THE GOLDEN AGE: The Blackhawks and History

On this week's Puckcast, I asked whether this was the Golden Age of the Chicago Blackhawks. If you've got a couple hours, you can hear us discuss it.

Only one other time in the history of the franchise has there been a pair of Stanley Cups won in brief enough succession for there to be common players on both teams - 1934 and 1938. This time, the interval was a year shorter, and instead of 6 common players there are 8. Also, last time the coaches changed. Tommy Gorman won in '34 and Bill Stewart won in '38. This time, both wins belong to Joel Quenneville.

So where are we in the context of this franchise's history?

Let's start with what it means to be a Blackhawks fan. In 1934 and 1938, the Cubs were in a run of winning pennants every three years - '29, '32, '35 and '38. The Sox weren't as successful. They won no pennants between 1919 and 1959, and only got out of the second division (4th out of 8 or better) three times in the 1930s, never finishing higher than 3rd. The Bears won the NFL Championship in 1933, and lost the title games in 1934 and 1937. So the Black Hawks (back when they had the space in the name) had competition for space on the sports page.

The current aggregate are competing with...a Cubs team that is not only bad, but will continue to be bad for the next couple years at least. The Sox are starting to see the paint peel on their championship mural. The Bears last title is rapidly approaching middle age. The Bulls (there were no Chicago Bulls in the 1930s, just as there was no NBA) are a team that can keep the ice sloppy in April, but they're generally going to be packed up in May.

Friday, there will probaly be a couple million people lining streets and jamming Grant Park to celebrate the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup victory. Somewhere you will hear some idiot bitch and moan about these being "bandwagon" fans. Hey, longtime Blackhawks fans...think back to, say, 2007 for a second. You're walking down the street on June 26th wearing a Blackhawks hat or maybe you've got your James Wisniewski shirsey on. How many blocks will you have to walk before you see anybody else wearing an Indian head? When you finally see somebody else wearing some sort of Hawks' gear, are you smiling? Maybe a high-five?

No. At best, you're giving each other a sad nod that comes after another year of watching only road games on TV, seeing young guys like Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Patrick Sharp skate, knowing these guys will all be traded away for spare parts when it's time for them to get new contracts. But hey...at least we've got proven winners like Martin Lapointe and Robert Lang, right? So we were fans during the dark days. Let's all give ourselves medals for that. Hoo-ray.

But back to the present. At this point, the names Kane and Toews are as rich in Blackhawks history as Hull and Mikita are. Just as Bobby and Stosh symbolized the era in the 1960s when the Blackhawks owned Chicago, Kane and Toews do that now. Both duos had great supporting players, and one day the rafters will have a lot more Blackhawks numbers that they do now. But where Hull and Mikita are best known for their individual efforts (Hull was a star and Mikita had his coming out party during their lone Stanley Cup triumph), Kane and Toews already have more Stanley Cups than Hull and Mikita, and they've only been Blackhawks for six years.

Aside from the two that are the face of the franchise, players like Keith, Seabrook, Sharp and Marian Hossa have long-term deals, ensuring they can keep the core of the team together. Then younger players like Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw are still on their entry-level deals, and they've already been major parts of winning the Stanley Cup.

While we'll probably have to say goodbye to guys like Bryan Bickell and Viktor Stalberg, that's the price of the Salary Cap Era. But what Stan Bowman has done is he's been able to identify players (like Saad and Shaw) that can be drafted and developed to offer large contributions without costing too much. When Bickell goes off to make about $4 million/per for the next half decade or so, the Hawks will scarcely miss a beat, plugging in Jeremy Morin, who will make under $900K next season. Stalberg's replacement will be Ben Smith, with a cap hit $300K less than Stalberg's.

And so it goes. You can look at the Blackhawks' organizational depth, and when you combine the current roster with the players who are anywhere from 1-3 years away from the NHL, there is no reason to doubt that this is not only the Golden Age for enjoying Blackhawks hockey as a fan, but also from an organizational standpoint they have established a framework for sustained success for the long term.

So welcome to the Good Old Days. We don't know how long it will last, but it will be fun while it does. And, when it's over we'll have warm and fuzzy memories of Jonathan Toews hoisting the Stanley Cup. And if you get bored with one memory of Toews and the Cup, you can always switch to another one.

 

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  • 6/26/2013 7:16 PM mightymikeD wrote:
    Excellent, Fork. Just plain excellent. Agree 100%
    Reply to this
  • 6/26/2013 10:47 PM Fro Dog wrote:
    Great piece. I'm one of those guys that gets butt hurt when I see a bandwagoner. From Adrian Aucoin to Tyler Arnason to Theo Fluery and Trent Yawney as a head coach, that's loyality. I just won't interact with those fans. I don't want my bad, early 2000's Blackhawk teams back anytime soon.
    Reply to this
  • 6/26/2013 11:35 PM CJC wrote:
    True story from the Dark Ages (about 10 years ago

    At this point, I had given up on the team for the most part, but my longtime buddy Kevin had not. One night I was shopping at a Target and got a phone call from him. "Oh, hey, I'm actually at the same Target as you," he says. I'm in the middle of asking him where in the store he's at when I see him, all way across the building in the exact other corner from me. "Hang on, I see you, stay there."

    After I walk all the way across and meet him, he says to me, "How the hell did you know it was me from all the way over there?"

    "You were wearing a Blackhwaks jersey. Pretty sure you're the only one in here."

    So, yeah, I'll take this.
    Reply to this
  • 6/27/2013 1:38 AM tiffur means wrote:
    That was not supposed to be a smiley. Also I spelled Blackhawks wrong. Don't post in a hurry on an iPad.
    Reply to this
  • 6/27/2013 3:45 AM BBM wrote:
    Hey, I just glad you didn't say anything bad about the halcyon days of Vorobiev and Radulov the elder.
    Reply to this
  • 6/27/2013 12:03 PM Joey Taylor wrote:
    If Bickel departs his size and hands in front of the net need to be replaced. Jimmy Hayes may fit the bill if his skating improves. Bickel's physical play made a difference in the playoffs, similar to Big Buff in 2010. That balance of size and speed is a formula that has worked well, was not present against physical teams in 2011-2012.
    Reply to this
    1. 6/28/2013 10:55 PM Fork wrote:
      Morin's got good size, better hands, and goes to the net more, with less of those damn 40 footers from above the left faceoff circle. Look at Bickell's entire body of work, not just the last 23 games.
      Reply to this
  • 6/27/2013 2:08 PM Mr V. wrote:
    I don't know if I can take this for many more years. I almost had 3 heart attacks in game 4 alone. I'm gonna go get a Cubs jersey and ponder the ramifications of another cup run.

    Do ya think Bicks will stay for 2.5 Mil?

    GO HOCKS! (Go to a parade!)
    Reply to this
  • 6/28/2013 3:06 PM Dave Morris wrote:
    FORKAPALOOZA!

    BTW factoid: in 2007-08, Corey Crawford had better stats than Nik Khabibulin and Pat Lalime, eh.

    And WHERE IS DA LUV 4 ANDREI ZYUZIN??????
    Reply to this

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