As the pre-season comes to an end, the Chicago Blakhawks are in a good position. Opening night of the season is expected to be a big event since they have a championship banner to raise to the rafters, the second in four years. Which may be the reason why Sports Illustrated is predicting them to be repeat champs even before the season starts.
That is quite a bold prediction to make. It’s true the Blackhawks didn’t have to slash and hack their roster apart, as they did after the 2010 season, due to the salary cap, however claiming a Cup champion before the pre-season games are over is a bit outrageous.
Other teams around the league have gotten stronger. St. Louis fans believe this will be a Blue year because their team is energetic, hungry, and now more experienced. The fans in Pittsburgh are expecting to sweep the East and end up playing for the Cup riding the talents of Sid the Kid. The Boston Briuns will be looking to avenge last season’s heartbreak and there are whispers coming from Detroit that the new realignment will push the Red Wings into a better position to make the post-season. This season is, by no means, predictable.
There is no question that Chicago has the talent and experience to make another Cup run. But a repeat hasn’t happened in the NHL for years, mostly thanks to the salary cap and the fact that players move from team to team on a whim in the hopes of getting their name engraved (Jerome Iginla). Current players moving around, young stars rising up seemingly from nowhere, and the sport always being a big-business will always make the game un-foreseeable.
Although, Chicago does have some potential for the future. Just recently the Blackhawks sent Brandon Pirri down to the Rockford Ice Hogs of the American Hockey League. While Pirri spent some time in Chicago during the pre-season, the evidence is showing that he deserves a permanent spot. While in the AHL, Pirri lead the team with 73 points last season and was the first IceHogs player to lead the AHL in points. He is also Rockford’s all-time points leader with 174 in his first three seasons. If he keeps up this pace, he’ll outgrow the AHL in no time and be ready for an NHL roster slot.
As for right now, Chicago still has all the pieces for a winning season. But the question of whether or not Chicago can be repeat champs is still very much in question. At the end of last season some people were throwing the word “dynasty” around whenever they mentioned the Blackhawks. Even coach Joel Quenneville said that it was too early or too rash to start that conversation. The same concept applies to the word “repeat.” It’s too early to make season-ending predictions especially in this NHL. New rules have come into play, teams have changed divisions, the entire league is coming off a lockout, outdoor games are becoming a regular part of the season, and fans all over are paying more attention to hockey.
In short, anything can happen.