TCL Blackhawks writers make their 2013 season predictions

As the season is about to begin, the TCL team of Blackhawks writers give their predictions for the abbreviated (2012-) 2013 season. (Writers are listed alphabetically.)

CHERYL ADAMS (@HockeyBroad)

Central division will finish: 1) Blues, 2) Blackhawks, 3) Nashville, 4) Detroit, 5) Columbus

This is going to be an interesting year in the Central. The Blues have proven persistent and should look to repeat from last year. It's a tough call between the Preds and the Red Wins, but the Preds are hungrier for the Cup and will look to prove themselves after finally breaking into the second round. It's a rebuilding year for the Wings after losing their long-time Captain and prime player; Zetterberg will be a great captain, too, but there's a lot of fresh blood in the Motor City. We'll see how that translates to NHL ice. Columbus is a wild card - they've got a lot of new faces, the most interesting of which is Bobrovsky in goal. Steve Mason is on his last leg to prove he's worth keeping in the NHL and Bob should have the motivation to prove he can be the #1 for a team. The Blue Jackets just might surprise people this season.

Blackhawks performance predictions:

  • Corey Crawford will bounce back from his slump. Like Mason, he knows this is a "make it or break it" year for him with his team; he plays better when he's got something to prove.

  • Corey Crawford - picture by Cheryl Adams/HockeybroadDuncan Keith returns to form. The Norris winner has admitted the year after the Cup win wasn't his best; he now looks as fit and lean as he ever has, ready to take a bite out of the season. Keith plays best with a chip on his shoulder, so hopefully, the sting of last season's terrible first round exit to the Coyotes will provide enough fodder.

  • Marian Hossa also returns to form, the likes of which we haven't seen from him since the 2009-2010 season or before. He's healed, healthy, and rarin' to hit the ice.

  • We're going to see a four-way scoring race between Toews, Kane, Hossa, and Sharp.

  • If the team can break some of their bad habits from the past two seasons (cherry picking on the blue line; bad passing resulting in poor turnovers; tighten up the goaltending; better communication on the ice), then the Blackhawks will become the team to beat in the Central.

  • Breakout season: Viktor Stalberg. His experience playing both in Sweden and the KHL during the lockout will give him the confidence to take his next big developmental leap.

Western Conference top three: 1) Canucks, 2) Kings, 3) Blues

Canucks haven't had a lot of turnover, and their scoring touch isn't going away. Los Angeles will get a boost from the combination of their full team returning and their drive to repeat; the Pacific division will be a little looser this year. The Blues will barely scrape out in front of the Blackhawks unless Chicago finds their groove early.

Eastern Conference top three: 1) Penguins, 2) Sabres, 3) Hurricanes

With a healthy Crosby to lead the Pens, it's going to be some pretty exciting hockey in Pittsburgh, and expect to see the Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and the Rangers be the three-horse race in the East. The Sabres have added Steve Ott, who'll bring grit, and have some young talent who'll keep things interesting, so the potential is there for them to surprise people. The Southeast is the toughest call - with the Staal brothers leading the way, look for a renaissance year in Carolina. Tuomo Ruutu is an unfortunate loss for the Canes this season but expect Skinner, Semin, and other players to make up for it.

Stanley Cup - Kings vs Rangers in seven.

The Kings - doing what no other team has done in 15 years and brining back their Cup-winning roster nearly intact - will have the drive in the West. The Rangers, led by Richards, Nash, and Lundqvist, will be banging down doors in the East. Overall, it'll be an exciting season followed by a thrilling playoff season with some real heartbreaker games in the middle rounds.

Calder Trophy - Mikael Granlund (MN) - there's a lot of very interesting rookies this year, but look for Granlund to make an impact for the Wild.

Art Ross Trophy - Sidney Crosby (PIT) - tough call here, as Malkin had a breakout year, Ovechkin seems hungry and back to form, Stamkos having a great season last year - the potential list goes on. But a healthy Crosby who's eager to play is going to be lighting up the East.

MARGARET AVILA (@sportshashhash)

Central division will finish:
1) Blues, 2 )Blackhawks, 3) Predators, 4) Red Wings, 5) Blue Jackets

No witty commentary, just gut feeling, and the fact that the Blues and Blackhawks have changed the least from last year, which in a shortened season will be key.

 Bryan Bickell - picture by Cheryl Adams/HockeybroadBlackhawks performance predictions:

With only 48 games I will go with 76 points.

As for breakout year I think Kane will have a better year since spending time in Europe but as far as breakout I'm going to go off the wall with Bickell. Time overseas probably helped him as well. Looking for him to use his big body and breakout this year.

Western Conference top three: 1) Canucks, 2) Blues, 3) Phoenix

Eastern Conference top three: 1) Rangers, 2) Bruins, 3) Hurricanes

Stanley Cup - NY Rangers vs Blackhawks

The winner of course: the Blackhawks. I think last year, the Hawks handled the Rangers pretty well. While they have more scoring with Nash, I still think the Blackhawks can handle the Rangers. I'td be one exciting Stanley Cup Finals either way.

Calder Trophy - Mikhail Grigorenko (BUF) - He was the best forward on Team Russia in the IIHF 2013 WJC. He was more consistent than Yakupov.

