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31 in 31

Three questions facing Chicago Blackhawks

Impact of roster overhaul, replacing Hossa among concerns

by Brian Hedger / NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three questions facing the Chicago Blackhawks.

 

[BLACKHAWKS 31 IN 31: Season previewTop prospects | Fantasy breakdown |Behind the numbers]

 

The Chicago Blackhawks have been eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past two seasons after winning the Stanley Cup in 2015. As a result, there were numerous personnel and roster changes this offseason. 

There will be new faces in training camp, as well as on the coaching staff, who could have an impact on the success of the Blackhawks this season.

 

1. Did they make too many changes? 

Chicago acquired 10 players through free agency and trades, including former Blackhawks forwards Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp, and traded defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and left wing Artemi Panarin. Veteran right wing Marian Hossa will also miss the season with a skin disorder.

General manager Stan Bowman fired assistant coach Mike Kitchen, and Ted Dent, the coach at Rockford, Chicago's American Hockey League affiliate. Ulf Samuelsson and Don Granato were named assistants, and 32-year-old Jeremy Colliton was named Rockford coach.

Video: 31 in 31: Chicago Blackhawks 2017-18 season preview

 

2. Will Jonathan Toews return to peak form? 

Toews, 29, has failed to reach 60 points in each of the past two seasons and has one goal in his past two playoff appearances. However, he could receive a boost if he's reunited on a line with Saad, his teammate from 2011-15, and forward Richard Panik, who he played with last season. Chicago is banking on Saad, Toews and Panik forming a potent top line, led by Toews.

Video: CHI@NSH, Gm4: Toews picks the corner for PPG

 

3. How do they offset the loss of Marian Hossa? 

Hossa, 38, played a key role last season. After playing on a line with Toews, he shifted into more of a checking role on the third line. Hossa had 45 points (26 goals, 19 assists) in 73 games, including his 500th NHL goal, but didn't have a point in four playoff games. 

His puck possession has dipped the past three seasons, but Hossa is a strong skater who plays a two-way game and sets a good example for young players. That will be tough to replace, even though it would provide Chicago relief against the NHL salary cap of $75 million if he is placed on long-term injured reserve; Hossa's contract carries a salary-cap charge of $5.275 million, according to CapFriendly.com.

Video: Marian Hossa will miss entire 2017-18 season

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