Looking Ahead (And Back): Opening Night 2015 vs 2014

When the puck drops on the 2015-16 NHL season, there will be one major difference for the Blackhawks.

A banner will join the others in the United Center rafters on Opening Night.

But after the ceremony and applause, a hockey season begins. What will the Blackhawks look like on Oct. 7 when the New York Rangers come calling? And how will the lineup compare with last year’s opener? Let’s take a look.

2014-15 Opening Night

Patrick Sharp – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Brandon Saad – Andrew Shaw – Patrick Kane
Ben Smith – Brad Richards – Bryan Bickell
Jeremy Morin – Marcus Kruger – Dan Carcillo
Scratch: Kris Versteeg

Duncan Keith – Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya – Niklas Hjalmarsson
David Rundblad – Trevor van Riemsdyk
Scratches: Michal Rozsival, Kyle Cumiskey

Corey Crawford
Antti Raanta

In last season’s opener, at Dallas, the Hawks won 3-2 in a shootout. Chicago’s goals came from Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp; Sharp also had an assist on Keith’s goal. The Stars goals came from Trevor Daley (on the power play) and Cody Eakin; Ryan Garbutt had the primary assist on Eakin’s goal. Patrick Kane was the only player to convert in the shootout, earning the Hawks the second point in the standings.


In his regular season NHL debut, Trevor van Riemsdyk skated 11:43 and was credited with one blocked shot and one missed shot.

Looking for the bottom of the roster? David Rundblad skated 6:25 on the blue line, while Jeremy Morin (11 shifts, 5:32) and Daniel Carcillo (eight shifts, 4:43) saw limited action.

For Dallas, Daley skated 24:36 and was credited with three blocked shots, two hits and one takeaway with his first goal of the season. Included in Daley’s ice time is 5:42 on the power play and 3:28 on penalty kill duty. The only Stars defenseman to skate more minutes than Daley that night was Alex Goligoski.

Garbutt skated 16:21, including 2:12 short-handed. In addition to his assist, Garbutt was credited with three shots on net, three shots that missed the mark and two hits.

As the roster stands today, what will the Hawks roster look like on Opening Night 2015?


TBD – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
TBD – Artem Anisimov – Patrick Kane
TBD – Andrew Shaw – TBD
Andrew Desjardins – TBD – TBD

That’s six TBD slots out of 12 available forward spots, which may be off-setting immediately. But this doesn’t mean the Hawks don’t have bodies to put in those roles.

We can hope assume that one/both of Bryan Bickell and Kris Versteeg is gone to make cap space, but neither has been traded… yet. Because there are questions/doubts about them being here in October, they aren’t reflected in our roster projection.

Is Teuvo Teravainen a center or wing? Where does he it in? He’ll be on the roster, but where?

You don’t see Jeremy Morin’s name because, well, #FreeMorin is back, alive and well. Corey Tropp has a number assigned to him but not a roster spot because there are better options here already; he might be in Rockford, or elsewhere, when the regular season begins.

The fourth line center spot – or third for that matter – may be filled by Marcus Kruger. But he – and Joakim Nordstrom for that matter – still need to sign a contract, so we haven’t committed a spot to either of them in the theoretical lineup.

New additions Garbutt, Artemi Panarin and Marko Dano would figure to be in the lineup somewhere, but the the million dollar question is where? Will Viktor Tikhonov be in the mix somewhere as well? Those are four more names to consider.

We can also assume that Garbutt and Desjardins will be in the mix to replace what was once Ben Smith’s spot on penalty killing duty. Brandon Saad had assumed some of his responsibilities late last year, but he’s obviously not here any longer either. Desjardins did a nice job after he was acquired, and Garbutt was a key penalty killer for Dallas last season.

And what about the youngsters? Will Mark McNeill, Phillip Danault, Kyle Baun or Ryan Hartman make the roster?

While one major concern Hawks fans have is faceoffs with Anisimov theoretically replacing Antoine Vermette and/or Brad Richards, it’s worth noting that Blackhawks not-named Toews or Kruger weren’t very good at the dot to start last season. Shaw took the second-highest number of faceoffs in October last year (only 113 in 10 games), and he won just 47.8 percent of them. Richards won only 46 percent of his faceoffs and was limited to 87 draws in 10 games. In fact, only three Hawks were over 50 percent at the dot in October: Toews, Kruger and Smith.


