If you’ve been paying attention to Gone Puck Wild lately, and shame on you if you haven’t, then you know today is when school begins as Wild fans brush up on their knowledge of the new teams within Minnesota’s division. This week, that new team just so happens to be the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Going through Sunday, we’ll break down Chicago’s major additions and subtractions, strengths and weaknesses, prospect pool, 2013 draft class and team outlook.
What can you do to add to a team that has won the league championship twice in the past four seasons? Not much, but Chicago did make a few moves to help improve the depth of their team this offseason.
Their first, and perhaps most shocking, move was re-acquiring goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin from the Edmonton Oilers. While it does partially make sense with the departure of Ray Emery, there are a few young goalies in the Blackhawks’ fold, including recently signed Finnish MVP Antti Raanta. Granted, the ‘Bulin wall is a known quantity that has had incredible success in the NHL in the past, but he’s on his way out of the league at this point. This doesn’t sound like moving forward in net, and even appears to be a step in the wrong direction. That’s okay–Wild fans will take that.
On July 19th, the Blackhawks signed two defenseman in Theo Peckham and Michael Kostka, in addition to re-upping young forward Drew LeBlanc. The signings of Peckham and Kostka does little more than boost the organization’s defensive depth…and possibly provides a dancing partner in Peckham for Wild role players Zenon Konopka or Mike Rupp when the puck finally drops on their first matchup.
And that’s it. Yep, I’m not kidding. There’s really no other way to improve a championship team than adding to the depth and grit of the organization. That said, it may shed some light on the signing of Matt Cooke that left fans questioning the sanity of Wild GM Chuck Fletcher.
This move to four division has brought Minnesota back into the realm of the old Norris Division, once labeled as the “Black and Blue” for it’s hard-hitting, intense, blood-boiling action. Rivalries existed not just between the teams, but the fan bases as well. Every GM and coach in this league knew going into realignment that rivalries would form or intensify, and the need for tough guys would reemerge. Thus, the need for teams to bring on a hired gun. That’s exactly what Peckham will do for Chicago (when he plays), and is just one of the many things Cooke brings to a newly redefined Wild bottom-6.
With teams clearly looking to get tougher before next season, expect some very gritty, blood boiling action across the league, particularly in the Central Division. The days of the heated matchups between the North Stars and the Blackhawks may be long over, but the intensity is just heating up between Chicago and the Wild.