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And So It Begins – The CI’s Season Preview: The Final Questions

Well, we’re about to embark on it all. Before we head into the dress rehearsal tomorrow (please Brandon Pirri, have like four assists), and before we roll out our Central Division special on Monday and then it all kicks off on Tuesday, there’s a few questions we should wrap up. So, let us away, friends.

Will Patrick Kane crack 100 points?

He’s going to make a run at it, that’s for sure. There’s something that happened to Kane last year. He seemed to thrive in cementing himself as a top five player in the league, at least offensively. There seems to be a new determination in him to do things he hasn’t done before. He wants an Art Ross, he wants to be in the Hart conversation, he seemingly wants to erase what he used to be known for. But, as good as he was last year, he was only on pace for only 95 points.

The obstacles are going to be heavier, at least for portions. Last year, even though he had to drag around Dave Bolland’s dead ass or Marcus Kruger’s conservative one, with Hossa and Toews on the top line, Kane didn’t always have to take on the opponent’s best d-pairing. Starting this year with Toews and Bickell, there will be no such shelter. While having better teammates might cancel this out, you know that teams are going to be keying on him. Of course, this will change throughout the season, and while the Hawks don’t have quite the bottom sixth strength of last year (yet), they still do in the top six. Kane will see games on a different line from Toews at times, too.

But the bigger concern is the length of the season combined with the Olympics. Kane has gone into the darkness for 5-10 games before, and that’s usually death in a pursuit of a Century. The legs might not just be there enough. I don’t see him being the drunken grin he was in 2010-2011, and more the I’ll-score-when-I-want Kaner. Just don’t think it’ll be enough to get into triple-digits though.

100? Probably not. 90? Sure.

Biggest Worry?

I don’t know if there’s anything on this Hawks team that bothers me so much to even be a “worry.” But what I will be watching is how the loss of the bevy of speed of the bottom six affects things. Whatever you thought of Frolik, Bolland, and Stalberg, they all could really move. The Hawks were constantly described as coming at teams in waves and never letting up, and I wonder if they’ll have the same ability this year.

None of Smith, Morin, Hayes, or whoever else fills in are bad skaters. Hayes has actually really improved. But that doesn’t make any of them as fast as those that have departed. The Hawks were able to scorch third pairing defensemen last year, which is why Stals and Bicks cleaned up for the most part. Can they do that this year? Moving Shaw to a wing may help, as well as….

Will Saad take a step back?

I don’t think so, because he’s going to get the Bickell-Bum-Slaying role on the 3rd line opposite Shaw (at least I think). It’s a nice hole for Saad to settle into in after a rookie year that would have had him on the radar. But now with the top six first through the walls, Saad is going to get those looks that eventually made Bickell rich. I don’t think a projection of 25 goals for Saad is out of left field, and from the third line that is most welcome indeed.

Who will we be screaming for at the Deadline?

Well, I kind of dream of Joe Thornton but that’s probably not going to happen as this looks to be the Sharks’ last hurrah. Paul Stastny is the name you’ll hear again, but you wonder if either or both of the Avs or Hawks want to now trade within the division. What I do know is that all of McNeill, Danault, Teravainen, Ross, Pirri, Morin, Hayes, and one or two other forwards are not going to be Hawks at the same time. Stan has collected all these assets, and has yet to trade one of his own picks (Frolik was the first pickup of any kind that he traded). He’s going to have to at some point, especially if a repeat looks on the cards but there are holes to fill. Steve Ott is another name we might bring up again.

Weekend Music Pick

We kind of stuck with a post-punk phase the past couple weeks, so let’s get out of that. Let’s call it a De La Soul weekend here at CI.

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