three Keys to a Playoff Return in 2020

6 minutes read

After three Stanley Cups since 2010, Chicago followers had been upset, however most likely understood when the Blackhawks missed the playoffs final season. Not each marketing campaign generally is a profitable one, in any case.

Now that the Blackhawks have missed them once more although, it’s apparent: Hell has frozen over and one thing have to be completed to thwart the approaching apocalypse that’s the state of the staff’s possibilities in 2020.

Chicago Blackhawks forwards Dominik Kahun, Brandon Saad and Artem Anisimov – (AP Picture/Matt Marton)

Not so quick, although. Don’t fret. There are many causes to be optimistic concerning the Blackhawks’ possibilities, particularly with these three keys to a return to the promised land as quickly as subsequent season:

three. Hope a Central Division Rival Falls from Grace

The Blackhawks completed sixth within the Central this previous
season. That will damage sufficient to listen to beneath one of the best of circumstances. What
should actually sting although is how all 5 above them made the playoffs beneath the
league’s present postseason format. So, which means, had the Blackhawks completed
higher than simply one of many squads above them within the standings, they might have
made the playoffs.

In fact, that’s simpler mentioned than completed. The overall
consensus is the championship window is now open for the likes of the Nashville
Predators and Winnipeg Jets. The St. Louis Blues are clearly taking part in for the
Cup as we converse. In the meantime, the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche are
arguably within the strategy of trending increased into elite standing each season.

The Blackhawks had their time within the solar, so they need to take a step again, proper? Not essentially, as they’ve been doing that ever since their final Stanley Cup in 2015. They misplaced in seven video games within the first spherical the following season. They received swept within the first around the season after that. They then didn’t make the playoffs for the primary time since 2008 in 2018 with an abysmal 33-39-10 report. This previous season can really be seen as an uptick of kinds as, regardless of the non-playoff end, they earned a profitable report as soon as once more (36-34-12).

So, to a sure extent, the Blackhawks might conceivably
wait out this dry spell and sneak again into the playoffs in 2020 all on their
personal deserves. Nevertheless, for these hoping for a extra lively method, there are a
few options basic supervisor Stan Bowman and co. ought to take into account.

2. Transfer on from Cam Ward

Cam Ward was signed to a one-year deal to again up Corey
Crawford, and the experiment labored out as badly as doable. What’s saddest
about Ward’s disappointing season (16-12-Four with a three.67 goals-against common
and .897 save proportion) is just about anybody might have seen it coming based mostly
on his statistical decline during the last decade or so.

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Cam Ward – (Picture by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Photos)

Because of this, the Blackhawks ought to transfer on from Ward and even Corey Crawford to a sure extent. Crawford missed vital time to damage clearly, and his mediocre 14-18-5 season shouldn’t be held towards him. In spite of everything, regardless of the haters and naysayers, he’s nonetheless been comparatively constant in web for the Blackhawks since turning into the staff’s No. 1 goalie in 2010. Nevertheless, two straight seasons with fewer than 40 video games performed and one begins to query his sturdiness, particularly contemplating he’s now in his mid-thirties.

Like Ward final season, Crawford now has a single season left on his contract. Re-signing a 35-year-old goalie to something aside from a short-term contract can be silly. If the Blackhawks are severe about making the playoffs once more in 2020 and past, there must be some form of succession plan in place at the same time as a backup or insurance coverage coverage. Due to middling performances from the likes of prospects Anton Forsberg and Collin Delia, Crawford’s inheritor might not come from inside, although.

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford – (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Fortunately although, the Blackhawks are lastly out of wage cap hell. They can signal a alternative with each Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and New York Islander Robin Lehner scheduled to hit free company. It’s a longshot to beat out the competitors for his or her companies, however doing so would go an extended solution to guaranteeing a playoff look subsequent spring.

1. Get Erik Gustafsson Assist

It’s clearly not simply on the goaltenders. The Blackhawks
might have allowed the second-most objectives within the league (355), however additionally they allowed
the second-most pictures per sport (34.eight).

It’s clear, at a not-so-spry 36 years outdated, stalwart Duncan Keith can not compete at a Norris Memorial Trophy degree anymore. In contrast to with Crawford, neither Keith nor Brent Seabrook are on their approach out as a consequence of their contracts. They’ve nonetheless received 4 and 5 seasons left on their respective offers. So, the logical factor to do is to on the very least lower the staff’s dependence on them. Somebody wants to begin taking extra of their minutes. Enter Erik Gustafsson.

Whereas Gustafsson successfully got here out from nowhere to attain 60 factors as a defenseman this season, he actually wasn’t born yesterday. He’s a 27-year-old defenseman coming into his prime, that means the time is now to capitalize on the final yr of his two-year, $2.Four million deal, particularly seeing as he turns into an unrestricted free agent subsequent summer time. Gustafsson is discovered cash within the offensive zone, as nobody noticed his break-out coming, least of all of the Edmonton Oilers.

Erik Gustafsson – (Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports activities)

He can’t do it himself although, as even Keith, in his prime, as one the sport’s finest on the time, had the supporting solid to get it completed. Though Gustafsson is not any Keith, he’s the Blackhawks’ best choice. That’s only a reality and never meant as an insult. So, logically, the Blackhawks have to get him some assist.

Nevertheless they do it’s anybody’s guess. It might imply buying and selling
Artem Anisimov for a stop-gap measure to search out somebody to play with the left-handed
defenseman. They may alternatively go all in on the right-handed Erik
Karlsson come July 1.  

No matter Bowman opts to do, it must be one thing, if he desires to maintain capitalizing on Patrick Kane’s perpetual success and Jonathan Toews’ offensive resurgence. Offense wasn’t the problem this season. That a lot is obvious. It was just about every part else.

Chicago Blackhawks ahead Patrick Kane – (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Fortunately, a return to greatness subsequent season is inside attain, even when simply barely under the hooves of pigs flying by within the close by neighborhood. As for any form of long-term assist to make sure sustained success, look to the Rockford IceHogs as a substitute.

With high prospects Henri Jokiharju and Adam Boqvist set to man the blue line of the Blackhawks’ American Hockey League affiliate (if not Chicago), not all is misplaced. In actual fact, the protection may very well be a supply of power within the close to future. A method or one other, it should be to get the Blackhawks again to the playoffs.

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