The 2009-10 season was among the best in recent, if not all-time, history for the Chicago Blackhawks. Patrick Kane's 88 points were the most for a Hawks player since Jeremy Roenick scored 107 in 1993-94, the year he became a video game icon. Ironically, Kane was on a video game cover himself this year, and the Hawks have been on many magazine covers as a team.
In total, six Blackhawks were selected to represent their home countries in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver: Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky for Slovakia, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook for the host country Canada and Kane for the United States. All performed well for their teams, and Toews was named the Most Outstanding Forward of the tournament. Toews, Keith and Seabrook won gold, while Kane earned a silver.
When it came to fantasy hockey this year, it was an intriguing season from the Blackhawks. Not many fantasy owners (or Hawks fans) had much faith in Cristobal Huet between the pipes, but nobody could have predicted the season from rookie backup Antti Niemi. Niemi won the starting job late in the season and is now leading the Blackhawks through the playoffs with a strong run in net.
There were productive skaters all over the roster for the Hawks. Troy Brouwer surprised with over 100 hits and 20 goals, and Seabrook was sixth among all NHL defensemen with 208 hits this season. Because of the firepower the Hawks displayed on offense, coupled with one of the best defensive groups in the league, the Hawks were also a strong source of plus-minus totals; five Hawks ended the season above +20, and two more were above +16 on the campaign.
But among all the Blackhawks players, are there keeper candidates? Absolutely there are!
Patrick Kane - 88 pts - 30 G - 58 A - +16 - 82 games
Kane ranked in the top ten in the league in total points and had a strong plus-minus as well. While he isn't going to provide many hits, his scoring on the power play(29 pts) and game-winning goals (six) are all top-tier numbers. Kane is a keeper.
Duncan Keith - 69 pts - 14 G - 55 A - +21 - 82 games
Keith, a finalist for the Norris Trophy this year, finished second among defensemen in points and in the top ten in plus-minus. He isn't a hitter, but his scoring alone makes Keith a keeper for 2010-11.
Jonathan Toews - 68 pts - 25 G - 43 A - +22 - 76 games
Toews missed a number of games because of a concussion early in the season, but he is another keeper on the Blackhawks roster. He led the Blackhawks in goals in 2008-09 and was again among the team leaders this season. As his game continues to grow, and with the potential of a full season with Hossa, the youngest captain in the NHL should stay on your roster for next year.
Marian Hossa - 51 pts - 24 G - 27 A - +24 - 57 games
Hossa isn't near the top of the stat sheet in the league because he didn't play until Thanksgiving. However, as his stat line clearly indicates, he was a beast when he was on the ice for the Hawks, averaging almost a point per game and racking up a strong plus-minus as well. Considering that Hossa was coming back from fairly substantial summer shoulder surgery and did not have the benefit of a preseason, having an entire 82-game schedule with the talent on the Hawks roster could push Hossa to the top of the Hawks', and the NHL's, scoring list.
Antti Niemi- 39 games -26-7-4 - 2.25 GAA - .912 sv pct - 7 shutouts
Niemi's a fringe keeper because it's hard to get full-season value from a netminder that might only give you 50-60 starts. Niemi should be the Blackhawks Number One goaltender, however, so he's an option in a deeper league. Consider that Niemi was the only goaltender in this season's top 20 in wins to start fewer than 45 games; only one other netminder, Philadelphia's Michael Leighton, is the only other goalie in the top 30 with fewer than 40 games played. Despite the limited starts, Niemi won 26 games, ranked fourth in the NHL in goals against average and tied for third with seven shutouts.