The 2017-18 season was an unfortunate one for the Chicago Blackhawks and their extremely loyal fanbase. Fortunately, the long offseason was eased by the inaugural season of the Chicago Pro Hockey League (CPHL). Their mission is clear on the CPHL website — “The CPHL offers both fans and players an enjoyable way to extend the hockey season into the summer. Players benefit from additional training and preparation for their regular seasons, while fans revel in watching high-level play without the high prices and parking hassles that often accompany pro hockey.”
From developing players to high-profile NHL stars like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, fans got to see them all for five dollars a week for a six-week regular season. Although these games cannot compare to the level of an NHL regular season game, a few takeaways can definitely be noted.
1. Kane and DeBrincat’s Chemistry
Alex DeBrincat was one of the most outstanding forwards in the CPHL with a total of nine goals and five assists in six games. He is second overall in the league. Patrick Kane only played two games yet tallied five goals and one assist. They were the top two players on the Hawks’ roster last season, so it’s no surprise that they were successful in the CPHL. Their chemistry during the 2017-18 season was evident, and it also showed in the final two weeks of the CPHL regular season.
Video of Alex DeBrincat sauce pass to Patrick Kane: https://t.co/Krm1hHdcOX
— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) August 16, 2018
It appears their chemistry is stronger than ever and head coach Joel Quenneville should take note. Kane and DeBrincat on the same line could be a huge advantage when it comes to the Hawks making a comeback for the 2018-19 season.
2. Possible Toews Resurgance
Jonathan Toews had the worst season of his career scoring-wise in the 2017-18 season where he tallied 20 goals and 23 assists in 74 games. Despite having an impressive 57.95% faceoff percentage (which exceeded his career average 56.9%), he failed to make the league’s 2018 Top 20 Centers list.
Although CPHL games are not at the same level as NHL games, I was lucky to see Toews play in one CPHL game and his improvement since March is obvious. It wasn’t like watching him back in 2010, but he’s obviously trying to get back at it. He only played three games and scored one goal (I was fortunate and got to witness it), but that average exceeds his regular season average by far.
Toews turned 30 (in the sports world, known as the wrong side of 30) during the offseason and avidly watched the playoffs. He described how motivating it was for him to get back on track to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times, “It’s not only motivating, just to see how fast that play was, and to have missed out on playoff hockey this year and to have the drive to get back there,” Toews said. “But knowing that if you do sneak into the playoffs, it doesn’t really matter — you can go a long way. Us thinking, ‘Oh, we’re going to go back and win a Stanley Cup this year,’ it sounds like a long shot. But as always, our No. 1 goal is just getting back to the playoffs and being ready to hit our stride the right way when we get there.”
If he plays with similar energy as he played in the CPHL throughout the 2018-19 season, he is sure to make a great comeback.
3. Was the Hinostroza Trade a Mistake?
It’s safe to say that not a single Hawks fan was pleased when Chicago native Vinnie Hinostroza was traded to the Arizona Coyotes in July. The fact that he brought hope to the future for the Hawks only made things worse. Fans were quick to call it a mistake. If he plays with the Coyotes like how he played in the CPHL, it definitely was. He scored four goals and seven assists in six games, making him the sixth-best player in the league.
Only time will tell if the right decision was made, but if he continues on his current path, the Hawks made a giant mistake.
4. Anthony Louis is one to Watch
It’s no secret that Anthony Louis is one of the top players on the Hawks’ AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs. Last season, he tallied 14 goals and 30 assists in 70 games. He played six games in the CPHL with six goals and six assists, making him the fifth-best player overall. Although his future is unclear, if he continues on his current path, he could be seen in a Hawks sweater soon. The Hawks need all the help they can get, and add another strong young forward to the roster could benefit them greatly.
Although takeaways from the six-week CPHL season cannot fully predict the Hawks’ fate for the 2018-19 season, it gives Hawks fans plenty to think about before the puck drops in October. There are positives and negatives, but plenty of reason to think the Hawks can be successful in the 2018-19 season.