Duncan Keith – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Trevor Daley – Brent Seabrook
Trevor van Riemsdyk – David Rundblad

Comparing this to last year’s opener, the only change is Daley in Johnny Oduya’s slot. And honest expectations are that Rundblad is set to skate the least minutes moving forward.

But is there a seventh defenseman inside the organization? Is Erik Gustafsson a guy who can make the jump straight to the NHL? Do the Hawks consider the size of Viktor Svedberg? Or do they clear enough cap space that they can afford another veteran free agent – or bring one back in a trade to dump Bickell/Versteeg?

While the seventh defenseman is a question, van Riemsdyk will get plenty of attention. The Hawks have unloaded a number of their top blue line prospects (Klas Dahlbeck, Adam Clendening, Mike Paliotta and Stephen Johns) in the last eight months, but TvR has earned enough of coach Joel Quenneville’s confidence that, in spite of injuries cutting his season short on numerous occasions, he got on the ice during the Stanley Cup Final. Is he ready to play a primary role? Can he stay healthy? Because if he can’t physically hold up, whomever ends up being that seventh defenseman becomes even more important.

Keith Crawford DAL

Corey Crawford
Scott Darling

Crawford has two rings and the crease to open another season. The change behind him – Raanta to Darling – is significant because we saw that Darling can step up when needed as he was a key part of the Hawks getting out of the first round of the playoffs this spring.

So how does the Hawks’ defense of their third championship in six seasons look when the dust settles next summer? Will the losses via trade and free agency be the deal breakers many think they could be? Or will the additions offset them and, perhaps, actually make this year’s team as good – or even better? We’ll see in October, when a lot more of our questions have answers, and it’s time to play hockey for real once again.

42 thoughts on “Looking Ahead (And Back): Opening Night 2015 vs 2014

  1. Did TT get traded???

    This team (assuming 16 is signed/// Minus 29) is way better/faster/deeper on the O-side of things!!! Can they play D??? are they as responsible/smart???

    we shall see!!!

  2. The key to the roster will be Anisimov. If he can truly be a 2C, I actually like the line up. If he is not, then 86 needs to develop quickly or it will be a long year. Not sure he has enough size/strength yet to play center.

    Regardless, this year’s regular season will be much more interesting and important than last year’s.

  3. you must of edited… or parts were missing 1st time…

    anyway- agree… Garbutt, Dano, Panarin, TT – are locks to be involved… ALL are above average to fast skaters… the latter 3 have great Hands/vision too… ( haven’t seen enough of Garbutt/hands/vision)- but he is very fast!!!

    T-Nov is supposed to be a smart/2 way guy… but not seeing him play–???

    Defense will be the question mark- D-men and how all the Newbies adjust to Hawks/Q’s system!!!

  4. I think that it comes down to the Russians. Can Panarin live up to the hype and can Anisimov deliver down the center? Can Tikanov crack the lineup? Dano will be okay on the wing and Daley will be an adequate replacement for Oduya. The team won’t live or die based on the limited minutes of the 5th and 6th defensemen. If that was the biggest worry, then the team is doing great.

  5. My key is signing Kruger. He’s a glue piece on the bottom 6 and important on the PK. I am confident Anisimov fills the ongoing need at 2C, and the rest will be fun to watch. If you can move 29, keeping Versteeg is also not a bad thing.

    It’s also funny to me to see the pundits and posters discussing the Sharp trade in salary tradeoff terms as Sharp for Daley and Garbutt only saving $2.5M. From a Cap standpoint, that is not the right way to understand the transaction. The proper way to look at it was Sharp (at $5.9M) for Garbutt (at $800k) for a savings of over $5mil. In addition, it was then a decision/requirement of the deal to exchange 27 for Daley- which was essentially a salary and talent swap imo. Bottom line, the deal effectively moved 10 and shaved over $5M off the cap.

    I like what I see and Q’s mind must be in offseason line-blender overdrive.

  6. Tab, just happy you included 7 and 65 in the lineup. Lots of talking heads out there saying 29 and 23 are unmovable therefore 65 has to go. Others saying Hawks would get a HUGE return for 7 visa vie the Hawks can’t afford to resign him for 16-17 and beyond.

    None of this makes any sense to me…..but I am not a sports writer nor have “inside” access. I know that SB will trade 29 for medium round picks if he has to. My biggest worry is the 16 gets itchy. Glad 16 is an RFA…..but Hawks can only have $78.5mm under contract before paring to $71.4 opening night.

