For the past few years, Dallas has usually not enjoyed games against Chicago. After amassing what seems like forty-six first overall picks in the last ten years, the formerly woebegone Blackhawks quickly turned into the powerhouse of powerhouses, displaying their dominance most clearly in the lockout-shortened season of 2013. That year they they went 36-7-5 in only 48 games. That's equivalent to winning 61 games in a full season.
Speaking of Chicago, this happened:
It bears remembering that the Hawks outshot Dallas I think 50-18 that game and still lost. It puts a certain type of grin on my face when I type those numbers.
Anyway, the Blackhawks. They've been good, they just fell short of their third cup in the last five years, and they will be good this year. How good will Dallas's most formidable conference foe be this year, though? TSN looked at the team yesterday as part of their season preview, and here are a couple of quotes I found interesting from the story:
Richards, for the first time in his career, transitions into the role of a complementary piece. Gone are the pressures of a nine-year, $58.5 million contract to live up to, the 34-year-old comes to the Blackhawks at a modest $2 million salary and could slot in to either second or third-line duty, behind Toews and Andrew Shaw. No matter the role, Richards should have the chance to line with up some talented linemates, in the likes of Hossa, Bryan Bickell and Brandon Saad.
Richards should still be productive if he's playing with Kane, which is equally true about the four pine cones sitting on my porch right now. Really, I'm more interested to see if Richards's line slows down to accommodate him and his skills. Will they be able to drive possession with force? I don't know, stop asking me that all the time. But I do think I would be a bit uneasy about Richards's role if I were a Chicago fan. Kane will be Kane whoever he plays with, but #19/91 has been declining for a few years now, and it's questionable whether he will be able to play in their number one power play unit this year. Given his salary, Chicago certainly shouldn't feel compelled to give him minutes his play doesn't warrant, but tell that to almost every coach in the league that continues to choose the veterans because they are veterans. Of course, it also bears mentioning that Brad Richards is still a pretty productive player, all things considered, and the fact is Chicago could stash him on the fourth line if they wanted to and not really worry about it. When your worst problem is your third defense pairing and where to put a $2 million Brad Richards, you are probably a terrifying team. You are probably the Chicago Blackhawks.
Besides, that's not the new center I'm really worried about when it comes to playing Chicago this year. Again, from TSN:
Teuvo Teravainen has the rare gift of 360 degree vision. Seeing all possibilities is one thing when it comes to play making but he has the ability to select the play that is most threatening to an opponent. At the same time he has a precision that makes it very difficult to deter him.
With he and Jonathan Toews, the Hawks have the potential for a lethal one-two center combination that will keep them contending for Stanley Cups for years.
I think there's a chance that Teravainen is seeing more minutes at center than Richards by the all-star break, although he shouldn't be seeing #2 minutes ahead of Shaw. If Richards actually manages to hold down the #3 center role ahead of Teuvo, though, I will be scared, because it means Richards has found a way to reanimate his long-fading elite skill. The smart money, inexperience aside, seems to be on the kid to continue doing things like this.
In other words, Dallas will have to keep raising the bar on their side before they can count on owning the pivot in the Central Division. Chicago has cap issues looming, but they're no fools. You'll continue to see ridiculous talent on that team this year just like we have in the past. This is what an arms race feels like.
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Sunday is a big day: scrimmage time! Here are some less important things.
Ales Hemsky is excited to be a Dallas Star, and other Day Two camp notes from Mark Stepneski. [Stars]
The Rynnas/Lindback showdown continues to gather steam. [Pro Hockey Talk]
See some photos from Day Two of training camp, including Antoine Roussel making "a funny face." Well, I can't market it any better than that! [DMN]
Some further reflections on the suddenly distant Traverse City Prospect Tournament may be found here. [In the Crease Dallas]
Joe Sakic is now officially the Avs' GM. What does Greg Sherman have to be proud of now that he's been demoted? [Puck Daddy]
Joe Thornton basically says, "Nuts to you, Doug Wilson. The future is now." [Pro Hockey Talk]
The Leafs are trying out a new defensive strategy that will attempt to bring their shots-allowed total down below 80 per game. [THN]
Officials aren't stressed about their CBA negotiations, as they're planning to be at preseason games even without an agreement. These guys are very thoughtful. [Pro Hockey Talk]
Here are ten minutes of Razor and Daley that you will be glad you watched. Daley's been to like a million training camps by now, FYI. Watch this and smile along with Trevor and Daryl: