Hawks fans have no reason to fear this season

Originally published in the September 24, 2010 issue

Why am I excited that football is underway? Because it’s just one step closer to the start of hockey season. But most importantly, my favorite team, the Chicago Blackhawks, will start the season as the defending Stanley Cup champs.

On the night of Oct. 9, when the Hawks prepare to take on their arch rivals, the Detroit Red Wings, the Blackhawks’ first Stanley Cup championship banner in 61 years will be raised to the rafters of the Madhouse on Madison. But believe me, the fun won’t stop there.

This is going to be a delightful season for more reasons than just reliving the magical moments of last season.

A lot of people saw the firesale the Hawks needed to have just to field a team this season and believe the team lost a lot of talent.

But instead, the salary cap issues have opened the doors for the young talent that has been brewing for the last couple of years down on the farm at Rockford.

Bryan Bickell, Jordan Hendry, Jack Skille and Jake Dowell are all expected to fill in for the departed Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and Brent Sopel.  And if they can perform anything like they did in the AHL, the Hawks should be just fine.

Last weekend, I spent my Saturday morning watching the Blackhawks open up camp in the United Center.  They started it off with a inter-team scrimmaging to show the fans what they have to offer this season.

With a lot of new faces expected to be on the ice, it was the first look at how the young guys are coming along and how new goalie Marty Turco is fitting in.

I saw a lot of very good things that day.  First off, backup goalie, Corey Crawford, was perfect against the red team, which had two members of the first line,

Troy Brouwer and captain Jonathan Toews.  He played for 25 minutes and looked fantastic, which I hope leads to him getting a majority of the minutes down the road.

One of the young guns, Bickell, set himself apart from his fresh faced teammates with a nice five hole goal and was generally in the right spot at the right time.  But it probably helps that he played with one of the best centers in the game, Toews.

Speaking of the captain, he was by far the best player on the ice.  He simply would not lose. 

Watching him take over even just a scrimmage invokes the same kind of thoughts a young Derek Jeter did in the 90s.  He scored three goals in two games, including one on a penalty shot.  He also had a beautiful goal in the practice shootout.

But not all looked great for the Hawks. New addition in net, Marty Turco let in four goals in his 50 minutes of play.

Granted, he was playing against 88-point man Patrick Kane and 66-point man Patrick Sharp. But down the road, he’s going to have to play net against the Detroit Red Wings, who have a little offensive fire power themselves, and four goals in a little under a game is probably not going to cut it.

The person who looked the most lost was Marian Hossa.  He had some of the best looks of the morning but was kept scoreless.  He had an opportunity to tie the game with under ten seconds left in the second game on a breakaway.  But he rifled a shot right into the pads of AHL goalie Kent Simpson.

Even on just the shooting drills, Hossa did not look like someone who was worth $6 million.

After this practice, I realized even though management had to shed lots of payroll and the Hawks lost both goalies and 30 percent of their offense, this team is still one of the best in hockey. 

There is no reason for fans to jump all over them.  I know the loss of Dustin Byfuglien and his 12 amazing goals in the postseason stings, but his production will be replaced fairly easily. 

The Hawks have brought in big bodies like John Scott and Bickell to bang and get in front of the net.  Don’t give up on this team.