  7. Neggz, agree with that assessment. So the question comes down to, is Dayly and $450k of Cap space worth 27. IMO if Daley returns to a PLUS player like he was his entire career until last season, the answer will be yes.

  8. Let’s assume Bickell and Versteeg are gone and Kruger is resigned.

    New faces needing to step up but a talented lineup potentially.

  9. I’ll just throw it out there right now:

    I believe the Hawks will have a better powerplay this season. because of swapping out Sharp for Trevor Daley will matter. For all Daley doesn’t do I have seen enough of him to know he has “looked” decent on the PP. The Hawks have lacked a PP specialist on the blueline for a while now. Seabs is probably their best guy, however, Daley will be the guy to revise the PP.

    The more I think of it, the more I think Stan has done his homework on this guy(Daley), he has got to know this guy isn’t the bum the “EVERYONE” seems to think he is. Let’s cross our fingers that’s the case and we don’t end up with Marty Turco, Chris Campoli, or Andrew Brunette.

    Excellent write up Tab!

  10. One thing is for sure this upcoming season has A TON more unknown then knows. Last season the biggest question were the 5th and 6th defenseman and where is Leddy going, and “what about Morin”?

  11. re: potential lines, assuming Bickell & Versteeg are gone before the opener… just throwing my 2 cents out there


    Maximize chemistry w/ Dano-Anisimov and Panarin-Tikhonov, and that fourth line is one I could love quickly. Will be interested to see how Tikhonov fits into the mix. Could also see Baun or McNeill in the mix there, or Danault as your 4C w/ Shaw on a wing

  12. SSHM/or anyone – how is Daley’s skating speed versus 27???

    Tikhonov– Is a real wild card here!!! will Q move him to Center a line???
    Is he fast enough to play top lines???

    If he is quick enough… really wouldn’t mind to see this line-up for several games…

    Tikhonov (smart/ 2 way)/19/81 (Hoss usually plays well w/ Euro’s)
    72/TT/56– would be an electric/smart/Fast– “wild-card” line– that could cause some teams EXTREME fits- if Q has ability to “Match” the way he likes — AND- I know some will say NOT strong enough… but DANO- is a beast/listed as 6′ – 215lbs.?? and Panarin- has some Pipes… not as small as people think… all are Euro’s… Tons of IQ… Sniper w speed/Magic hands w instinct/Bull w great hands and feet (56 is great at using his feet to help move/control puck)
    11/16/Garbutt – Garbutt can fly (may exchange w 65)

  13. Hate to keep going back to players not on the roster. But, I just had this thought and I’ll forget it if I don’t say something now.

    The Islanders have a prospect that will be a UFA in a month. He’s not NHL ready, but he’s a talent I wouldnt mind the Hawks bring in. Plus he’s a local kid. I’ve read somewhere he was a Red Wings fan (from someone that allegedly went to high school with him), but on his draft card he listed the Blackhawks as his favorite team.

    Robbie Russo Defenseman, Notre Dame
    6-0 190, Senior season at ND he had 41 points in 40 games. Second only to Hinostroza. For whatever reason he’s flown under the radar. After the recent trades he could be another player that they could restock with without having to give up anything. He was ineligible for parts of last season for academic reasons, so that’s a red flag.

  14. I know it sounds nuts to “start” with the 4th line, but the Hawks 4th line plays a bigger role for the Hawks than is the case for probably every other team. The Hawks success is predicated on team defense and Q uses Kruger’s line as one of the top two lines to go up against the opponent’s best line (Toews-Hossa being the other). Therefore, I would keep 11-16-65 together as they played outstanding throughout the playoffs.

    The reason I start there is because that takes Shaw out of consideration elsewhere, most notably at 3C – so the Hawks need to determine who the 4th center will be (Toews, Anisimov and Kruger being the other three). Tikhonov has played center but I believe he has payed most wing lately. The other obvious possibility is TT, but the question of whether he’s physically ready or not is the issue there. I think I would try TT at 3C and if he proves to be overmatched, switch to Tikhonov.

