Thursday, June 10, 2010
Blackhawks rise to the Stanley Cup
Chicago Blackhawks finally won the Stanley Cup breaking the current longest championship drought of the NHL. It was impressive rise to the Cup for a team that was left to rot around a decade ago. Best word to describe the Blackhawks in the late 90s and early 2000 seasons was mediocrity. After making the playoffs in 28 straight years they missed the playoffs in 9 out of 10 seasons starting with 97-98 season. They suffered in free agency market with frugality of late team president Bill Wirtz. The Blackhawks dark period was so bad that AHL team Chicago Wolves, playing at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, would outdrew them at games often. Team drafted very poorly between 1998 and 2004 as Brent Seabrook (1st round; 14th overall; 2003) was one of few picks to remain with the team currently. What turned the team around? You have to look at the post 2004-05 NHL lockout. The first seed was planted in 2006 draft when the Blackhawks drafted Jonathan Toews with third overall pick. Another key person was then-GM Dan Tallon, who was hired at the time, made moves signing and trading players to get a few key players of the current team despite some didn't work out. In 2007 the entire team got a makeover. Bill Wirtz passed away leaving his son, Rocky, taking the reigns as team president. He immediately toss away his father's policies and made partnerships and bringing back team legends that refused to do anything when his late father was still alive and running the team. The second seed planted when Blackhawks, with first overall pick, selected Patrick Kane. Immediately both hit it off as 1-2 combo on ice. Their first season (2007-08) together they finished 40-34-8 with 88 points. More seeds planted as the team signed Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet along bringing coaching legend Scotty Bowman in the front office with Joel Queeneville as scout. Team started 2008-09 season in a struggle that they replaced Denis Savard with Queeneville as coach. Together they became one of best teams in the league that season making the playoffs for first time since 2001-02 season with a record 46-24-12 with 104 points. They made it all the way to NHL Western Conference finals before losing the series to the Red Wings in 5 games. Before the playoffs and near the end of the regular season they signed another goalie who turn out to be key for this season: Antti Niemi. This season continued with more changes as then GM Dan Tallon was demoted/fired after free agent "glitch" as Stan Bowman was promoted to GM. Despite the drama they continue to impress with Kane taking charged along with Toews, Patrick Sharp, Mariana Hossa (who signed a big 12-year contract before the season), and Kris Versteeg on scoring goals. Defensemen Campbell and Duncan Keith doing their job defending against the opponent's offense and assisting goals. Huet and Niemi both impressive in goal and sharing duty. Team finished on top of central division with 52-22-8 with 112 points and the no. 2 seed in the playoffs. They battled past Nashville Predators (4-2), Vancouver Canucks (4-2), and San Jose Sharks (4-0) to reach to the finals taking on no. 7 yet dangerous Philadelphia Flyers who are continued on their momentum including coming back 0-3 to win the series against Boston Bruins. Blackhawks took the first two games of the series at home winning by a goal (6-5; 2-1), but two straight (4-3; 5-3) on the road tying up the series. Back at home, Blackhawks got through and hit both Flyers goalies hard winning 7-4. Now back on the road to Philly the Flyers are on a hot streak winning 20 straight playoff games at home. Both teams battled passed regulation still tied 3-3 going into overtime. Blackhawks end up taking it with a tricky shot at goal from an angle. Guess who scored the goal? It was Patrick Kane, one key young players that sow the seeds of the Blackhawks future. Blackhawks took the series ending the Flyers home playoff winning streak and most importantly Stanley Cup drought who last won it in 1961. What a great way to end the NHL season. Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks for the winning the Cup. They deserved it after 49 long years. Somewhere in the northside of Chicago some are crying on the diamond for their 101 years and counting of futility while a team on the southside and the Blackhawks broke their championship drought during this time.