By Adnan Basic
Chicago’s most successful sports franchise of this decade is back in business. The Chicago Blackhawks start their 2017/18 campaign on Thursday, facing the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins at the United Center. As usual, this offseason was a busy one for the Blackhawks, with many players leaving and joining the team.
The first move made by the front office was to trade away Marcus Kruger to Los Angeles. The Swede was a solid role player that contributed to previous Stanley Cup championships, but his salary became too much of an issue, so he was dumped to keep Chicago under the cap.
The first signing came soon after, as the Blackhawks brought back Patrick Sharp. Sharp was a fan favorite during his last spell in Chicago, and was a crucial part turning the Hawks into a dynasty. He is older now, so less is expected, but fans hope he can rekindle some of the old magic. “He was a my favorite player back in the day,” said freshman child education major Sara Berrum. “I am very excited to see him back, and I hope he still has it in him.”
Those moves were relatively quiet early on in the offseason, but Chicago soon became the talk of the league after a blockbuster trade. The Blackhawks traded Artemi Panarin to the Columbus Blue Jackets, getting Brandon Saad in return. It may not have been a move most fans liked, but it was a necessary one. Panarin was becoming one of the brightest stars in the league, and Chicago could no longer afford to keep him. A move was needed to be made before it was too late, and the Hawks still got a quality player in return. Saad is younger, and knows the franchise well, as he was a key part in previous Stanley Cup victories. He is not as good of a scorer, but defends a lot better. Freshman journalism major Mohammad Samra knows how risky of a move this was. “Panarin was a big part of last seasons team, and scored many important goals. However, Saad was as good back in his day, and should help his teammates play better on the ice,” Samra said.
The offseason was not yet over. Chicago was forced to lose two more defenseman, with Trevor van Riemsdyk and Niklas Hjalmarsson leaving the Blackhawks. Backup goalkeeper Scott Darling also left Chicago to take the starting job in Carolina.
The Blackhawks aren’t favorites to win the Stanley Cup this season. The team is going through a minor rebuild, with many changes to the roster and front office. However, a trip to the playoffs is still expected. Who knows, with the way the NHL is, do not be shocked if Chicago goes on a late run and wins the organization’s fourth Stanley Cup in eight years.
The Blackhawks were victorious in their home opening over defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 10-1. In his return to the United Center, Brandon Saad scored a hat-trick with two goals in the first period and another tally near the end of the third off a feed from captain Jonathan Toews. Patrick Sharp also scored in the first game which counted as his 600th NHL point.