The Chicago Blackhawks are entering a new era of hockey.
The dynasty that we all knew and loved is all but gone. The only members of the dynasty that remain on the Hawks today are Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, but this could still be an exciting era. Going into next season, the team will have the seventh-youngest team in the NHL, with their average age coming in at just over 26, and with youth comes potential.
The potential that the roster has yet to show makes it hard to evaluate where a lot of the players’ ceilings are, because they need more time to develop. Luckily, they still have players whose potential has been hit and that is reflected by Stanley Cup rings. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has three, Kane and Toews have three, Tyler Johnson has two, and Brett Connolly has one. When you think of NHL awards, a team with those kinds of names have a good possibility of winning something each year.
Going into next season, I want to show that potential by listing some awards that could be in the running for the roster.
Seth Jones- Norris Trophy
The Norris Trophy is awarded annually to the best defenseman in the NHL. When you look at what the Blackhawks’ defensive core will look next season, the names include Connor Murphy, Jake McCabe, Calvin de Haan, Riley Stillman, Caleb Jones, Wyatt Kalynuk, and Ian Mitchell. While this is a nice defense group, these aren’t names that stick out to you as imminent Norris Trophy winners. Maybe in the future, but definitely not at the moment. That is where Seth Jones comes into play. You don’t trade two first-round picks and a high end prospect in Adam Boqvist to the Columbus Blue Jackets, or give out an eight-year, $76 million deal to a player, and not expect them to be in the Norris conversation every year.
Although Jones had a down year with the Jackets last season, and hasn’t been in consideration the past two years, he is no stranger to the nod. Back in 2018, he finished fourth in the Norris Trophy vote. P.K. Subban (third), Drew Doughty (second), and Victor Hedman (first) were ahead of him. He was 23-years-old at the time, and had the second-highest goals for defenseman in the league (16) and was fourth in the league for game-winning goals (4), while being a plus-10. His stats fell off last season with five goals, 23 assists, 28 points, and was a minus-18, although he was on a struggling Columbus team that finished in 28th place in the league. Maybe a new environment is just what he needs to get back into the Norris conversation. Chicago has high hopes for him and what he can do for the future.
Former Blackhawk Duncan Keith was 26-years-old when he won his first Norris Trophy in 2010. Jones is currently 26-years-old. That has to be a good sign, right?
Alex DeBrincat- Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy
The Rocket Richard Trophy is annually awarded to the leading goal scorer in the NHL. When you think of players on the Blackhawks that could possibly win this award, I’m sure one of the first names that came to mind was Alex DeBrincat. When you look at the way he plays, he is a pure goal-scorer. There aren’t many players on the team besides Kane, Toews, and Dominik Kubalik, that can light the lamp like he does. It comes so effortlessly to him and it’s so fun to watch. Especially last season. Not only did he lead the Blackhawks in goals, he was third in the league in goals (32) in 52 games. He was behind Auston Matthews (41) and Connor McDavid (33). Pretty good company. DeBrincat’s career-high in goals came from 2018-19, where he had 41 goals. If they were in a regular 82-game format, I believe he would have surpassed that.
Moreover, it’s disappointing because he ended last season with a six-game goal streak. Who knows what could have been. He was on a roll, so hopefully that will carry into next season.
It’s not just scoring in the regular sense that sets him apart from the others. He is also a force to be reckoned with on the power-play. Last season, he had nine power-play goals. His career-high in power-play goals is 13. He’s going into his fifth season, and I’m excited to see him get back at it. He showed last season that he hasn’t hit his peak yet. He can only get better. He finished third in the Rocket Richard race last season. Something tells me that we will be seeing a lot more instances of McDavid, Matthews, and DeBrincat being finalists for this award. DeBrincat proved he can hang with the best of them. What’s to say he can’t win the Rocket Richard Trophy? I think he has a good chance of winning it every year. Next year is no exception.
Patrick Kane- Lady Byng Trophy
I wanted to put a different spin on Kane when it comes to awards. He is consistently in the running for many different awards: the Hart Trophy (MVP of the NHL), the Ted Lindsay Award (most outstanding player as voted by the National Hockey League Player Association), the Art Ross Trophy (NHL leader in points), and even the Conn Smythe Trophy (MVP of the playoffs) whenever the Blackhawks are in the playoffs. Honestly, they should make a Kane award at this point, because he has won it all. However, there is another award that I think he should be in serious consideration for next season: the Lady Byng Trophy. It is annually awarded to the NHL player with the “best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”
A good portion of what the award comes down to is penalty minutes. Jaccob Slavin, who is the current Lady Byng winner from the Carolina Hurricanes, had only one penalty in 52 games. That is similar to Kane, as he rarely takes penalties. The lowest amount of penalty in minutes (PIM) he ever received was eight back in 2012-13. Last season, he had 14 PIMS in 56 games. He doesn’t get into hockey fights or play “dirty.” He doesn’t need to. His hockey-playing ability is second to none, but it’s also what he has become as a player. His teammates always rave about the kind of teammate he is and what a natural leader he has become. Take what forward Ryan Carpenter had to say about him back in March:
It’s amazing the career he’s already had. It’s nice to have that kind of veteran leadership, too. He just goes out there and leads by example. He comes to play every night.– Ryan Carpenter, (From ‘Fresh off No. 400, Blackhawks star Patrick Kane wants more’ – ABC News – 03/01/21)
Kane checks off all of the boxes to win the Lady Byng Trophy. He was a finalist for the award back in 2013, but has never won it. He finished 18th in the voting for the award for last season. He keeps hanging around in the conversation, which makes me think he will win at some point. Who knows, next year may be the year for him to add yet another achievement to his resume.
The Blackhawks have a lot of new faces that could bring home some hardware in the future, which is exciting, but, it’s also nice to know that there are some names on the team that can be in the running for some hardware today. The Hawks have not won an NHL award since 2016 when Kane took home the Ted Lindsay Award, the Hart Trophy, and the Art Ross Trophy, while former Blackhawk Artemi Panarin won the Calder Trophy (best rookie). Maybe this upcoming season will be the year they break out of the losing funk on all fronts.
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