There were 14 new faces in the Blackhawks' season opener last October. A total of 41 different players wore the Indianhead during the course of the season and 27 of them were new to Chicago.
When the Hawks wound up the campaign on April 18 at the United Center with a 3-2 win over St. Louis, only 11 of the players in uniform appeared in that October opener against Anaheim. Since then, General Manager Dale Tallon has added more speed and needed experience to the team. With 54 players initially invited to training camp, you are going to need a program to catch up with the changes.
Last season, several players became sidelined with injuries. Eric Daze played in only one game because of a back injury sustained in the opener. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin missed a third of the schedule and captain Adrian Aucoin was sidelined for more than half of the season.
12 of the players in the opener finished the season with the Hawks. Of the 11 players that suited up in the April finale, 7 have either been traded, lost via free agency, or decided to play in Europe. The Hawks lineup featured 15 rookies in 2005-06 including 2 goalies.
I think besides the many new faces that will be trying to crack the lineup this season, coach Trent Yawney hopes that last year's key rookies, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Rene Bourque, will continue to improve over their impressive campaigns. Although not really rookies, strides are expected from Radim Vrbata, Patrick Sharp, Jim Vandermeer and Michael Holmqvist.
Every training camp usually provides some extra suprises. With injuries to backup goalie Patrick Lalime and rookie Cam Barker, competition will heat up. Brandon Bochenski, Lasse Kukkonen and Jonas Nordqvist will be making strong bids along with last season's high scoring juniors Dave Bolland, Michael Blunden and Troy Brouwer, among others.
With more experience on defense and in the net, Yawney expects the many new additions led by Martin Havlat to pick up the goal scoring. So make sure when you come out to the United Center to see the new 2006-07 Blackhawks, to pick up a program to keep up with the changes!
Harvey Wittenberg served as the Blackhawks' Public Address Announcer from 1961 to 2001 and is currently a contributor to chicagoblackhawks.com. Buy Harvey's book -- Tales from the Chicago Blackhawks.