This is the fifth article in a series of articles looking at and analyzing the success of the last five teams to raise the Stanley Cup. Be sure to read the first three articles in the series, “Where Have all the Dynasties Gone?”, “Detroit: Setting the Parameters of a Modern Day Dynasty”, “Detroit: End of an Era?” and “Pittsburgh – Needed to hit Rock Bottom before Rising Up”. The objective of this series is to search for the new magic formula to create a champion and whether that champion would be built to stand the test of time.
Today, we turn our focus to the 2010 Stanley Cup champions the Chicago Blackhawks as we continue analyzing the final four teams standing in this year’s Stanley Cup play-offs.
The Chicago Blackhawks franchise have enjoyed a long and storied career. Over the years the Blackhawks have made it to the Cup final 11 times, winning the Stanley Cup a total of 4 times. However, prior to its victory in 2010, the Blackhawks had not won the Cup since 1961.
Over the years the Blackhawks has been home to such legends as Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, Steve Larmer and Denis Hull. In addition to the legends the club has been home to colourful star players like Ed Belfour, Jeremy Roenick and Tony Amonte.
The team had once been considered a dynasty but those years have been long gone. The franchise, although showing glimpses of being a top tier team, struggled to find its identity and to climb back into the championship circle.
As mentioned above, the last time the Blackhawks won the Cup was in 2010. The creation of the current roster, like that of the Red Wings and Penguins started with the draft. For the Blackhawks it really began back at the 2002 entry draft where the team drafted Duncan Keith and Adam Burish and followed that draft up with the selections of Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford and Dustin Byfuglien in the 2003 entry draft. In 2004, the club selected Dave Bolland, Bryan Bickell and Troy Brouwer.
By 2004 the cupboard had been stocked but there was still something missing. In each of the following seasons Chicago still finished among the bottom of the league, and in 2006 after finishing with the 3rd worst record in the NHL, the Blackhawks selected Jonathan Toews with its first pick. Then in 2007 it won the draft lottery after finishing the season with the 4th worst record, the Blackhawks won the right to select Patrick Kane as the first overall selection in that draft year.
Like the Penguins, the Blackhawks over the period of 2003-2007 had hit close to rock bottom and had taken full advantage of that fact and drafted a strong nucleus for the future. At least a part of the credit for the change must be given to the general manager at the time, Dale Tallon. He had, and still has, a strong reputation for building teams through the draft.
The 2010 Stanley Cup roster included the players named above along with other prominent names such as Brian Campbell, Marian Hossa, Tamas Kopecky, Andrew Ladd, John Madden, Anti Niemi, Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg.
The problem that faces the Blackhawks and their ascent into relevance is the effect the Cap era is having on most teams – how to keep a team together. However, due to strong drafting and the spotlight that winning a Cup brings the Blackhawks were hit hard. Since the 2010 Cup win, Campbell, Kopecky, Ladd, Madden, Niemi, Versteeg, Byfuglien, Burish and Brouwer are all among the players that have left the club.
The Blackhawks were smart; they were able to lock up a core group of players, Toews, Kane, Seabrook and Keith while continuing to draft well and sign key players to replace those that have left the team. A key to the team’s future success will depend on how well they can continue to replace those players that leave the franchise due to cap constraints.
So let’s break down the current team.
The Blackhawks currently have one of the most respected captains in the game in Toews, and the best part of it is that Toews is still only 25 years old. The leadership does not stop there. The Blackhawks also have the active leader in coaching wins behind the bench solidifying the leadership of this squad.
Management: The success of a franchise starts with the management of a club, and as mentioned above, although many of the key cornerstones of the franchise can be attributed to Tallon and the drafting he did, the club is currently in the hands of a second generation Bowman, Stan Bowman. At 39, Bowman would fit in at a party with some of the veterans on the club, but don’t let his age fool you. He has had lots of preparation and tutelage for the role in his 12 seasons with the Blackhawk organization, and in his first season as General Manager of the club Bowman became the youngest GM to lead his team to the Stanley Cup championship. Since then he has been instrumental in locking up key players to long term deals as well and orchestrating many player trades to continue to stock the cupboards full of picks and prospects, minimizing the loss of players who no longer fit under the teams cap constraints.
