To get some deeper insight on the Hawks heading into Wednesday night’s game, we caught up with Keith Schultz, one of the site experts at our fellow FanSided site, Blackhawk Up. Here’s what we learned:
AA: First of all, let’s talk about the Blackhawks’ offense. We’ve seen the Hawks smother the Blues for years with a quick, skillful group of forwards, but quite a few of these guys–Ryan Hartman, Vinnie Hinostroza, Tyler Motte, and Nick Schmaltz–are very inexperienced players who we didn’t see in the first-round playoff series last year. How do you think the new additions to the lineup can help affect the game, and can they sufficiently replace Andrew Shaw, Teuvo Teravainen, etc.?
KS: Hartman has been called a poor man’s Shaw with more offensive skills since the Hawks drafted him, so look for him to be the grinder. Motte had the best camp/preseason and was very aggressive and noticeable. Schmaltz may have the most talent, but if it wasn’t for the Teuvo trade, he could still be a year away, so it will be interesting to see what he provides this season.
AA: The defensive group that will start the season is also much different than the one we saw during last year’s playoffs. It seems as if the Blackhawks’ core of d-men has been a revolving door since last summer; do you think the guys in place now can finally bring some stability on the blueline?
KS: Getting Brian Campbell on the cheap should solidify the defense, with Joel Quenneville having a “big four” again.
AA: Of all the rookies on this team, is there one in particular that you’re expecting to making a more significant impact than all the others?
KS: The rookie to watch is Michal Kempny, who should make the third defensive pairing much better. Kempny played a lot of minutes in the World Cup and looked liked a polished defenseman. He’s the rookie to watch this year.
AA: In some ways, 2015-16 was a step back for Jonathan Toews. Are you at all concerned that his best days are behind him at the age of 28, or can we reasonably expect him to bounce back this season?
KS: Most of Toews’ issues last year were due to a revolving door of wingers alongside him and Marian Hosea. By the time the Hawks traded for Andrew Ladd, it was too late to catch up offensively. You can also say he played a ton of hockey and needed a long summer of rest. I fully expect a bounce back year from the captain.