Trevor Daley had watched the Blackhawks from afar for the last several years. He saw how they worked collectively as a group, how they got through ups and downs and how they won — and won and won.
Now he’s seeing it up close.
“These guys are locked in,” he said following Tuesday’s practice at Johnny’s IceHouse. “I’m looking forward to being a part of it.”
The Blackhawks have done a lot of winning these last few seasons, and it starts with a core that brings as much mental toughness and confidence as it does talent. That core will be instrumental again as the Blackhawks defend their Stanley Cup, starting with Wednesday's regular-season opener against the New York Rangers.
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For Daley, the chance to join this group, and possibly win a Cup with them, is enticing. He’s willing to do what’s asked of him because, obviously, what the Blackhawks are doing has worked pretty damn well lately.
“When you come in and you see what these guys have done — especially for someone like myself, who’s been in the league a lot of years and trying to accomplish what these guys have accomplished — it’s a no-brainer to come in and see what they do and follow,” he said. “Selfishly, what a great opportunity it is for me to come in and have guys like this around me and be able to see what they’re doing. Because at the end of the day, these guys have done what every other team in the league wants to do.”
Andrew Desjardins said he observed the same things when he was traded here last spring.
“There was just that feeling of winning. ‘Let’s be the best team, let’s be the best team every night and let’s ... let’s win,’” Desjardins said. “Obviously there are other things: the mindset, play the right way, do the right things with the puck and play with the style that makes us successful. But the bottom line is to win.”
While many moves have been made since the Blackhawks won the Cup in 2010, the core group — Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Patrick Kane, among others — remains largely intact. They’ve set the bar, and those who join the team have to meet it.
“The core group in here that really plants the seed of how things are done,” Corey Crawford said. “The guys who come in, our management has done a great job of bringing in the right guys to fill spots. It’s more these guys coming in and following what’s been going on here for a while.”
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At the same time, those new acquisitions bring some special elements, too. Many haven’t gone through the rigors of several long postseason, so they bring energy. And many — including Jamal Mayers, Michal Rozsival, Michal Handzus, Antoine Vermette and Kimmo Timonen — have joined the Blackhawks looking for their first Stanley Cup. That desire to win one brings an enthusiastic jolt to the core.
“Just their attitude, their excitement,” Bryan Bickell said of what the new guys add. “I’m sure everyone in the league wants to wear a Blackhawks jersey because they have a chance every year. The excitement lifts us to give them an opportunity to win. We want to win for them and for ourselves, too.”
The Blackhawks are embarking on another Cup defense. The other two weren’t easy; this one won’t be either. But the core that’s been in place here knows what it takes to vie for another Cup. Those who are new to the program know they need to heed and follow the core group and adapt to the Blackhawks’ system for their best chance to win. Recent results show it’s been a successful blueprint.
“Guys who (have been) around and know the systems and lead by example on the ice,” Bickell said. “Our leaders show (new players) the ropes, what Blackhawks hockey is all about, what we need and what we look forward to for a season to be successful.”