NHL Central: Blackhawks Are Still Celebrating
But at the same time, along with the rest of the Central Division, they're getting ready for the 2015-2016 season.
After finishing third in the division behind St Louis and Nashville, Chicago went on to win the Cup in six games over Tampa Bay.
The salary cap has hit the Blackhawks hard this summer. The two huge contracts for stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will take effect this fall and already has cost the team some players. Youngster Brandon Saad was traded to Columbus. Patrick Sharp, a longtime Hawk with three Stanley Cups, was traded to Dallas and encouraged blueline mainstay Johnny Oduya to join him there.
The key to a fourth Cup will be newcomers Artem Anisimov, Trevor Daley, and Ryan Garbutt blending in with the core players who remain on the club.
St Louis won the division but lost to Minnesota in the playoffs. The Blues' post-season frustrations have pushed them into drastic action; they've traded Olympic hero TJ Oshie to Washington, shaking up the team leadership in hopes of winning their first Stanley Cup ever.
Nashville thinks they're now thisclose and could well have beaten Chicago in the first round of the 2015 playoffs. The Predators still have all-world goalie Pekka Rinne along with Mike Fisher, Filip Forsberg, and Shea Weber, so they'll be a legitimate contender in 2016, as well as a mid-winter focal point:
Minnesota and Winnipeg made the playoffs last year, with the Wild advancing to the second round.
They've kept their club intact over the summer, so Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, and goalie Devan Dubnyk -- who just signed a six-year contract -- expect to advance at least another round next spring. Winnipeg made the playoffs for the first time since moving back from Atlanta in 2011. The Jets are another team on the rise, led by captain Andrew Ladd, and alternate captains Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart.
Dallas and Colorado have work to do this season.
The Stars were in the playoff mix until fading late, so they got busy this off-season. They've acquired Antti Niemi to be their goalie and, as mentioned, picked up free agent Oduya withan assist from Sharp. Colorado had a great 2013-2014 season but faded badly in the encore. Coach Patrick Roy won't stand for another last-place finish and needs goalie Semon Varlamov to stay healthy. He's also counting on newcomer Blake Comeau to provide scoring up front.
There's no reason to believe this division will be anything but another rumble all season long.