Myers: Hawks roll with the changes en route to another Cup


Myers: Hawks roll with the changes en route to another Cup

The smile on Blackhawks president John McDonough’s face couldn’t get any bigger.

The Blackhawks had won another Stanley Cup, this one on home ice, as McDonough had hoped the team would eventually do.

In a few weeks the mood will change some as the Blackhawks once again part with key players off a championship team. But McDonough wasn’t sweating it.

“We adapt to change,” McDonough said a few minutes after the Blackhawks’ 2-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. “I think right now, change is the norm for all of us. We’re accustomed to it.”

It’s hard to argue. The Blackhawks went through a devastating player purge following their 2010 Cup victory. Three seasons later, they won it again. They parted with players after that victory. Two seasons later, they claimed their third Cup in the past six seasons.

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Yes, despite all the changes, the Blackhawks have everyone uttering that “D” word: dynasty. How do you argue it? The victories are there, even if they’re not in consecutive seasons. In the salary-cap world, doing what the Edmonton Oilers or New York Islanders or Montreal Canadiens did back in the day would be near impossible. Winning just about every other year is pretty difficult, too. Yet that’s what the Blackhawks have done.

So, this is a dynasty, right?

“I kind of thought I'd get asked that question,” general manager Stan Bowman said. “I don't think that's really for me to say. That's really for other people to make those proclamations. All I know is that we've got an amazing group here, they've accomplished a lot together, and I'm really proud of the effort they've given year after year. It doesn't always go your way, but they've accomplished quite a bit and we're not finished.”

The Blackhawks have gotten here thanks in large part to their core. When Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa – among others – are on your roster year after year, that’s an excellent start. And the example they set filters through the room.

“Consistency, the way our top guys prepare,” coach Joel Quenneville. “They want to be the best they can. They make players around them better. Their focus, concentration, each game is important to them to be the best they can be. They lead the charge and they play the right way.”

But, again, this is the salary-cap world and the Blackhawks have had to alter their roster, sometimes drastically. But the Blackhawks have found the answers in a variety of ways.

They’ve made the most of drafting and developing; 2011 selection Andrew Shaw was a big factor in the 2013 Cup as was Brandon Saad (2011) and Teuvo Teravainen (2012) in thisCup. All three should be fixtures with this group for a bit. Bowman’s talked on how he doesn’t like to depend on the free-agent market a ton but when he’s gone there, he’s done all right. Michal Handzus was critical in the 2013 Cup run. Antoine Vermette and Andrew Desjardins, trade-deadline pickups this spring,were terrific this postseason.

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No matter who comes along, however, be it draft/development or acquisition, they have to buy into the Blackhawks’ way of doing things. It’s team first, individual second. Egos have to be set aside. A role a player had on his previous team may not be the same here. But if players buy in, the end result is usually pretty good.

“It certainly is a credit to our leadership group on the team and also my staff has done a fantastic job drafting and developing players. The only way you make it work in this system is if you can have young players that you not only draft but you develop, or you find them as free agents and you develop them,” Bowman said. “We've got a lot of people working to put in countless hours and they can certainly make you look good. This is by no means all my doing. I have to credit them.”

The credit goes to a lot of people for making this work. The team brass has to make the right decisions, be it in the draft, at the trade deadline or during free agency. The coaches have to find the right combinations. And the players have to execute. Everyone has played their part. Change will come again for these Blackhawks. Who knows if they go as far next season; even if they don’t, it won’t be a surprise if they’re back in the thick in the near future.

“There are times players have to go, but Stan and Joel and hockey operations have done an amazing job,” McDonough said. “They understand today and they understand the future. That’s the secret of success for the Blackhawks.”

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread:

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

When the Blackhawks drafted Jonathan Toews third overall in 2006 and Patrick Kane with the No. 1 pick the following year, it was a sign that the dark skies were clearing in Chicago. Things really started to change when Rocky Wirtz took over as chairman following the death of his father Bill in September of 2007, and one of the first decisions he made was to televise all 82 games.

The fans were coming back.

For only the second time in 11 years, the Blackhawks finished above .500 in 2007-08 but missed the playoffs by three points, a season in which Kane won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.

The following year Joel Quenneville took over as head coach after only three games to provide some coaching experience behind the bench for a young team on the rise. It resulted in a 104-point season and ended in a Conference Finals berth at the hands of the arch-rival Detroit Red Wings in five games.

The Blackhawks were ready to make that step into championship contenders. They just needed someone to put them over the edge.

Enter Marian Hossa.

On July 1 of 2009, he committed to the Blackhawks for 12 years worth $62.8 million. He bought into the long-term vision and wanted to be a part of something special for many years to come.

Was he ever.

In his first game as a member of the Blackhawks, Hossa scored two goals in a 7-2 road victory against San Jose after missing the first month and a half of the season with a shoulder injury. It was at that moment where you saw what kind of powerhouse the Blackhawks could be and would become with a full lineup and future Hall of Fame winger added to a mixture of franchise-changing players scratching the surface.

Fast forward to Game 5 of the 2010 quarterfinals. You know how it goes. Series is tied 2-2. The Blackhawks trail 4-3 late in the third period. Extra attacker is on. How many times have we seen this? The Blackhawks were surely going to find a way to tie it up ... and then Hossa is sent to the box with 1:03 to play in regulation. A five-minute major boarding penalty.


Not so fast. 

Patrick Kane went on to score arguably the biggest goal in Blackhawks history, a shorthanded one that evened it up with 13.6 seconds to go. United Center is up for grabs. But there are still four minutes left to kill off on the penalty once overtime starts, which Hossa once called "the longest four minutes of my life." 

In a span of nine seconds following the penalty kill, Hossa jumped on the ice from the box, darted straight for the net and buried home what was the second-biggest goal in franchise history to put the Blackhawks up 3-2 in the series. Two nights later Hossa assisted on three goals and the Blackhawks eliminated the Nashville Predators in their barn.

The rest is history.

Who knows if the Blackhawks rally to win that series if they don't tie it up or win it in overtime. Who knows if they break through the next year. Who knows if that core group even remains together. The course of the franchise could've changed that night.

Instead, Hossa was handed the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career on June 9, 2010 from Jonathan Toews, who couldn't give it to him fast enough after he came up on the losing end in consecutive appearances with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings in 2008 and 2009.

Hossa would add two more titles to his résumé with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015, which almost certainly locked up his legacy as one of the all-time greats and his eventual next stop: The Hockey Hall of Fame. The wait was worth it.

"I was hoping to get one coming to Chicago and now I’ve got three," Hossa said following the 2015 Stanley Cup win. "What a feeling." 

The Blackhawks don't win three Stanley Cups without Hossa, who will go down as arguably the greatest free-agent signing in Chicago sports history.

On behalf of the city of Chicago: Thank you, 81.