Blackhawks looking to crack playoffs in 2019-20 season



Blackhawks players raising Stanley Cup Banner

John Kelliher, Staff Reporter

After two years of not making the playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks have put together a roster that can push them back to contention. Although much better than the 2017-2018 season, the Hawks left me feeling that there was more they could have done last year. 

This failure to win was mostly due to the team’s atrocious defense throughout the year. They finished with the second-most goals allowed in the league, right behind the last-place Ottawa Senators. Despite that, they had no problem scoring goals, with multiple players setting new career records, including Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, and Dylan Strome.

To fix the defensive issue, they have added two players to the back-end, one being Olli Maatta from the Pittsburg Penguins. Maatta did not play a full season last year but is capable of putting up second pairing scoring if healthy. This puts him in a position that was filled by Connor Murphy, who only played 52 games last year, and consistently produces points at a lower rate than Maatta. 

Calvin De Haan was the other defenseman added in the offseason. De Haan will slot perfectly into the third line role left for him, a spot that didn’t see a single person stay for more than half the season. 

Also to help with keeping the puck out of the net, the Blackhawks picked up Robin Lehner. Lehner had the third-best Goals Against Average (GAA) in the NHL (the National Hockey League), and he had the third-best save percentage, so he would really help the new defense in making sure the puck stays out of the net. 

The Hawks also added to the forward core. Heading the new players on the team is Alex Nylander, a rightwinger acquired from the Buffalo Sabres. He has little NHL experience but is a former 8th overall pick, a high round draft pick with a similar situation to Dylan Strome, who had a surprisingly successful year last year. 

Kirby Dach will also be joining the team after he recovers from his current concussion. Dach was drafted 3rd overall in the 2019 draft, and he was dominating in training camp, and I am very excited to see what he can do against professional competition. With the first line coming off of their best season and the new youth helping, the Hawks will be able to outscore most any other team in the league. 

The Hawks also had a coaching change early in the season last year. Joel Quenneville, the long-time coach of the Blackhawks was fired after a bad 2017-2018 season and a mediocre start to 2018-2019. Replacing him was Jeromy Coliton, who coached the Hawks AHL affiliate Rockford IceHogs. 

Coliton’s record for the second half of the season was seven games above .500 and included two stretches of five or more wins in a row. The team is poised to continue this success under his tutelage throughout the full year. 

With the revived defense in Olli Maatta and Calvin De Haan, new top goalie in Robin Lehner, the core coming off their best years, and added youth to bolster the forward depth, the Hawks are looking promising to get back to the playoffs and could possibly even make a deep run.