Stanley Cup Final: Winning make the Blackhawks a dynasty?
There was little rejoicing from the team in the moments afterward as they remained focused on the one goal of raising the Cup, but for the fans of one of the best run franchise in sports, the talk was if they were a modern-day dynasty.
Being a champion isn't good enough anymore. In the non-stop world of social media, blogs, cable sports shows and sports talk radio it's not enough to win the Stanley Cup, World Series, Super Bowl or the NBA Finals. Now, the talk is about legacies and dynasties.
Gone are the days of when teams like the Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders orMontreal Canadiens didn't have to worry about unrestricted free agency or teams signing their players to offer sheets when they're restricted free agents. Winning and winning consistently is harder than it was from 1976-1988 when those three franchises were the only teams to win the Stanley Cup.
The Canadiens and Islanders each won four straight and the Oilers won five in seven years with much of the roster from the first championship still around for the end of their run. Those teams are without question dynasties. Their dominance on the ice was unparalleled but the modern era has more to worry about that the team on the other bench.
In an interview last year with Dan Patrick, Wayne Gretzky who starred for those Oilers teams thinks the Blackhawks are shaping up to be a dynasty despite the constraints of the salary cap.
"It's harder to be a dynasty in this day and age with the salary-cap system, Gretzky said on the Dan Patrick Show. "Your homework and your scouting has to be flawless and they seem to have done a very good job with that."
Gretzky's teammate with the Oilers and a fellow Hall of Famer, Mark Messier thinks the Blackhawks are on the cusp of being a dynasty. He would know having won six Stanley Cups in his career with five coming with Edmonton and one with the New York Rangers.
But how did this run start?
September 26, 2007 was the day the Blackhawks organization began their march toward dynasty status. That was the day former owner Bill Wirtz died. He was every bit as stubborn as he was cheap and managed to alienate the proud fanbase by refusing to televise the team's home games and trading away the franchise's best players.
From Bobby Hull and Phil Esposito to Chris Chelios, Jeremy Roenick and Ed Belfour, Wirtz was the common link in the Blackhawks being turned into one of the worst organizations in professional sports.
They were no sellout crowds. There weren't Blackhawk sweaters flying off the shelves and there weren't Chicago residents bragging about being a Blackhawks fan. There was no hope.
The death of Bill Wirtz was the beginning of the rebirth of the Blackhawks.
Rocky Wirtz took over as the owner and endured all the criticism he had to hear about how poorly his late father had run the organization and turned aside fans for generations. Rocky wouldn't let the mistakes of his father plague his tenure and made brilliant hires to rebuild and rebrand the organization.
Wirtz hired John McDonagh, who was a marketing and business guru for two decades with the Chicago Cubs, to be the team's president and named another Cubs executive, Jay Blunk the team's vice president. Quickly the franchise had reputable and savvy minds in the front office to lift the franchise from a decades-long funk and essentially had to start over like a franchise team.
Their first move was promoting Stan Bowman from the Hockey Operations Department to the club's general manager. The son of legendary coach Scotty Bowman, Stan, much like Rocky, was eager to build his own legacy. Bowman.
He inherited a team built by former general manager Dale Tallon who had some good fortune in making his most successful draft picks. The Blackhawks had the No. 3 pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and came away with the best player when he took Toews after the St. Louis Blues took Erik Johnson and the Pittsburgh Penguins took Jordan Staal.
The next year, Tallon was even luckier when the Blackhawks moved up from No. 5 to the No. 1 pick after winning the draft lottery and selected a diminutive right wing from Buffalo, N.Y., Patrick Kane.
Toews and Kane made their NHL debut together that October, joining a team with promising defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook and Patrick Sharp who Tallon acquired in a shrewd trade with the Philadelphia Flyers.
The beginning of the nucleus was starting to take shape but the Blackhawks missed the playoffs for a fifth straight year, but for the first time in more than a decade there was hope that the Blackhawks were onto something special with two transcendent players in Toews and Kane if the fans could be patient a little longer.
Chicago made it to the playoffs in 2008-2009 for the first time since the 2001-2002 season with Kane and Toews leading the way along with Keith, Seabrook, Sharp and intriguing talents like Martin Havlat, Andrew Ladd, Dave Bolland, Kris Versteeg and high-priced free agent Brian Campbell.
The young Blackhawks advanced to the Western Conference Finals against bitter rival Detroit where the Red Wings had been the model franchise for the last two decades. Chicago bowed out in five games to the defending Cup champions who would lose in the Final to the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games, but they learned how to win and win in the postseason.
Chicago was officially a team that was no longer the laughingstock of the NHL and genuine excitement followed. The United Center crowd was sold out every night, there were fans wearing Blackhawks sweaters and t-shirts everywhere you were in the city and fans, players and coaches alike started to believe they could win their first Cup since the 1960-1961 season.
