NHL Team Preview: Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks finished in 6th place in the revamped Central division last season but have much higher hopes for the 2021/22 campaign. Right off the bat, the ‘Hawks don’t have to be in a division with the defending champs Tampa Bay Lightning like they were last season and the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers were no treats either.
Of course, the Western Conference Central is back to the alignment where Chicago is in a division with last year’s President’s Trophy winning Colorado Avalanche, who are the Stanley Cup favorites heading into 2021/22. That being said the rest of the division seems wide open and Chicago has just as good of a chance as anybody to be a postseason contender.
Chicago has 2-½ big additions that should help them improve on their 24-25-7 record from a season ago. The big one is Marc-Andre Fleury, who was acquired in a trade from Vegas even after he won the Vezina Trophy last season with a 26-10 record and a 1.98 ERA.
Seth Jones was also acquired in a draft-day trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Jones is the former #4 overall draft pick in 2013, was recently named to the 2022 U.S. Olympic team, signed an 8-year $76 million contract five days after being traded, and will also be playing with his younger brother Caleb who was acquired by Chicago in July.
The other major addition making Chicago an online sports betting dark horse in 2021 is somebody who has been around since 2007 in Jonathan Toews. The captain missed all of last year while battling immune system ailments but had been having a resurgence with 60+ points in 18/19 and 19/20.
Chicago lost fan favorite and two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith who requested a trade to a Western Canadian team to be closer to his son, who he spent half a year apart from during the COVID protocols. The 38-year-old is on the back half of his career though, and the Blackhawks think they have a solid new face on the backline in the 27-year old Seth Jones.
Other than the Keith loss, former #8 overall pick Adam Boqvist going to Columbus and Nikita Zadorov going to Calgary are the only other major losses for the Blackhawks.
Even with Fleury coming in, goaltenders Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia cleared waivers and will be playing at Chicago’s minor league affiliate Rockford to start the year. That’s 79 combined career starts sitting in the minors which can only be considered a good thing.
Toews is back but the main man for the Blackhawks is still Patrick Kane as he enters his 15th NHL season. Kane had 66 points in 56 games last season, doing most of his damage with 51 helpers compared to just 15 goals. Kane finished 7th in scoring in the NHL last year.
Alex Debrincat is a scoring star too as he has 50+ points in three of his four seasons in the league. Debrincat had 32 goals last season and his 56 points were top 20 in the NHL. Not bad for a 23-year-old.
Toews being back should help everybody on the Blackhawks roster, including Dylan Strome who had 89 total points while playing with the captain in 18/19 and 19/20. Kirby Dach is a former #3 overall pick who is entering his third season, but first with a full preseason. Dach is also still only 20-years-old so the upside is there.
Chicago has a lot of upside on the betting odds for 2021/22 because they’ve solidified their goaltending situation, have their captain back, have gotten younger on defense, and still have Kane and Debrincat.
The Blackhawks have a great return on investment too, maybe not for the Stanley Cup at 40/1 but possibly as the Western Conference winner (20/1) or at least as the Central winner (18/1), Chicago plays in a division with Colorado though, so maybe the point total of 90.5 is the way to bet this ‘Hawks team.
* All odds provided by Action247 Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
**All views expressed are my own. My picks are my own and are not a guarantee, bet at your own risk.