The NHL has greenlit a new divisional alignment for the upcoming 2021 season, putting the Columbus Blue Jackets in a Central Division with some new - and old - friends. In this series, we'll familiarize (or in some cases, refamiliarize) ourselves with the Central Division foes. Today, we're turning back the clock and examining an old foe: The Chicago Blackhawks.
- All-Time Regular Season Record vs. CHI: 87 GP, 34-41-2-10 (W-L-T-OTL)
- All-Time Playoff Record vs. CHI: No postseason history.
- Last Season vs. CHI: 0-0-2
Last Season Skinny
If a year ago today, you learned the Chicago Blackhawks would win a postseason series as a 12 seed in August, your would rightly be very confused for multiple reasons.
But that's how things fell, with the Blackhawks taking advantage of the NHL's expanded postseason and defeating the No. 5 seeded Edmonton Oilers in the opening round of the Western Conference Playoffs. Patrick Kane was typical Patrick Kane, scoring 33 times and picking up 84 points in the shortened season - which was 70 games for Chicago. He wasn't their only 30 goal guy, though - and no, Jonathan Toews was not the other.
It was rookie Dominik Kubalik, whose 30 goals and 16 assists put him on the NHL's All-Rookie team. He also finished third in Calder voting for rookie of the year, though was the leading vote-getter amongst forwards. (Defensemen Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes went 1-2.)
Between the pipes, Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner split time before Lehner was dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights just a few weeks before the Covid pause. Neither were outstanding, but both were serviceable.
It was not a good offseason for the Blackhawks. In October, they released a letter in response to fans upset with front office decisions, stating in part: "We're committed to developing young players and rebuilding our roster ... An effort that require a stockpile of emerging talent to complement our top players."
- C Mattias Janmark (Free agent, formerly with DAL)
- C Lucas Wallmark (Free agent, formerly with FLA)
- D Nikita Zadorov (Trade with COL)
- D Anton Lindholm (Trade with COL)
- C Brandon Pirri (Trade with VGK)
- F Brandon Saad (Trade with COL)
- G Corey Crawford (Signed with NJD)
- D Olli Maatta (Trade with LA)
- D Dennis Gilbert (Trade with COL)
- F Drake Caggiula (Signed with ARZ)
Stop me this sounds familiar: The Chicago Blackhawks have traded forward Brandon Saad to th-- stop! The Blackhawks, who once traded Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets before later acquiring him back, moved the popular forward again, this time to Colorado. Combined that with the departure of beloved goalie Corey Crawford via free agency when Chicago would not offer him anything beyond a one year contract, and you can see why they had to write that letter.
Chicago has Kane. Chicago has Toews. That's a great start, but it levels off quickly. Kubalik was impressive in his rookie year, but can he repeat his 30-goal performance of 2019-20? The debate for third best offensive weapon on this team is between him, Dylan Strome, and Alex Debrincat. If you're a Hawks fan, grab the nervous emoji, because that's a well below average "third best" debate.
In net, Malcolm Subban - acquired from Vegas in the Lehner deal - will get his first chance as a regular number one. Collin Delia (3.65 GAA in 18 career NHL games) will get time in net, as will Kevin Lankinen (who has never allowed an NHL goal in a career 0 minutes of NHL action), according to general manager Stan Bowman. If the Blue Jackets are struggling to score, seeing Chicago on the schedule will likely cure any woes.
The top four in the central division will make the postseason. The Blackhawks will not be a top four team in the division. They won't be as bad as Detroit, but this projects as a team that finishes only a slot or two above the Red Wings for last.
That's right. For as much as 2020 took, it did give us the following sentence: The Blue Jackets will almost certainly finish ahead of the Red Wings and Blackhawks in the central division.