2010 Stanley Cup champion Kris Versteeg and 2010 head coach Joel Quenneville joined NBC Sports Chicago's "Be Chicago: Together We Can" fundraiser benefitting the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund on Wednesday night, and discussed why the team may have felt the 2009-10 season was their last shot at Stanley Cup glory in the Windy City.
Seeing as the 2010 Stanley Cup championship team sparked the golden age and yielded three Stanley Cup titles for Chicago, it's hard to imagine they thought of themselves as having one last hurrah similar to the 1998 Chicago Bulls, but they did.
Not only did the group think the 2010 postseason could be "the last dance'" (and yes, that crew would make an epic ESPN docuseries), but they correctly feared that some of their top players could be gone the following year.
Currently being chronicled in ESPN's "The Last Dance," the Bulls knew they had one more shot at a title in 1998. General manager Jerry Krause announced it was Phil Jackson's last season as coach, prompting Jordan to say it was his. There was also friction between Krause and Scottie Pippen.
No, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane hadn't achieved the same zip code as Jordan status in just a couple of NHL seasons, and there wasn't much friction behind the scenes. But the team knew they had something special, and it would more than likely be dismantled after the year.
"I would have liked to seen it have an opportunity, but obviously, at the same time, we're all in this, too, to make a living, and you got to get paid as well," Versteeg said of the team breaking up. "It is tough the way the cap works out, but I'm just glad we got to do it. Because we had one year to do it. That's what was tough.
"There was a lot of pressure on us internally too. We talked about it. We all knew it was going to be it and we had to try to do it in one year, and that's why I was pretty proud of that group."
The Bulls were putting a bow on their dynasty in 1998, and the Blackhawks were just starting theirs in 2010, but several players had their "last dance" with the Hawks as Stanley Cup champions.
Versteeg and other valuable, up-and-coming 2010 Cup champions like Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien were traded shortly after winning due to salary cap constraints. The Hawks also had to match an offer sheet from the San Jose Sharks for Niklas Hjalmarsson, forcing them to part with starting goalie Antti Niemi.
Shot-blocking veteran defenseman Brent Sopel was also traded away that offseason, as were gritty forwards Ben Eager and Colin Frasier. Scrappy defenseman Adam Burish signed with the Dallas Stars after his contract expired, and veteran center John Madden joined the Minnesota Wild after his deal with Chicago was done.
Versteeg and Ladd rejoined the Hawks for stints later in their careers, but only Versteeg would lift Lord Stanley's Cup again with the Blackhawks in 2015.
NBC Sports Chicago's Pat Boyle asked former Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville about the "Last Dance" comparison during Wednesday's telethon.
"To an extent there," Quenneville replied. "We were so deep and talented. It was all these guys in every position. When we went four lines deep. We had to sit some guys out that you knew are going to be good players that were not going to be happy with your decisions.
"And we had all these young guys that were on entry level contracts that were going to be impact players on other teams. We'd obviously like them on our team. Buff was included in that group. And we had to make some decisions and some real tough ones as well.
"It wasn't because of the talent, it was based on money. And those decisions were made, and the fact that the players knew it at that time was something that, as a coach, you're not even thinking about that. You're only thinking about winning and doing everything we can to get everybody to compete and push one another in a positive way."
Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.