Art Ross Trophy - Steven Stamkos (TBL), need I say more

MATT CEFALU (@MCBHawks)

Central division will finish: 1) Blues, 2) Blackhawks, 3) Nashville, 4) Detroit, 5) Columbus

Blues: The St. Louis Blues were a strong team last season and they look ready to come out stronger for this shortened season. Led by young talent both from the blueline (Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk) as well as up front (David Perron, TJ Oshie), not to mention possessing arguably the best goalie tandem in the league, the Blues appear to have all the "ingredients" to lead the Central division and push deep into the playoffs, provided their top players can stay relatively healthy.

Blackhawks: Chicago stayed relatively quiet this offseason and only made a few depth roster changes. It's quite clear that the Hawks have the offensive talent to contend with the league leaders in goals for, but their defense and goaltending was suspect at times last season. However, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa have had ample time to rest up and recover from any lingering injuries. If Toews remains healthy, he will be among the top five leaders in points and Corey Crawford will bounce back to his 2010-2011 form and lead the Hawks past round one in the playoffs.

Jonathan Toews -  picture by Cheryl Adams/HockeybroadNashville: The retention of Shea Weber this offseason sent a strong message to the players that upper management was in it to win it. Weber is good enough to lead his team to the playoffs with the support of young talent like Craig Smith and Patric Hornqvist. The Preds will make the playoffs as a lower seed, but not make it to round two.

Detroit: Despite the shortened season, the Red Wings will fall victim to a roster plagued by injuries. The loss of Nik Lidstrom to retirement and an inability to replace him will also leave goaltender Jimmy Howard out to dry. Niklas Kronwall will not be enough to anchor the Red Wings defense and get them to the playoffs.

Columbus: Same old story here. Blue Jackets find themselves yet again in a rebuilding stage. They have promising young talent, but goaltending is still suspect at best, even with the recent addition of Sergei Bobrovsky. The departure of Rick Nash and Jeff Carter eliminates distractions in the locker room, but their contributions will be missed.

Blackhawks performance predictions:

  • Corey Crawford - Crawford's play will be the key to the Hawks success this season. He will return with confidence this year and bounce back to his 2010-2011 form to lead the Hawks into at least the second round of the playoffs.

  • Jonathan Toews will be among the top five leaders in points this year

  • Patrick Kane will return to point per game pace and prove clutch towards the latter half of the season.

  • Patrick Sharp will have a bit of a down season with some injury troubles

  • Brandon Saad will excel due to the shortened season.

  • Defense in general will remain solid, with additions of Roszival and Brookbank

Western Conference top three: 1) Blues, 2) Avalanche, 3) Kings

Eastern Conference top three: 1) Rangers, 2) Bruins, 3) Hurricanes

Stanley Cup - L.A. vs NY Rangers - Rangers in 6 games

Calder Trophy - Mikael Granlund (MN)

Art Ross Trophy - Claude Giroux (PHI)

MATTHEW JAMES (@themjm)

Central division will finish: 1) Blues, 2) Blackhawks, 3) Predators, 4) Red Wings, 5) Blue Jackets

Patrick Kane  - picture by Cheryl Adams/HockeybroadThe Red Wings miss the playoffs as their age finally catches up with them.

Blackhawks performance predictions:

  • 54 points (25-19-4) and the #4 seed in the playoffs

  • Patrick Kane regains his scoring touch and eclipses 20 goals.

  • Crawford rebounds from his sophomore slump and ends the season with numbers befitting a top 10 goaltender.

Western Conference top three: 1) Vancouver, 2) Blues, 3) Kings

Dallas gives the Kings a run for their money in the Pacific division, but ends up falling short and winds up as a #5 seed.

Eastern Conference top three: 1) Rangers, 2) Washington, 3) Boston

The Devils miss the playoffs entirely only a season after reaching the Stanley Cup finals.

Stanley Cup: Rangers over Kings

The shortened season benefits the Rangers and head coach John Tortorella's scorched earth philosophy as they cruise through the postseason and hoist the Cup in June.

Calder: Mikael Granlund (MN)

Art Ross: Evgeni Malkin (PIT)

 

MADELEINE STROTH (@madeleinestroth)

 

Central division will finish: 1) Blues  2) Blackhawks  3) Red Wings  4) Predators  5) Columbus 

 

The short and sweet of it is, this condensed season is going to bring out the best and worst of teams very quickly.

 

The Blues are a strong team and are going to capitalize on a rushed schedule. 

 

The Blackhawks have the talent, and have had the talent to stay up front of the division, this year they’re going to push to prove it. 

 

Red Wings and Predators could really go either way in these spots, Red Wings struggle is going to be staying healthy with a veteran team and a demanding schedule. 

 

Predators have the drive in the front office, but when push comes to shove, Shea Weber isn’t enough to carry the team all the way. 

 

Columbus, not this year. 

 

Blackhawks performance predictions

  • Corey Crawford is going to keep it together, well aware he needs to bring his A game. 

  • Sheldon Brookbank is going to be a pleasant surprise to the defense. 

  • Toews is going to return to top-scoring forward position. 

  • Breakout season: Viktor Stalberg, he has a lot of confidence coming into this season after touring overseas, and is determined to make a place for himself on the PP. 

 

Western Conference top three: 1) Canucks 2) Blues 3) Kings

 

Eastern Conference top three: 1) Penguins 2) Bruins 3) Hurricanes 

 

Stanley Cup: Penguins v. Canucks

 

Calder Trophy: Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA)

 

Art Ross Trophy: Claude Giroux (PHI)