Another Stanley Cup solidifies Blackhawks as a dynasty
BY RICK TELANDER firstname.lastname@example.org | @ricktelander April 16, 2014 10:47PM
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Updated: April 17, 2014 5:13PM
You hate to say it, but the entire regular season that just whizzed by means almost nothing.
It was fun watching the Blackhawks do what they did — to hear the infectious-like-a-disease chorus to “Chelsea Dagger” again and again — but the playoffs are where history is made.
And if the Blackhawks can win the Stanley Cup this season, it will mark them as a dynasty.
It’s that simple.
You win three Cups in five seasons, including possible back-to-back Cups? You’re a dynasty. Maybe you’re not the Shangs or the Mings, but you’re more than a hiccup.
Do the Blackhawks want to play the nasty Blues in the opening round, starting in St. Louis on Thursday night?
It doesn’t really matter. To win the Cup, you beat whomever steps in front of you for the next two months. At some point, you’ve beaten everybody who’s beaten everybody else.
The Blackhawks have not had a losing season since 2006-07. They had losing seasons in eight of the nine years before that.
All that we can call the Dark Days. They were the final croaks of the Blackhawks in their world that was better suited to “Game of Thrones’’ shenanigans than Internet-era sports.
“Old-time hockey’’ was the theme of the William W. Wirtz/Bob Pulford era. Hunter/Gatherer era would have been better. Or “TV? What’s TV?’’ era.
Patriarch Bill Wirtz passed away on Sept. 26, 2007, and everything changed. That same year, a snot-nosed little kid named Patrick Kane joined the team. So did a teenaged, mature-beyond-his-years center named Jonathan Toews.
It’s no coincidence that six months after Bill Wirtz’s death, the Blackhawks announced that, for the first time in team history, they would televise the entire 82-game regular-season schedule, plus the playoffs.
The seeds to the possible dynasty were planted, and early sprouts had broken through to the sunlight. The franchise that had been named the worst in professional sports by ESPN in 2004 would abruptly be en route to becoming perhaps the best.
That first Stanley Cup title in 2010 was a surprise, since it broke nearly a half-century drought. The one last year proved that the Blackhawks were not a one-hit wonder. Indeed, they have gone 269-129-60 in the last five seasons. Win one this season and declare this place Hockeyville, USA.
Kane and Toews were injured at the end of this season, but now they’re back. A team that sometimes seems so good that it becomes disinterested or saves itself for the frantic final minutes of close games now must know what’s up.
And that is: Your guns are all loaded, take the prize.
It’s funny to look back on photos of Kane and Toews from their rookie season. They were kids. They could pass for high school students, which they almost were. If Kane had a whisker on his face, it was lonely.
And now they have amassed so many awards, from Olympic medals to names etched on the big Cup itself, that it almost seems trivial that Kane won the Conn Smythe Trophy last year as the MVP of the playoffs and Toews won the Frank J. Selke Award as the outstanding defensive forward in the league.
How many more trophies can this pair add to their personal stashes? But more important, how many more team championships can they add?
For every dynasty, there are figures who stand out through the bright lights. You remember Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen from the Bulls’ championship dynasty; Walter Payton and Jim McMahon from the 1985 Super Bowl Bears; Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra from those old Yankees champs.
Same can be true for Kane and Toews. They have great teammates around them, from Marian Hossa to Duncan Keith to Patrick Sharp to goaltender Corey Crawford. The Bulls’ dynasty had coach Phil Jackson; the Bears had Mike Ditka; and, yes, the Hawks have Joel “Coach Q’’ Quenneville.
It’s all doable. Not easy. But possible. Likely even painful. There’s a bull’s-eye on the chest of every Blackhawks star. They are the defending champs, after all. As Kane said of being singled out for special treatment by the Blues, “I would expect that, even if I wasn’t coming back from injury.’’
No, it’ll be hard, very hard. And long.
But no dynasty was easy. And none was built in a day.