The Blackhawks have plenty of sizzle, even beyond the sprightly pair of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, who combined for 139 points last season. Hossa and forward Patrick Sharp can fly, and slippery second-liners Kris Versteeg and Dave Bolland each have a deceptive second gear. All-Star-caliber defenseman Brian Campbell leaves a trail of smoke behind him and at age 30 should return to form after stalling slightly upon signing a mammoth long-term contract before last season. Chicago's pair of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook may be the smoothest skating defensive unit in the league.
Madden says that Blackhawks training camp called for "longer days and tougher practices" than he was used to in New Jersey—and there's a reason for that. "Expectations are higher," says 6'3", 246-pound winger Dustin Byfuglien, the muscle behind Chicago's hustle. "Now we have to make it at least to the [Cup] finals."
A berth in the Cup finals is not all that Hossa, and the Chicago fans who have been titleless for 48 years, have in mind.
LAST SEASON 51-21-10 (2nd in West); lost in Cup finals to Pittsburgh
KEY ADDITIONS RW Todd Bertuzzi, RW Patrick Eaves, C Jason Williams
KEY LOSSES RW Marian Hossa, C Jiri Hudler, RW Tomas Kopecky, RW Mikael Samuelsson
Has Nicklas Lidstrom, who's nearly 40 and who last season suffered the indignity of finishing as a Norris Trophy finalist after winning it in six of seven years, begun to slip? Can goalie Chris Osgood keep treating the regular season like an extended exhibition run and then buckle down in the playoffs? Is lightly tested forward Ville Leino ready for big minutes on the second line? And how on earth can Detroit make up for the loss of 88 goals (about 30% of its regular-season output) to player departures?
After another dominant season and a postseason surge that brought them to the verge of their fifth Stanley Cup in 12 seasons, the Red Wings closed the 2008--09 playoffs with a galling failure—three straight losses, two at home—that has left them open to questioning. Detroit is still loaded (Henrik Zetterberg; Pavel Datsyuk, above; Johan Franzen; Niklas Kronwall) and remains, as Blues coach Andy Murray says, the team "everybody's chasing," but in an improved division Detroit, for the first time this century, is not a prohibitive favorite.