The Chicago Blackhawks’ hopes for a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs are pretty bleak with just a handful of games left to play. That is not going to stop our Blackhawks writing crew of Greg Boysen, Brooke LoFurno, Shaun Filippelli, and Nimrit Singh to get together to discuss the week that was and what might lie ahead for the team.
Who Should Join the Lineup?
Now that the Blackhawks’ playoff hopes are all but dashed, which player from the Rockford IceHogs do you want to see get a game or two at the NHL level before the season is over?
I would like to see Collin Delia and Evan Barratt. Delia, because the goaltending has been subpar, so I would like him to get another look. Barratt, because the center position has been a mess all year. He was once considered to be one of the most exciting prospects, so I think he should get a look.
A handful of players have been warriors for the IceHogs during this strange and trying season. I’d like to see all of them get a game before the end of the season. Guys like Mackenzie Entwistle, Evan Barratt, and Tim Soderlund deserve a small taste. The current IceHog that I feel will be the best NHL player is Josiah Slavin, but he is on an AHL tryout contract right now, so he can’t come up until next season when his NHL deal kicks in.
With that being said, I want to see Andrei Altybarmakian play an NHL game this season. I think he is going to be a sneaky effective NHL player. He’s an excellent skater, and he plays a fearless style of hockey. He will mix it up and try to get under his opponents’ skin while having the skill to put the puck into the back of the net.
I would like to see Isaak Phillips get a shot at the next level for a game or two just because he has played a good number of games in the AHL with 21 games, and I would like to see how he holds his own with the Blackhawks. In the AHL, he`s been producing good numbers with the playing time he has had with two goals, five assists in 21 games. In terms of his size, I think he can definitely make an impact right away on the defensive end, standing at 6-foot-3 and 194 pounds.
I’d like to see Barratt get into some NHL action before the season’s over. Clearly, it seems there is little to lose at this point for the Blackhawks, and the 21-year-old would fit right in with the rest of the youth looking to set a foundation to build further upon as of 2021-22.
12 points in 24 games is a respectable pace for his first year in the AHL, so why not reward those efforts? Plus, he’s a center. Chicago needs to curb its losing ways at the dot before it seeps beyond its face-off failures of 2020-21. With no solution yet in place, they might as well keep letting others see if they can fare any better.
Finding the Missing Link(s)
While the last two months haven’t been great, there have still been quite a few positives to take away from this season. They have identified numerous young players who look like they will be here to stay, like Brandon Hagel, Philipp Kurashev, Kevin Lankinen, and Pius Suter. Heading into the offseason, what do you think should be Stan Bowman’s top priority this summer to have this team take the next step?
I think Bowman’s priority should be the center position. There are too many unknowns with Jonathan Toews’ status, Dylan Strome, and all the center prospects they have down in Rockford. As well as the fact, that the center results have been less than ideal this season.
There are still a lot of question marks and holes to fill on this roster. We have been able to identify some nice pieces going forward, but there is still a lot of work to be done to get back to that level we saw between 2010-2015. Bowman’s top priority should be trying to add a true number one defenseman.
While this team might have a future top defender, it doesn’t have it now. Duncan Keith is no longer the stud, shutdown defender he once was. Connor Murphy is the team’s best defender, but he is not at that elite level the Blackhawks need. This is no easy because every team wants to add this type of player. They don’t exactly grow on trees and they aren’t cheap.
Bowman`s top priority this offseason has to be to continue to add to their young core, and I think these young players would also benefit from having a veteran player alongside them. Obviously, with the number of Blackhawks players on the injured list as of right now, it is tough to say whether or not they will back next season but when you see Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw retire, two valuable vets the Blackhawks had for a while, I think Bowman needs sign vets that will not only lead this team to the playoffs next season but also produce for this team.
It seemed that a constant storyline for the 2020-21 Blackhawks was how crowded their blue line was. Fortunately, several prospects were given a chance to prove their worth and foreshadow the prosperous careers they have ahead of them. However, the opportunity didn’t seem as plentiful as it could have.
In my opinion, there was still too much of a veteran presence that ballooned their backend, which is why I was never a fan of acquiring a player like Nikita Zadorov in the first place. Bowman has to clear the crowd and be more concise with who he sees as managing the bulk of the workload on defense, so those in that role can further develop more consistently.
Who’s Your Playoff Team?
Unless there is some sort of miracle, we are not going to see the Blackhawks in the postseason. So, what team’s bandwagon are you jumping for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and why?
I’m jumping on the Carolina Hurricanes bandwagon. I think they’re a fun and fast team. And I am also rooting for beloved, former Blackhawks’ forward Teuvo Teräväinen! So there is some nostalgia involved.
Even when the Blackhawks are in the postseason, I always hitched my wagon to an Eastern Conference team. Playoff games are always more fun to watch when you a rooting interest in them. I have become a big fan of the Hurricanes of the past couple of seasons.
They remind me a lot of the Blackhawks when they were right on the cusp of becoming elite. They will have a tough time coming out of the Central Division playoffs, but they have just as good of a chance as anyone else if they get to the final four. Let’s go, Jerks!
I am jumping on the Toronto Maple Leafs bandwagon because the team they have right now is the best I have ever seen in my lifetime, and on paper, at least they have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. Especially at the trade deadline this season, you saw them going all in this season trading for Columbus Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno, which shows you how committed this team is to be winning the cup this season. As a sports fan, I love to see that.
Fortunately for me, I won’t have to do any bandwagon jumping to kick off this year’s playoffs. Since I’m both a Blackhawks and Maple Leafs supporter, I’m fortunate to often have at least one break into the postseason. And when both make it, it’s all the better for a fan like me.
With the Blackhawks likely on the outside looking in this time around, the Maple Leafs have already clinched their spot. That goes hand-in-hand with my pre-season prediction that Toronto would win their first Cup since 1967. I always prefer to have both to cheer for from Game 1 and onward, for as long as they can possibly last, but I’ll take solace in the fact that I still get to see if my call for who would hoist the 2021 Stanley Cup will stand.
Be sure to keep an eye out for our new episode of Blackhawks Banter, dropping on Tuesday morning, where we’ll delve further into all the subjects above plus review all the news while looking ahead. In the meantime, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and like us on Facebook. And for your viewing pleasure, here is our most recent Blackhawks Banter episode.