Chicago Blackhawks: Time To Give Chris Chelios a Call?

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IJuly 12, 2009

In 2008-09, Chicago saw their once-proud franchise respond to the commitment of new ownership and a new leadership group by putting together one of the most dynamic rebirth seasons in the history of pro sports.

Less than three years after Forbes Magazine named the Hawks the worst-run sports team in America, they sold out every home game and advanced all the way to the Western Conference Finals.

Now, in the summer following the enormous success of last season, the Hawks are again leading the league in headlines. They signed All Star wing Marian Hossa away from Detroit, along with Tomas Kopecky and former Devils center John Madden.

One of the biggest problems the Hawks are facing is financing their talent. The team has a ton of talent and much money invested in one of the better young groups of forwards in the league. But they have very little money left to improve a thin group of defenders.

Somehow, the team needs to add one or two quality defenders, but might not have the money to do it without trading one of their veteran forwards.

I know this is a real tug on the heartstrings for most Blackhawks over the age of 25, but it might be time for Hawks General Manager Dale Tallon to give an old friend a call.

Chris Chelios might actually make sense for the 2009-10 Blackhawks.

Chelios, 47, played for the Blackhawks from 1990-91 until he was dealt to Detroit during the 1998-99 season. During that time, the Chicago native became one of the most popular players in the organization's history.

He played defense the way Chicagoans like it to be played: smart, physical, and at an All Star level. Next to Jeremy Roenick and Ed Belfour, Chelios and the early 1990s Hawks were among the best teams in the conference.

When Chelios was dealt, it signified to many the end of a group of special players in Chicago. Indeed, there would be a 15-year gap between significant playoff appearances for one of the most storied franchises in North American professional sports.

Now Chelios is staring at perhaps one final campaign before skating off into retirement. He has never been shy about his love of his hometown, going as far as telling a Chicago sports radio show that he took a bad penalty on purpose at the end of the 2007-08 season in an effort to try to help the young Hawks get into the playoffs.

He played in only 28 games last year, and made just $750,000 for the season. There were some rumors, many supported by Roenick, that Chelios and Detroit coach Mike Babcock didn't get along, leading to the former captain spending so much time on the bench.

The Hawks are looking for a sixth or seventh defender who can play smart defense and teach the young roster what it takes to win a championship. As with Madden, the intention of this deal would be little more than hiring a coach on skates as a one-year rental.

After all, next summer is when the Hawks have to come up with a way to pay Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane, and captain Jonathan Toews.

The Hawks have four quality defenders between Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell, and Cam Barker. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Jordan Hendry are younger pieces who will play their roles on the lines, with Hjalmarsson having paired with Campbell for much of the playoffs.

The Hawks are looking for a veteran presence to help bolster the blue line at minimal cost.

It might make sense to bring home a hero from the team's past who might have just enough left in the tank, and more than enough between the ears, to make an impact on the team.

If experience is worth money, then 1,644 career games is like buying Fort Knox, and for the likely cost of a one-year contract, the risk isn't terribly high.

He wasn't able to win it all during his first nine-year run with the team; maybe he can now after all these years. My vote is to bring Chelios home for one last run at a cup.