    Lastly, I would try something that most will think is totally nuts, but there is some precedence for it. A couple years ago, Q started the season with Carcillo playing LW with Toews and Hossa. He wanted the forchecking and energy of Carcillo. Well, Carcillo got injured and Saad was put there and the rest is history. But that same mind set would apply to Garbutt. In fact Garbutt would be a better version of Carcillo because he’s faster and has better scoring ability. The Toews line has been a great possession generator where they play against the opponents best players and keep the puck in the o-zone. Garbutt can play that game (not nearly as well as Saad – but Saad isn’t here anymore).

    So, without further ado:


  15. Tab, I like your lines a lot but I’m not sure Kruger will be around. Bickell’s contract is too big to move given his underwhelming performance the last two years. Versteeg is sellable because of a smaller cap hit. So Bickell could be the healthy scratch opening night and as usual the Hawks will be looking for another center.

  16. “Excellent write up Tab!” and “key is signing Kruger.” — completely agree. I would like to see Kruger/Desjardins/Shaw work together again – very effective. And, in my opinion, Shaw is better playing RW (and taking the occasional draw).

    “Maximize chemistry w/ Dano-Anisimov(-Kane playing with the “#2C” is fairly important) and Panarin-Tikhonov” — sounds good to me.

  17. As far as size being an issue, I think we should look at what was arguably the most productive line in the league last year. Palat-Johnson- Kucherov. They average 5’10” 185 lbs.

    I know Dano primarily played on the right. But I’d at least like to see a test of Dano-Teuvo-Kane. They’d average 5’11” 179lbs. The issue would be how well Teuvo would be at the dot, and who would play top line lw. But it could potentially allow Anisimov to be slotted as a 3 c and Kruger (if kept) at 4c. Both players are comfortable in those roles. You could keep Panarin with Anisimov and have the Russian’s create their own natural chemistry.

  18. Blackhawk Up had a pretty entertaining write up……How would these former Hawks from the 10, 13 and 15 SC rosters fare in the NHL as a team?????:

    Saad, Vermette, Ladd, Sharp, Richards, Brouwer, Frolik, Pirri, J Hayes, Bolig, Bolland and Kopecky….. on offense

    Buff, Oduya, Campbell, Leddy, Johns and Clendening on defense.

    Niemi, Raanta and/or Emery

    Some other like K Hayes simply were never on a SC roster

  19. Ernie, nice find on Robbie Russo. Not sure what his deal is and looking forward to Tab’s take but there sure are lots of connections to the Blackhawks via Notre Dame, Vinny, local kid, and so on.

  20. I just went to another site and read a John J article… I swear he must read this site to get his ideas… He basically states what I said earlier- Regarding 72/TT/56 as a possible nightmare line to play against in future… as well as their attributes…

    Of course- I said it 1st!!! sorry Hof- I had to pat myself on the back!!!

    ER- I thought about Garbutt on top line too— to keep 11/16/65 together…
    agree- that line was a “table setter” for Hawks

  21. re: Russo – I wonder if the Hawks have somewhat burned the bridge on college free agents. Johns could have done what K.Hayes did last year but chose to sign with the Hawks. Paliotta had the same option this season but chose to sign with the Hawks. Stan traded both of them. So from the perspective of a college free agent, why not choose the team you want to play for rather than sign with the Hawks and get traded to someplace you may not want to go?

  22. Love all the line combos but might as well just list 12 forwards because the blender will have it’s way anyway. And I’m sure Stan regrets giving Bickel 4 yr. at 4 million but also a limited no trade clause , no trade clause, REALLY. And how is that playing into what we have right now.

  23. Let me second SOUTHSIDEHAWKMAN and thank Tab for the superb write-up. I think the Blackhawks up front have more talent this year, but it will take a while for the chemistry to mesh. All of us will need to be patient. As long as it all comes together in time for the playoffs.

    EBONYRAPTOR, I said the same thing about Garbutt being a more skilled Carcillo in another post. He is a big upgrade.

    Someone correct me if you disagree that losing Stephen Johns was the result of poor decision-making. Trading Sharp for a 3rd round pick/prospect, or even Garbutt would have made more sense. We would still have Johns and cap space room to sign Kruger and, possibly, Oduya. I do think that Daley is a small upgrade from Oduya, however.

  24. I appreciate Tab’s optimism, but this article brings back feelings of the summer of 2010 all over again.

    Hopefully SB can work his magic and make the Hawks a major competitor again 2-3 years out.

    And like 2010-11, I’m still a fan.

  25. Honestly, we are stuck with Bickell. He’s not going anywhere and so we all better hope like hell he can fill one of the big gaps at LW. Kruger isn’t coming back unless Stan trades Versteeg and a prospect, or the rotten alternative of trading Shaw.

