In a 10-part series, we look back at the 10-year anniversary of the 2008-09 season, the start of the Blackhawks dynasty.
The Blackhawks' dynasty may not have officially started until the 2008-09 season, but it began to form in 2006 when they were awarded the No. 3 overall pick after finishing the previous year with the third-fewest points.
With it, they selected University of North Dakota center Jonathan Toews.
Toews broke into the NHL during the 2007-08 season, compiling 54 points (24 goals, 30 assists) in 64 games, good enough to be named one of three Calder Trophy candidates. Toews scored his first NHL goal in his first game with the Blackhawks, getting one past Evgeni Nabokov on his first shot.
And on July 18, 2008, after only one full season in the pros, Toews was named the 34th captain in Blackhawks history and, at the time, the third youngest in NHL history (20 years and 79 days, behind Sidney Crosby and Vincent Lecavalier).
Then-head coach Denis Savard surprised Toews with the captain’s sweater in front of loyal fans at that year's Blackhawks Convention.
Toews is also the longest tenured captain in team history. With three Stanley Cups under his belt, in 2017 the NHL Network pegged Toews as the seventh-best captain in NHL history.
It's not surprising the dynasty started with No. 19.
When Jeremy Colliton was hired as the Blackhawks head coach in November of 2018, he immediately became the youngest NHL bench boss at age 33. In fact, he was even younger than some of the guys he was coaching (Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, to name a few).
It was a weird dynamic at first, but quickly normalized once the locker room realized how bright of a hockey mind Colliton had/has.
Calvin de Haan offers a unique perspective. After being acquired by the Blackhawks in the summer, an interesting storyline was brought to light. He and Colliton actually played together during the 2011-12 season with the New York Islanders organization, where Colliton served as the captain of the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
While he may not have expected it to come this quickly, de Haan isn't surprised to see Colliton behind an NHL bench at such a young age.
"Looking back on it now, you realize that he has the qualities to be a successful coach," de Haan said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Smart guy, very methodical I don't envision him being a yeller or a screamer but he was a guy who always kind of spoke and everyone kind of listened. I'm assuming it's going to translate to his coaching style and just judging by his personality you can see why he's climbed the ranks pretty quick. I'm really excited to play for him."
Check out the interview in the video above.
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Brandon Saad emerged as a breakout star almost immediately in his early days with the Blackhawks. He quickly became a fixture on the top-six and developed unique chemistry on the first line with Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews.
The Blackhawks were hoping Saad's second go-around in Chicago would produce similar results and recapture some of that magic with Toews, who had a revolving door of wingers during the 2016-17 campaign. That hasn't quite happened yet.
Saad had a bounce-back season offensively in 2018-19, but it wasn't until he was moved to the third line when he started to become a more effective player. It's unclear where the Blackhawks envision Saad in the lineup to kick off the 2019-20 season, but the 26-year-old winger is aiming to get back into a top-six role.
"For me it’s just being my best and you want to play as much as possible and help the team win," Saad said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Obviously it’s the coach’s decision to put you where he thinks helps a team win, but for me, you want to be in that top spot, you want to play the big minutes and you want to get on the ice as much as possible. I’ve always loved playing on top lines and that’s something that I think I’m capable of and that’s what I want to do.”
Saad made the playoffs in each of his first four seasons with the Blackhawks and won two Stanley Cups before he even earned his second NHL contract. After two straight years of missing out on postseason hockey, Saad realizes how lucky he's been to have had that early success and is looking forward to bringing playoff hockey back to Chicago.
“Yeah, it’s definitely been tough," Saad said. "I was so fortunate coming in with winning championships and making the playoffs every year. Now you look back on my career and it seems to be even now from times I’ve even made the playoffs to missing it. Definitely, it’s not fun, but we’re building in the right direction and I think we’re all excited about this upcoming season.”
Check out the interview in the video above.