Their achievement of three Stanley Cup
titles may not match up to the achievements of the Edmonton Oilers or New York
Islanders in the 1980s, or the Montreal Canadiens in the 1970s, or even the
1960s Toronto Maple Leafs (sorry to remind you Leafs fans). However, the
Chicago Blackhawks deserve to be considered among all of the NHL’s greatest
historic dynasties as the first true dynasty of the salary cap era.
It’ll always be difficult to compare teams
from different eras; it’s difficult enough to compare the 2010, 2013 and 2015
champion Blackhawks. However, winning three championships in six years (they
might not be done yet) in an era where parity has broadly been successfully
It has been a period, where superstar
players Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin have claimed just one Stanley Cup
between them. The New York Rangers, San Jose Sharks and Philadelphia Flyers
have just not quite been able to get over the edge in spite of spending big
money and making big trades. Meanwhile, teams like the Boston Bruins and
Anaheim Ducks have come close to doubling their Cup titles since the 2004-05
lockout. Even teams that were perennially consistent in the 90s and early 2000s
like the Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils just haven’t been able to
maintain that success, they appeared in a combined three Cup finals in the
salary cap era, but have just one title to show for it between them.
It’s harder to enjoy consistent success.
Teams like Chicago cannot exploit their market advantage and sign up their core
for the long-term like they might have done once.
Indeed, the turnover in Chicago’s roster
between their first championship and their third is extraordinary. There are
just eight players who played on both the 2010 winning team and the 2015
winning team. Of those, Kris Versteeg wasn’t on the roster in 2013.
The identities of the other seven players
provide a pretty good first indication for the source of Chicago’s success.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjmarlsson,
Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. That’s a terrific foundation for any forward
group and blue-line.
The second key has been the ability of
first Dave Tallon and then Stan Bowman to consistently re-tool this roster
around those core players. Most Stanley Cup winning teams are built at least in
part around a group of young players on entry-level contracts that provide
‘value for money’ on the cap restricted roster.
Somehow, Chicago has managed to keep
changing the roster. The 2014-15 version of the Blackhawks epitomizes the
combination of effective drafting and savvy free agent moves that have helped
this team enjoy such consistent success.
Veterans Brad Richards and Kimmo Timonen
played critical roles, while Antoine Vermette was an expensive, but vital trade
deadline acquisition. However, second round pick Brandon Saad and late first
round selection Teuvo Teravainen played critical roles in the long
postseason run. Both were selected in drafts after Chicago’s initial 2010
The art of quality drafting is difficult to quantify. There’s clearly an
element of fortune involved and an effective professional set-up is also
critical to developing young talent. Chicago’s greatest success has been in
identifying their ‘type’ of players. Very few teams have been as good at
picking up young, skilled players as Chicago. Even fourth liners Andrew Shaw
and Marcus Kruger are pretty good players with the puck on their sticks.
Even after the 2011 and 2012 playoffs when Chicago lost in the first
round on each occasion, there was still an organisational commitment to a
philosophy of having a line-up built around speed and skill.
A big part of that consistency is rooted in Toews. The captain gets more
credit than any other player for Chicago’s success and it’s deserved. His will,
determination and leadership make him the vital driving force for this
Another part of the equation who perhaps doesn’t get the credit that he
deserves is head coach Joel Quenneville. It is somehow assumed that anyone
could lead Toews, Kane, Keith and Seabrook to three championships. The reality
is very different. Quenneville has consistently adapted Chicago’s special teams
and their set up at both ends of the ice to keep the Blackhawks relevant. You
do not make three long postseason runs without elite coaching.
Chicago’s dynastic era could still be extended. Toews is just 27 and
Keith is the oldest of the team’s core at just 31. One more championship during
their prime years would surely elevate this team’s success to being in
contention with some of the true great teams, like the 80s Islanders and
Ahead of Bowman, Quenneville and this Blackhawks is another roster
re-shape that will probably see Sharp depart among some other significant
pieces. Still, it would be a dangerous game to sleep on the Blackhawks even in
the 2015-16 season.
Labels: Written by Sebastian Egerton-Read - @Seb_Read