicago Blackhawk’s Lineup
Rookies Alex DeBrincat and John Hayden were two of several young players looking to crack the Chicago Blackhawks lineup. Both of them created a constant buzz during the preseason. They played at a higher level than expected, which created a tough situation for the team. The Blackhawks were preparing for both of them to start the season with the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL. In Rockford, they could be developed at a slower pace. Learning the Blackhawks system while in the AHL would be a lot safer than being thrown in the NHL before they were ready.
Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell them the plan. Both players came into camp with only one thought in mind, that they wanted to crack the opening night lineup. DeBrincat and Hayden played extremely well throughout the preseason. Their energy and effort during training camp and exhibition games were noticeable. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was constantly asked about the two youngsters and their chances to make the team. “Coach Q” always hedged when asked about the two as he had several players in camp with NHL experience that could make the team.
Alex DeBrincat and John Hayden have made the Blackhawks roster, though DeBrincat was sent down as a part of a paper transaction to help Chicago’s cap situation on Tuesday. After several player moves were made in the last few days, the Hawks lineup appears almost set. The Blackhawks will place Marian Hossa on long-term injured reserve as soon as the season starts as well, as the NHL has ruled in favour of the Blackhawks. That move would provide the Hawks with salary cap relief they need to complete the 23 man roster. They still have some moves to make based on the recently approved cap relief.
For more on the Blackhawks and the Hossa LTIR decision, check out our very own Tori Wernsman’s piece on the NHL’s decision.
Defensive Pairings are Evolving
While the NHL reviewed the Hossa status, the Blackhawks defense pairings have been a work in progress. Recently, the top four defensemen have been Connor Murphy, partnered with Duncan Keith, as well as Brent Seabrook with Michal Kempny. Competing for the final pair will be Gustav Forsling, Jordan Oesterle, Jan Rutta, and possibly Cody Franson. Franson has been on a Professional Try-Out (PTO) contract during the preseason and played well enough to earn a contract for the season ahead. Oesterle, Rutta, and Forsling all played solid and have earned a spot on the team too. The question is whether the Blackhawks will carry eight defensemen or seven. This will be determined on how well the Blackhawks and their defense perform in the weeks ahead. To start, Chicago will go with eight.
Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford has looked strong in preseason and appears back to his stellar form. Anton Forsberg will be backing up Crawford this season. Forsberg was acquired along with Brandon Saad in the blockbuster Artemi Panarin trade this summer. Forsberg played extremely well for the Hawks in the exhibition games and should provide a solid backup to Crawford.
The Season Ahead
Expectations from the fans will be high after two straight first-round playoff losses. Blackhawks fans consistently expect deep playoff runs after three Stanley Cups since 2010. Whether this will happen again this season will depend on Chicago’s core group and all of the new players joining the team. Only time will tell if the Hawks can succeed with this lineup or if more changes will be needed through trades or call-ups from the AHL.
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