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Wednesday, October 21

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Blackhawks Wed May 02 2012

Hawks Have Offseason Decisions to Make

Chicago BlackhawksThe lockers have been cleared. The playoff ice has melted. A number of other hockey teams still play like it matters. But for Chicago, it's the offseason, and it's time to get ready for next year.

Coach Joel Quenneville and general manager Stan Bowman have some choices to make. After a disappointing end to a rollercoaster of a season, no position on the team can be counted as truly secure. Some players may be worth more in a trade than they are on the ice. That said, it's not time to trade out the stitching on those jerseys just yet.

This year Patrick Kane has been a favorite for trade rumors. He had a lackluster year on points. He scored 23 goals in the regular season, and none in the playoffs. However, Kaner played a supportive role on the team, filling a gap by playing center, and stepping up in leadership when Jonathan Toews was injured. Bowman and Coach Q have stood by the 23-year-old through it all. Chances are good Kane and Toews will still be the faces of the franchise come October.

Defense is a department with clear room for improvement. Corey Crawford posted a 2.72 goals against average and finished the regular season with a .903 save percentage. Given his performance in 2011, where is GAA was 2.30 and save percentage was .917, that's not great.

However, the Hawks may not be ready to give up their goaltender after one difficult year. Coach Q has never shied from using backup, Ray Emery, during Crow's rough patches, but he won't throw the goalie under the bus. In the end-of-year press conference he offered a vote of confidence for the young goaltender.

Canucks goalie Robert Luongo has been a hot topic of late, having expressed interest in waiving his no-trade clause, suggesting he may be available next season. Of course, he and Chicago don't exactly get along. The man could be a brick wall with a facemask and Hawks fans would still rather leave him in Canada. Crow has the summer to work himself out of his sophomore slump, and Chicago will be ready to cheer him on again.

Now, what the Hawks will be trying to overhaul is the power play. This may be a combination of staff changes and position shifts, but the organization is keeping mum on any specifics. They'll need to find someone to fill the position in front of the net on special teams, a space that was mostly vacant this year.

Summer may be starting early for the Hawks, but this is when the groundwork is laid for the future. The staff will be evaluated, Bowman will sift through the handful of unrestricted free agents, and the team will be picked and pruned. Though Chicago may get to see plenty of familiar faces, the hope is that the team on the ice will look a little fresher in a few months.

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