For starters, congratulations to the Washington Capitals for winning the Stanley Cup. A hard fought effort by both teams, but the Capitals stepped up when they needed to and got the job done in Game 5.
As a hockey fan, it is hard not to be happy for these guys. Barry Trotz celebrating with his son, Oshie getting emotional talking about his father, Ovechkin metaphorically ripping the monkey off his back as time expired and fans crying as they celebrate with those they love. What an evening for the Capitals franchise and their fans. Oh, and Michal Kempny is a Stanley Cup champion… let that sink in!
A big congratulations as well to the Vegas Golden Knights for the greatest expansion season we have ever seen in any professional sport. The Knights took a team of misfits and put themselves in a position to be three wins away from a Stanley Cup. It was such a magical season for a city that experienced such a terrible tragedy before the season began. This is a team with a great foundation, a great set of personnel behind the scenes and a supporting owner with almost thirty-million dollars of cap space to retool and go for it again next year. Watch out for the Knights for years to come.
From the Chicago Blackhawks viewpoint, this should prove quite a bit to the management, the team and the fans that you can win a cup with a less talented team than you’ve had before. The Capitals showed with quality goaltending, strong team defensive play, and your top players playing up to their potential, you can win, even after losing such a large amount of talent from the teams of prior years.
A healthy Corey Crawford can surely be that elite goaltender capable of carrying a team to the cup, as he did most notably in 2013 when he probably should have won the Conn Smythe. He doesn’t need to be perfect which both cup teams proved. As long as the team in front of these guys are buzzing, the goalie only needs to make a few big saves in each game. Crawford is completely capable of this type of play, even being in his mid 30’s.
The big guns can also play up to their abilities with Kane surpassing 80 points, Toews climbing back toward the 60-65 point plateau and Saad climbing back to that range as well. With players such as Schmaltz, DeBrincat and Hinostroza likely to improve and plus level talent in players like Sikura and Ejdsell on their way, the Hawks are certainly able to get the team scoring needed to be a dangerous team. The addition of a top 9 forward in the offseason would be a plus, and would solidify this forward group.
Defensively, there is no doubt the big guns need to be better. Seabrook and Keith need to be better than they were last year. They aren’t going to be what they were during the cup runs in 2010, 2013 and 2015, but as long as they can play somewhat better than last year, they are moving in the right direction. An addition is also likely. Although fans are hoping for a De Haan or Carlson signing, it is likely that an impact defenseman would probably come from a trade, which could include the 27th pick in the first round that the Hawks received from Nashville. One more top 4 defenseman would not only boost this defensive corp, it would also bump guys like Connor Murphy, Jordan Oesterle, Jan Rutta and Erik Gustafsson into much more favorable spots in the lineup such as 4-7 defensemen instead of playing top pairing minutes such as Oesterle did this past season.
Brace yourselves Hawks fans… it’s going to be a wild summer. Many big names around the NHL will likely be on the move and there is a good chance the Hawks are very involved in the action. Do you think with a move or two, and better/healthier play from the big guns can carry the Hawks to a fourth cup in nine years? Comment below!
Photo: AP Photo/John Locher