Few changes to Blackhawks' deep, talented lineup
Much like the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Chicago Blackhawks have found out that turning a Stanley Cup title into multiple championships isn't easy in the current NHL era, even if a team is blessed with a young core of elite players.
The Blackhawks looked like potential Cup winners at times during the 2011-12 season, but a concussion for captain Jonathan Toews late in the season and some suspect goaltending didn't help as Chicago was bounced in the first round for the second straight campaign.
There wasn't a lot of activity from general manager Stan Bowman, but there wasn't a lot of need for it, either. Chicago is still loaded, and there are several kids who could bolster the team's depth up front and help the Blackhawks back into Cup contention.
There are two clear objectives for the Blackhawks at the onset of this season -- complete the long-standing search for a dependable No. 2 center and sort through several NHL-ready or near-ready forward prospects. There are a number of combinations for Quenneville to sift through and test out depending on the answers to those to questions.
Kane could be tried in that spot again as well, as could Sharp, a prospect like Brandon Pirri or even 2012 first-round pick Teuvo Teravainen**. Marcus Kruger has had chances as the center behind Toews, and a strong camp from him would allow coach Joel Quenneville to load up his top line, or mix-and-match.
Pirri is one of several guys who could be at camp making a case for a spot on a crowded roster, along with guys like Shaw, Hayes, Saad, Jeremy Morin and maybe a healthy Kyle Beach. Of the established forwards, Kruger and Frolik might be looking over their proverbial shoulders.
The defense corps is pretty settled. Oduya was a nice fit after the trade deadline last season, and the addition of Brookbank gives the Hawks seven NHL-caliber defensemen. Few players have more pressure on them as the new season approaches as Crawford, who can't be the weak link on what should be a contender for the Presidents' Trophy, especially considering possible steps back by division rivals Detroit and Nashville.
[**chicagoblackhawks.com note: Blackhawks VP/GM Stan Bowman has stated previously that Teravainen will play in his native Finland this season].