As the Blackhawks prepare to open their season Friday in Helsinki, Finland, against the Florida Panthers, I have very few concerns about the team.
You always worry about injuries to key players, but that's just part of the game. Every team will have injuries, and the Blackhawks should have the depth to overcome that as the year moves along. I'm worried about the goaltender -- I've never had much faith in Cristobal Huet. Can he win in the playoffs? We won't be able to answer that question until spring. Even if Huet has a great regular season, there will still be doubts.
Aside from that, the team looks loaded. Sports Illustrated is picking the Hawks to win it all. Almost every article you read makes some reference to the Stanley Cup. Hopefully, the players don't allow any of that crap to go to their heads. Ignore the press clippings. It's imperative that the Hawks focus on the task at hand, which is the regular season. Get to the playoffs first. There's no point in thinking about the Cup until you actually reach the finals. That's a long way off.
As for the fans, it's my hope that people enjoy the journey this season. Expectations are so high. There are probably some folks out there who half expect the Hawks to go undefeated this year. And those will be the people booing the first time these guys lose a home game. It will happen. Here's to hoping the fans don't panic the first time the team drops two in a row. We saw a lot of that from Cubs fans this year, and I hope that same disease doesn't infect the Hawks fan base. It's a long year, and it's important to keep your eye on the big picture.
The Hawks have a good team -- and they have a chance to be a great team. It's going to be an exciting year.