Mile High Sticking Central Division Power Rankings — Preseason Debut!

2 of 8


May 18, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) skates with the puck against the Los Angeles Kings during game one of the Western Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks first order of business this off-season was to ensure that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews would be playing hockey in the Windy City for a very long time. Mission Accomplished. Chicago invested $168M into the star fowards, locking each of them up for the next decade.

Chicago has been an NHL powerhouse for a while now, capturing Stanley Cup titles in 2010 and 2013. Last season the Hawks fell to the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Final, in what many claimed to be the series that actually decided who would take home the Stanley Cup. Expect the Hawks to come back hungry this season.

Last Season: 107 pts – 3rd in Division – Lost Western Conference Final

Prediction: 113 pts

Team Strength: Balance

The Blackhawks have one of the best two-way centers in the game in Toews, and Patrick Kane is an explosive play-maker on the wing. These guys are elite gamechangers. Beyond their two superstars, Chicago boasts incredible depth throughout their lineup. Patrick Sharp has always been a player I’ve coveted, and he excels at providing secondary scoring for Chicago. The Hawks were second in the NHL in scoring last season, averaging 3.18 goals per game.

Their defense is fantastic as well. The group is led by the smooth Duncan Keith, and hard-nosed Brent Seabrook. Keith led the Hawks with ridiculous 55 assists in 71 games last season. That’s nearly unheard of from the defense position, unless your name is Ray Bourque or Bobby Orr. The Hawks allowed a mere 2.58 goals per game last season, good for 12th in the NHL.

Goaltender Corey Crawford doesn’t get a lot of the headlines that some of the other goalies on the top teams in the league receive, however, he has proven to be a very reliable and steady goaltender. The Hawks have rode Crawford to a Stanley Cup before, and they seem primed to do it again.

Team Weakness: Salary cap

The Blackhawks were forced to trade away Nick Leddy to the NY Islanders this weekend to gain some cap relief. The Hawks have less than a million dollars in cap space, which in this instance cost them a solid defenseman. Leddy wasn’t one of their elite guys, but he still scored 7 goals and posted 31 assists in 82 games last season. A solid contributer for sure on the back-end.

This also could limit Chicago when the trade deadline arrives, if they look to add that final key ingredient to their postseason recipe.