Coaching: Joel Quenneville has a career coaching record of 624-382-157 and leads all active coaches in total career wins as a coach. He has just finished his 5th season as the head coach of the Blackhawks, and during his tenure as the clubs coach he has amassed a record of 186-99-39 and has the best winning percentage of any coach in the club’s history. Since joining the club, the team has made the play-offs every season, won the Stanley Cup and now has just made the 2nd conference final under his command.
On Ice: Toews, alternate captains Sharp, Keith, and Seabrook lead the club on the ice. Although young, Toews leads both by example, often at the top of the teams scoring race and by character. He is a finalist this year for the Mark Messier Leadership Award and was the youngest Captain in NHL history to win the Conn Smythe trophy in 2010 as play-off MVP (second youngest player to win award, Patrick Roy was the youngest). Even though Keith and Sharp wear the “A” on their jerseys (with Seabrook jumping in if any of the first three do not play) the club has a number of veterans who also lead both on the ice and in the locker room.
The current roster consists of six former first round picks and 12 players that were originally drafted by the Blackhawks. In addition to the core of Toews, Kane, Sharp, Hossa, Seabrook, Keith and Crawford the team has brought up young players like Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Ben Smith from the junior ranks to assist with this year’s club’s push for another championship. The team showed its heart and its ability to get contributions from all players in the conference semi-final when they battled back to beat the Red Wings. Set up by a Bolland hit, Seabrook was sent off into the Wings zone in overtime of game seven of the series where he sent the puck past Jimmy Howard to win the series.
As mentioned earlier, one of the key successes for this franchise has been its ability to replace the Campbell’s, Kopecky’s, Ladd’s, Niemi’s, Versteeg’s and Byfuglien’s with youth like Saad, Crawford and Shaw. Its ability to turn assets they are bound to lose for future help like trading Ladd to Atlanta for a prospect and a 2nd round pick in the 2011 entry draft, or trading Troy Brouwer to the Washington Capitals for a 2011 first round draft pick has allowed the Blackhawks to succeed.
According to capgeek.com, the Blackhawks have 21 players under contract for the 2013-2014 and has a little over $2,000,000 in projected cap space to fill out its roster. This does not include any buyout the team may choose to make in the off-season.
There is not a lot of wiggle room to make changes and the club will have to make decisions this off-season on players like Bryan Bickell, Nick Leddy, Victor Stalberg and determine what to do about a second goaltender. It must also keep in mind that Toews, Kane and Saad each only have two years left on their current deals, and in respect of Toews and Kane, both players currently are playing under contracts which would be considered bargains in today’s NHL, so both will likely be looking for raises. Even if they accept a home town discount look for them to at least seek the $7.5 million a season deal Jarome Iginla had in Calgary which would still represent a significant pay increase.
Given the cap situation, Bowman will once again be called on this off-season to try and move current contracts for future picks while replacing those players from the minors.
The club has youth on its side. With a nucleas of Toews, Kane, Seabrook and Keith the club has leadership, scoring and defensive prowless locked up, and each player is still young. Saad and Shaw should only get better making it easier to part with other players. To get an idea of what Chicago has in its system check out LWOS July 29, 2012 series Top Shelf Prospects. The Blackhawks are also the only team in the final four to still have their first round pick for 2013.
The current Blackhawks have many of the important ingredients to become dynasty. They have hit rock bottom in the recent past and built a foundation of young star players. They have strong leadership and although it is difficult to measure whether they have built an environment that attracts free agents, more so because of the cap issues that continually plague the team, they have done a great job at replenishing the departed ranks through strong drafting. If the club can continue to do this well they should be at the top of the Western Conference for years to come.
Thanks for reading – as always feel free to leave comments below and follow me our hockey department on twitter @IswearGaa. @lastwordBKerr, @BigMick99, and @LastWordOnNHL, and follow the site @lastwordonsport.
Interested in writing for LastWordOnSports? Visit our Join our Team page and be heard!