ESPN.com's weekly Power Rankings return for another season, and the Blackhawks start the year at No. 6 after a tumultuous 2010-11 season.
The Hawks found themselves mostly ranked in the teens most of last season though they moved into the top 10 several times, only to slip again.
There is optimism for two reasons: the Hawks got plenty of rest this past summer and they added missing grit to their roster. They are the highest ranked Central Division team with the Detroit Red Wings a couple spots behind at No. 8. The St. Louis Blues are No. 14, the Nashville Predators are No. 19 and the Columbus Blue Jackets are No. 26.
The only teams ahead of the Hawks are the Stanley Cup winning Boston Bruins (1) and their opponent in the finals, Vancouver (2), while Washington, Pittsburgh and San Jose round out the top 5.
And Boston and Vancouver will undoubtedly experience a Cup hangover, especially the Bruins. A step back for either in the regular season is a possibility. If the Hawks additions, mostly older and a bit slower, don't pitch in, there might be too much pressure on the core players, which could derail a chance at moving up in the top five.