  26. I believe Kruger is a key piece. I’m very happy they’ll resign him.
    Bottom line for me: a so called 3rd line of Penarin-Anisimov-Dano and a 4th line of Desjardins-Kruger-Garbut gives you a Top notch team…period.
    The Hawks still have some incredible forward depth (mainly at winger) and Coach Q will mix and match and try and manipulate them, so I have little worries in that regard. I bet 1 of those 4 youngsters will be a part of it also.

    PS: I’d keep TT on the wing… I don’t know where. I’m equally intrigued with him playing next to Toews line as I am with a Kane pairing.

  27. Looking Ahead to Opening Night….so much great talent and so many options. Q must be giddy. Predictions…Crawford has his best year ever, Kane goes for and wins the scoring title, Dano is phenomenal, the Russians are incredible and unstoppable, D concerns fizzle away. TT goes to another level. Ducks will be good and serious competition for us, Calgary shows improvenent and some moxy. Washington in the East. Everyone else spinning their wheels or going backwards. We are 3 steps ahead of everyone else. Bowman wins GM of the year.

    Continuing on with all this positivity, the evacutaion order has been lifted today at 1pm and I can go home. Its been 2 weeks of living in gov’t shelters ( sort of like your FEMA) and a nice family that graciously took me in the last 6 days. I’m so happy to be going home. The fires are contained and all is well with the world. 1,200 fire fighters, 1,000 Army soldiers, numerous water bombers and helicopters put out the 4 big out of control fires that surrounded my community in stifling heat and no rain. My thanks to all my fellow Commited Indians for experssing their concerns and keeping me entertained. Its good to have such friends. Also thanks to the good folks of Montana for lending us their monster Sikorsky fire bomber. That thing seriously kicked some fire butt.

  28. Sitting on the pine in the Cup finals must have been a wake up call for Bickell. You would think he would expand the list of teams he would be willing to go to in a trade just to get out of Chicago and get a fresh start. I have not given up on Stan sending 29 packing. The loss of 10 and 20 was big but the replacements should adequately pick up the slack. My major concern is that we only have 3 solid d men. Big question marks surrounding Runblad, Daley, TVR and the all important 7th guy.

  29. Original 6 – Dallas was not going to do any version of the Sharp trade unless Johns was included. I think their comments post-trade clearly support this. I also don’t believe SB would have traded Johns if he had any other option to move Sharp.

  30. Mining Man – good to hear. Click your ruby red shoes together and repeat three times “there’s no place like home” :)

  31. Good one ER! How did you know I had Ruby Red Shoes? 2.5 hours away now…getting there.

  32. re: EbonyRaptor wondering if the Hawks have burned the college bridge – not as long as TvR is in the lineup, Baun gets a good look in training camp and they’re winning championships. “Why not choose the team you want to play for” – what if they want to play for the Blackhawks? Plenty of NHL veterans do…

  33. “Someone correct me if you disagree that losing Stephen Johns was the result of poor decision-making. Trading Sharp for a 3rd round pick/prospect, or even Garbutt would have made more sense. We would still have Johns and cap space room to sign Kruger and, possibly, Oduya. I do think that Daley is a small upgrade from Oduya, however.”

    Consider this the getting corrected part…

    You weren’t getting a mid-round pick & Garbutt for Sharp alone, and Bowman has made every deal this summer to ensure his roster competes in the coming season. he got younger w/ Daley vs Oduya (for less money I might add) and added a strong PK guy in Garbutt that’s insurance if he can’t get Kruger done. Also, if you didn’t read/hear anything Dallas’ GM said after the deal, it wasn’t happening w/out Johns.

  34. Right on Tab, I don’t think the Sharp deal gets done, keeping with the notion of win now, without a prospect involved. Been reading here for sometime that the notion of Johns in the deal stinks, and it does. But you gotta play the cards your dealt and unless SB was willing to take picks alone, someone was gonna go.

  35. MM – I have my sources … too bad they’re not good for hockey related info or winning lottery numbers :)

  36. Tab, look at my comments again. I said “a 3rd round pick/prospect, or even Garbutt. not “a mid-round pick & Garbutt…” as you interpreted. The bottom line is that some team would have gladly traded a 3rd round pick or prospect for Sharp, which would have been wisest result.

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