Are the Blackhawks the same team they were when they danced with the Stanley Cup after Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals in June? Nope. Not close with the departures of Brandon Saad, Brad Richards, Johnny Oduya and Patrick Sharp and the ongoing investigation into the Patrick Kane allegations. But they're the defending Cup champs and so they have earned the top spot to begin this new season.
The loss of Brandon Saad is a step back for the defending champs, but they got a solid No. 2 center in Artem Anisimov and we like the addition of versatile Viktor Tikhonov from the KHL. With Teuvo Teravainen ready to step up and the core of three Cup teams still together, the Blackhawks remain elite.