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.
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.”