New faces for Blackhawks as Cup defense begins
The Chicago Blackhawks have heard all the questions from the
skeptics. They know they seem like a long shot to repeat as Stanley
Cup champion after losing their goaltender, goal-scoring hero and
eight other players from last June’s roster.
The Blackhawks, however, aren’t ready to give it all up that
Chicago remains one the NHL’s youngest, fastest and
most-talented clubs. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith,
Brent Seabrook and Patrick Sharp – all high-octane 20-somethings –
are back and so is Marian Hossa, one of only four Chicago regulars
who’s over 30.
”You look at our team and we lost a lot of guys,” said Kane,
the 21-year-old who scored the Cup-winning overtime goal in Game 6
in Philadelphia. ”But at the same time you still have those core
guys who have been here for a while.
”I think it’s overrated how long it takes to get that chemistry
because playing with guys a couple of times, you should be able to
get it down right away. I don’t think that’s going to be any big
Neither does coach Joel Quenneville.
”I thought we found out about some of our guys and the depth of
our organization (in training camp),” said Quenneville, who
received a contract extension through 2013-14 before camp opened.
”I still think we’ve got some work to do on our team game, and our
line combinations as well. But I think everyone’s excited about
playing for keeps starting this week.”
Still, some introductions are in order for fans tuning in now
for the Blackhawks’ regular-season opener at Colorado on Thursday
Chicago’s goaltending has changed completely, with 10-year
veteran Marty Turco taking over the No. 1 spot from Antti Niemi
after signing a one-year, $1.3 million free-agent contract. He’ll
be backed up by Corey Crawford, a second-round draft pick in 2003
whose time to stick in the NHL has come.
After spending his entire pro career with Dallas, Turco said he
chose Chicago – and less money – to help the Blackhawks repeat as
The 35-year-old Turco is one of the NHL’s most-active
puck-handling goalies. That appealed to general manager Stan
Bowman, who envisions Turco sparking the Blackhawks’ already fast
”We’re still getting used to each other,” Turco said. ”My
game is all right, but in my head there’s just some
Niemi? He’s now in San Jose, one of Chicago’s salary cap
casualties. Bowman had to part with his Cup-winning goalie to keep
his payroll under the NHL’s $59.4 million ceiling, and said goodbye
to Dustin Byfuglien, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound forward who had a
knack for game-winning goals.
Chicago’s mobile, skilled defense changed little over the
summer. Back are the Norris Trophy-winning Keith, Seabrook, Brian
Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson. Campbell will miss the first month
of the season with a right knee sprain and he may be replaced by
19-year-old Nick Leddy, the team’s biggest training camp
”He looked good back there,” Quenneville said. ”We liked his
instincts and the way he moved.”
The Blackhawks will be big up front as Quenneville works in some
new skaters and gives Troy Brouwer, Dave Bolland and Tomas Kopecky
Brouwer, a 6-foot-3 right wing, expects to help pick up some of
the physical slack created by Byfuglien’s departure. Bolland
emerged as an effective checking center after returning from back
surgery, but Chicago would love to see him scoring goals and making
assists this year.
Among the new forwards to watch is Viktor Stalberg, is a
6-foot-2 left wing who was acquired from Toronto in a trade that
sent Kris Versteeg and his $3 million salary to the Maple
Right wing Jack Skille, Chicago’s first-round draft pick in
2005, also stepped up in the preseason. Fernando Pisani, who at 33
is the oldest skater on the Blackhawks, signed as a free agent from
Edmonton for just $500,000.
The Blackhawks still believe they can become the first team to
win back-to-back championships since Detroit in 1997 and 1998.
”We knew there were going to be some moves,” Brouwer said.
”We didn’t know maybe the extent of what it was going to be. We
can’t worry about it any more. What we have to do now is defend the