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A simplistic look at the 2010-11 Chicago Blackhawks

Gone are the role players.

Gone are the goaltenders.

But also, gone is the 49-year drought.

The Blackhawks enter the season in a position they have not occupied since Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita laced up the skates — defending champions.

Back are captain Jonathan Toews, wonderboy Patrick Kane, Norris Trophy -winning blueliner Duncan Keith and all around handsome team captain Patrick Sharp.

In fact, the best players on the team return, which, all things considered, is pretty good.

Taking the place of the role players and fledging superstars now departed are another group of rookies and Cup-seeking veterans.

Marty Turco, fresh off his worst season ever, will be the starting goaltender for the Blackhawks to start the season.

The top four defensemen of the Blackhawks remain intact: Keith and Seabrook, Campbell and Hjalmarsson. Human turnover machine Jordan Hendry returns to the team, and will be paired with Nick Boynton or John "Murdersaurus" Scott.

Down the middle, the Blackhawks remain strong. Patrick Sharp is expected to start the season at the pivot, joining the Conn Smythe winning Toews and "the rat" Dave Bolland.

Troy Brouwer will start the season with the task of making room for Toews and Kane to work. This is not a new task for him. For most of last season Brouwer was the power forward of choice for Toews and Kane. If Brouwer is supposed to be the next Dustin Byfuglien, it will have to be in production only — Byfuglien was the next Brouwer midway though last season.

Two enigmatic forwards will be required to shed that stigma in 2010-11. Tomas Kopecky, who's flashes of brilliance in the playoffs peaked the interest of all Blackhawks fans last season, will be counted on to be on his game, and on his skates, for all of 2010-11. Joining him on the hot seat is Viktor Stalberg, a 6'3" winger who's ability to skate like the wind is only matched by his propensity to avoid contact. Stalberg will see top-six minutes, and will be asked to score at a top-6 clip (read: 50+ points).

Rockford IceHog legend Jack Skille will join the team in a different role than was originally set out for him. Skille will likely start the season in a third-line checking role, to the right of Dave Bolland.

Pro hockey player Fernando Pisani will likely be the other wing on Bolland's line. Pisani will also contribute greatly to the penalty kill in 2010-11.

Bryan Bickell, who's cups of coffee with the Blackhawks last season might have been more fluke than trend, will have a roster spot on the Blackhawks, and could find himself on any line during any period during the year. That's what the kids call versatility.

Another former Oiler who could be placed on any line is Ryan Potulny. While naturally a center, Potulny has the ability to fill a role much like that of Andrew Ladd in the Cup-winning year.

For a line-changing maniac like Joel Qunneville, there is now an abundance of moldable riches. The line changes will be plentiful, but so will the talent.

Are the Blackhawks as good as they were last season. That depends.

It depends on if Patrick Kane can sober up in time to vie for a 100 point season. It depends if Jonathan Toews is really the next Steve Yzerman. IT depends if the new guys are as good as the old guys, and the old guys can replace the older guys.

The stock on the Blackhawks is down, but in this market, now is the time to buy.

Prediction: 100-plus points. 3rd in Western Conference.

Click here to go back to the Central Division season preview


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