Chicago could be on to something
Unlike the 2010 Stanley Cup edition, the 2013 champion Blackhawks will be
together for years to come.
CHICAGO, IL -- On Monday night in Boston, Gary Bettman handed the
Stanley Cup to Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews for a second
time in four years. With their stunning victory, Chicago became the
first organization to win a second Cup since the 2004-05 season was
However, the aftermath of the two Cup victories could be dramatically
different in the Windy City.
These Blackhawks are built to last.
In 2010, the salary cap wreaked havoc on a talented, young Hawks
roster. Within days of the parade down Michigan Avenue, key names from
the championship roster were being shipped out of town so the team
could afford to keep Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith.
Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg and Antti Niemi were only
four players that didnít return to help raise the banner that October.
In the 18 months that followed, Brian Campbell and Troy Brouwer were
also moved to keep the teamís payroll under the cap.
In the two postseasons that followed, the Hawks were banged up and
trying to find the right mix to win a series. First round exits
against Vancouver and Phoenix led to some questioning the roster build
by GM Stan Bowman, and his relationship with head coach Joel
Last summer, when Bowman only added defensemen Michal Rozsival and
Sheldon Brookbank in free agency to the roster that lost to the
Phoenix Coyotes, many again wondered how the Hawks would fare during
the lockout-shortened season.
During the season, even with the best record in the league, eyebrows
raised when Bowmanís only move was sending San Joseís own fourth round
pick back to the Sharks for the ancient, washed-up Michal Handzus. A
team that lacked a second line center that could skate with the likes
of Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp was expecting the glacial
Handzus to make a difference?
Now that the 2013 season is in the books, all of those questions have
been emphatically answered.
The Presidentsí Trophy and Stanley Cup are both now property of the
Chicago Blackhawks, and the Selke and Jennings Trophies are as well.
Quenneville has a second Cup win as the coach of the Hawks, Toews has
a second Cup as captain, and Kane has a Conn Smythe on his resume.
While many players on the 2010 roster peaked together, thereís a
legitimate case to be made that the best of these 2013 Blackhawks may
be yet to come.
Andrew Shaw, whose bloody face kissing the Cup became iconic in
Chicago before the charter flight landed at O'Hare, was a fifth round
pick by Bowman in 2011. He'll turn 22 in late July and has one more
year left on his entry level contract.
Brandon Saad, the runner-up for the Calder this year, can't legally
celebrate the Cup victory; he doesn't turn 21 until late-October. But
he spent most of the regular season skating on the Hawks' top line
with Toews and Hossa and showed a lot of maturation throughout the
postseason. He is under contract for two more years.
There are a couple restricted free agents the Hawks will have to
consider this summer, but neither is likely to break the bank.
Nick Leddy, who was acquired by Bowman from Minnesota for Cam Barker
while playing at the University of Minnesota during the last Cup run,
is only 22 and shows a world of promise.
Marcus Kruger, who, like Shaw, was a fifth round pick, was paired with
Michael Frolik on the top penalty kill unit for the Hawks that was
outstanding throughout the year. But as a fourth line center, his
payday isnít likely to be one that costs the organization a key move
this summer. He turned 23 at the end of May.
When the Hawks raise the organizationís fifth banner in October, a
couple players might not be back. Veterans like Ray Emery, Jamal
Mayers, Rozsival and Handzus wonít likely be back, and the team will
have to make decisions quickly regarding unrestricted free agents
Viktor Stalberg and playoff hero Bryan Bickell.
But Bowman has done a strong job of building depth in his organization
just as he did with the roster that is bringing the Cup back to
When Bowman took control of the Blackhawks, the organizational depth
was minimal (read: non-existent). The top prospects in Rockford in
2010 were Bickell, Jack Skille (who was traded for Michael Frolik),
Brian Connelly, and Kyle Beach.
Ben Smith made an appearance in the Cup Final after scoring 27 goals
in 54 games in Rockford this year. Heíll turn 25 in mid-July, but has
some good NHL postseason experience already (scored three goals
against Vancouver in the 2011 playoffs).
Brandon Pirri led the AHL in assists and points this year, and could
get a look as a potential second line center in the fall. Jeremy
Morin, who was acquired from Atlanta in one of the post-2010 trades,
had a strong season in Rockford and could factor into the mix as well.
They scored 22 and 30 goals, respectively, in Rockford this year.
Jimmy Hayes, acquired from Toronto after the Blackhawks drafted his
younger brother Kevin in the first round in 2010, could be the next
big body in Chicago. Heíll turn 23 in November, but at 6-6 and 221
pounds has the body to take up a lot of space at the next level.
Adam Clendening made the jump from Boston University to Rockford this
year and was an AHL all-star. The organization thinks highly of him,
and he could push for a roster spot in Chicago with Rozsival moving on
this summer. He posted 46 points from the blue line in 73 games this
year, and doesnít turn 20 until late October.
Bowman also inked one of the more intriguing prospects in Europe
during these playoffs in netminder Antti Raanta. The 24-year-old had a
.943 save percentage and five shutouts for Assat Pori (SM-liiga) and
is likely to replace Emery behind Corey Crawford on the Hawksí depth
chart in net.
And there are more prospects coming, as well. Last summerís top pick,
Teuvo Teravainen, had a solid season for Jokerit (SM-liiga) and
doesnít turn 19 until mid-September. Phillip Danault and Mark McNeill,
the teamís two first round picks in 2011, will move to Rockford this
fall after fantastic final junior campaigns. And defenseman Stephen
Johns (listed at 6-4, 233) will play his final season at Notre Dame
There is a lot of good, young talent coming up with Chicago. Add that
to a core that includes Toews (25), Kane (24) and Niklas Hjalmarsson
(26) and the Blackhawks arenít exactly entering the twilight of their
Chicago is the standard once again, and could stay in the mix for
years to come.