But Tallon recognized the core group of players needed help so in his last big move as the team's general manager signed veteran right wing Marian Hossa who played in the Stanley Cup Final the previous two years to a controversial 12-year deal in 2009 to make the Blackhawks legit contenders.
Suddenly, the Blackhawks had the ideal mix of youth and veteran talent to make a run at the Red Wings in the conference they had dominated for so long. Chicago won a franchise record 52 games to capture the Central Division title with 112 points, 10 more than Detroit in second place and entered the postseason with a tidal wave of support.
The Blackhawks eliminated Nashville and Vancouver in six games before sweeping San Jose to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since the 1991-1992 season and beat Philadelphia in six games on an overtime goal from Kane.
"He'd be happy, but I don't think he'd agree with the methods," Rocky Wirtz said when asked what his father would think of this team, via the New York Times. "But if anyone would have predicted this was coming back then, they would have told you were smoking dope."
Chicago snapped their Cup drought and the city had their hockey team back.
But this is where it got challenging for Bowman whose team was up against the salary cap and had to breakup the bottom of the roster, something the Canadiens, Oilers or Islanders didn't have to concern themselves with during their dynasty.
Gone were notable contributors like Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien and goalie Antti Niemi as Bowman had to cut salary to abide by league rules.
The next two years the Blackhawks were bounced in the first round of the playoffs where their lack of depth came back to haunt them.
During those two years, Bowman stocked the roster as best he could with young, cheap assets, particularly in net where Corey Crawford asserted himself as the No. 1 netminder over Marty Turco. He was given a lot of rope to grow in the position with Turco clearly past his prime and ready to retire and that faith in Crawford would pay off in a big way.
After the lockout delayed the start of the 2012-2013 season, Chicago was primed to get back to the Final with a new supporting cast and a new goalie between the pipes in Crawford.
The Blackhawks won the President's Trophy with the league's best record in the 48-game schedule and after dispatching the upstart Minnesota Wild in the first round had a showdown with Detroit in the conference semifinals.
Chicago fell down 3-1 in the series before they showed their championship pedigree and won the last three games of the series to advance to the Conference Finals against Los Angeles. They had little trouble putting the defending champions away in five games and met the Boston Bruins in the Final.
In a matchup pitting two Original Six franchises against each other, the Blackhawks scored two goals in 17 seconds at the end of the third period in Game 6 to win their second Cup in four years. Kane won the Conn Smythe but it was Crawford who arguably should have won after going 16-7 with a .932 save percentage and a 1.84 GAA.
Now the dynasty talk started to heat up with the core group so young and talented, a coach in Joel Quenneville pushing all the right buttons and a general manager in Bowman who proved he can build on the fly.
Unlike the last Cup run, Bowman didn't have to purge too many players off the roster and Chicago made their fourth trip in six years to the Conference Finals, but fell to the eventual champion Kings in an overtime loss in Game 7 on a deflected goal off a Blackhawks player.
An ugly way to end the season for sure, but the consistent competing for championships in the salary-cap era put the Blackhawks in rare company.
The Red Wings won three Cups in six years from 1997-2002, including back-to-back titles in 1997 and 1998 and are the last team to repeat as champions. From the 1994-1995 season through the 2002 Cup-winning team, the Red Wings had eight teams that advanced to the Conference Finals, including four trips to the Final where they won three of them.
That was a dynasty and the run the Blackhawks are on is the closest thing since with five Conference Finals in seven years and three wins away from a third Cup in the same six-year span. With Kane, Toews and Keith locked up through 2023 the Blackhawks could only be in the middle of their dynastic run.
"We've had some good accomplishments in here and some things to be proud of," Kane said, via ESPN.com. "But at the same time, who knows if these opportunities are going to come around this often?"
We've seen other great teams in the NHL have three-year peaks like Pittsburgh, Boston, Detroit, San Jose and Los Angeles but they've all regressed for one reason or another while Chicago's championship window remains open like the drive-thru at your local McDonald's.
They're not there yet but with three more wins against Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Ben Bishop and the Lighting, the Blackhawks will have zero doubts about their classification as a dynasty.
Chicago sports fans are as superstitious as they come after years of heartbreak so the mere mention of the word is enough to make the most optimistic Hawks fan throw their Italian beef sandwich or slice of Lou Malnati's in your general direction.
But it's time to shift out of the old way of thinking when Bill Wirtz was in charge and realize what's happening with this franchise is a historic stretch never seen from this franchise.
Even better, the best is yet to come considering Kane and Toews are 26 and 27 years old, respectively, they are only beginning to enter the prime years of their career.More from FanSided:
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