By Paul Roumeliotis
In 22 games played, the Blackhawks have a league-leading 14-4-4 record and 32 points.
Ex-Blackhawk and current analyst Jeremy Roenick and writer Dan Rosen discussed the Blackhawks' hot start on Wednesday. Does it surprise them?
"I'm not surprised at all," Roenick said. "I actually — in the beginning of the season — picked the Chicago Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup again. I almost kind of believe that it's a little bit of a dynasty-building in Chicago when you have the top four that have been in place and are still in place, and then you surround them with such a great core.
"And I believe that the Chicago Blackhawks have the best starting six defense in the National Hockey League. And follow it up with a goaltender who's coming off a Stanley Cup and has really raised his stock in terms of how people see him as a starting goaltender — in (Corey) Crawford. I think this team is poised and ready to win another Stanley Cup this year, and they're just going right through the motions right now and winning hockey games."
Rosen is on the same page as Roenick.
"You look at their scoring right now and you look at the top, and it's their top guys — their best players — (Jonathan) Toews, (Patrick) Kane, (Marian) Hossa who's been out for a little bit, (Patrick) Sharp, (Duncan) Keith, (Brent) Seabrook," said Rosen. "I mean these are their top guys and their top guys have been producing, and that's why they've been winning. And I think also what it does is it helps the guys like (Ben) Smith and (Marcus) Kruger and (Bryan) Bickell and (Andrew) Shaw to play the games that they need to play because they don't have to worry about the pressure of having to be a top guy on this team right now. The top guys are handling that."
Before the 2009-10 season, Stan Bowman replaced Dale Tallon as the Blackhawks' general manager. After being forced to overhaul some players on the 2010 Stanley Cup-winning team, Bowman's team followed the next two seasons with first-round exits in the 2011 and 2012 playoffs.
But coming off a 2013 Stanley Cup victory, is Bowman considered one of the best GMs in the league?
"I think Stan Bowman's a very good GM right now," said Roenick. "I think he makes the right moves at the right time. I think he manages his cap very well, and he's had to make some tough decisions. I mean it was just crazy the different people that he's had to move, and he's done it at the right time. And then he's filled in the right guys around his core players again. Keeping that strength of your top four like Dan (Rosen) and I were talking about.
"I don't know if he's the best GM in the game, but he's definitely growing and getting into people's heads as being one that needs to be dealt with, needs to be looked after because he is putting some good moves into that Chicago Blackhawks lineup."
[RELATED: Bickell injured in first period vs. Avs]
Rosen cited previous conversations with Bowman as he explained the general manager's strengths.
"He's not afraid of change." said Rosen. "He's not afraid to make a move even when his team is going well, and this Kris Versteeg move is a perfect example. This season, they've brought in back Versteeg, Ben Smith is now playing a more regular role, Brandon Pirri is up with this team now. It's not a huge change over but what is it is it's enough to have some extra motivated guys who want to get with what the Blackhawks had last season and when you bring guys like that in, that will help serve Toews, Kane, Keith and Seabrook — the guys who have won in the past and know they have to essentially go through the motions in the regular season.
"But it keeps them motivated throughout the regular season because they want to win for these guys too, and I think that's a big thing. You're bringing in motivated guys — Versteeg has to be a motivated guy. This team won with him, and then it proved it can win without him so he wants to win with him again and that's big for Stan Bowman. He's not afraid of change and that's a very important asset for a general manager."