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Ranking the 5 Greatest Players in Chicago Blackhawks History

Steve SilvermanFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 17, 2017

Ranking the 5 Greatest Players in Chicago Blackhawks History

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    Denis Brodeur/Getty Images

    The Chicago Blackhawks' history has featured a boatload of stars and Hall of Famers. 

    While there have not been many Stanley Cups—just five since beginning play in 1926-27—some of the greatest names who have played for the team have become legends in the sport.

    In this piece, we rank the five greatest players in the organization's history. We give great weight to the Blackhawks' two Stanley Cups in the last five seasons, and that has much to do with the presence of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on this list. However, those players are just starting the prime of their careers, and they have a long way to go before their legacy is complete.

    We have full respect for players like Tony Esposito, Chris Chelios, Glenn Hall, Pierre Pilote, Doug Wilson and Steve Larmer, but none of them made the cut. Here are the top five players who have skated at the United Center or the dear, departed Chicago Stadium.

5. Patrick Kane

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Best year: 30 goals, 58 assists in 2009-10

    Greatest accomplishment: Scored Stanley Cup-winning goal in overtime vs. Philadelphia Flyers in 2010; won Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) in 2013.

    Analysis: Even though Patrick Kane has not reached his 26th birthday, he has proved to be among the best clutch scorers in the history of the franchise.

    The goal mentioned earlier ended the Blackhawks' 49-year Stanley Cup drought. Additionally, there have been a slew of other huge goals during his career. His double-overtime goal eliminated the Los Angeles Kings in the 2013 Western Conference Final.

    He also scored two goals in the pivotal Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins that year, a victory that left the Blackhawks on the precipice of their second championship in five years.

    Kane is speedy, skilled, agile and confident. His ability to carry the puck and maneuver past opponents allows him to create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. While he has not always produced at the expected level in the regular season, he has played his best hockey in the postseason and that has made him one of the most beloved players in franchise history.

    It's "Showtime" whenever Kane has the puck in the offensive zone.

4. Jonathan Toews

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Best year: 32 goals, 44 assists in 2010-11

    Greatest accomplishment: Won Conn Smythe Trophy in 2010.

    Analysis: The numbers don't even begin to tell the story with Jonathan Toews, who is simply the Blackhawks' best and most responsible player on the current roster.

    While he has an array of offensive moves and can score when the Blackhawks need a goal, he is one of the best defensive players in the league, he can dominate in the faceoff circle and he is an outstanding leader.

    Although he is only 26 years old, he is known as Captain Serious because he plays the game with such a fervor. In addition to his play with the Blackhawks, he has been an integral part of two gold-medal-winning Olympic teams for Canada.

    Toews helped save the Blackhawks from having to play in a seventh game in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. With his team trailing 2-1 with 1:16 to go in Game 6 at Boston, Toews picked up a loose puck in the corner, skated along the end line and fed a perfect pass to Bryan Bickell, who tapped in the trying goal.

    The Blackhawks scored again seconds later and had their second Stanley Cup in five years.

    By the time his career is over, it would not be a surprise if Toews found his name on the top of the list of the franchise's all-time best players.

3. Denis Savard

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    Best year: 44 goals, 87 assists in 1987-88

    Greatest accomplishment: Seven-time NHL All-Star.

    Analysis: Denis Savard won his only Stanley Cup as a member of the Montreal Canadiens in 1993. Despite that, he is a quintessential Blackhawks player who had amazing, game-breaking talent and the ability to bring the crowd to its feet at the old Chicago Stadium like few others.

    Savard was simply a brilliant skater who could fly by or outmaneuver the opposition in a way that made them look silly. 

    Savard was part hockey player and part dancer. When he had the puck on his stick in the offensive zone, he was beyond creative. His patented "Spinorama" move (coined by Blackhawks play-by-play announcer Pat Foley) left the best defensemen in the game befuddled.

    Savard's skill level was incredibly high, but he played at the same time as Wayne Gretzky. No matter what he did on the ice, he was not going to eclipse The Great One. However, as far as Blackhawks fans are concerned, Savard was able to give Gretzky a run for his money in terms of passion for the game and excitement.

    Savard was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000.

2. Stan Mikita

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    Best year: 35 goals, 62 assists in 1966-67

    Greatest accomplishment: Won Art Ross Trophy (scoring leader) three times; won Hart Trophy (regular-season MVP) twice.

    Analysis: Stan Mikita played 22 seasons in the NHL, and all of them were with the Chicago Blackhawks. The native of Czechoslovakia started his NHL career when he was 18 in 1958-59, and few players have ever gone through the kind of transformation Mikita did during his career.

    When Mikita first came up in in the late 1950s, the NHL was a tough, brutal league and Mikita knew that he would be tested physically. Despite his 5'9", 185-pound frame, Mikita answered every challenge and he was not afraid to use his stick to emphasize his point. He recorded 100 or more penalty minutes in four of his first six full seasons.

    While Mikita was establishing himself, he was showing himself to be one of the smartest and most talented offensive players in the NHL. He could hit the top corner of the net with his shot from 40 feet or longer and he could also thread sweet passes through the defense without hesitation.

    After showing that he would not be intimidated by bigger or stronger players, Mikita stopped throwing elbows and brandishing his stick. He changed completely, as he would go on to win the Lady Byng Trophy twice in his career.

    Mikita was skilled, clutch and dependable throughout his long career and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.

1. Bobby Hull

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    Best year (with Blackhawks): 58 goals, 49 assists in 1968-69

    Greatest accomplishment: 12-time NHL All-Star, won Art Ross Trophy twice, won Hart Trophy twice.

    Analysis: Bobby Hull had the most feared slap shot in the history of the game. Even though players like Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber have the hardest shots in the game today, nothing has ever come close to the fury of the Golden Jet skating down the left wing at full speed and winding up with his ferocious slap shot (2:47 mark).

    Hull was a fearsome combination of speed and strength when he was in his prime, and those characteristics used to bring the Chicago Stadium crowd to its feet and was the cause of nightmares for opposing goalies. 

    Hull was a threat to score anytime he crossed the red line. It would take him two strides to reach full speed, and he was able to pick the corner with his wrist shot as well as unleash his cannon-like slap shot.

    Hull would scored 50 or more goals five times with the Blackhawks, and he also topped the 50-goal mark four more times after he left the Blackhawks following the 1971-72 season and played with the Winnipeg Jets of the World Hockey Association.

    Hull's decision to leave Chicago caused an estrangement between the team and himself, but current owner Rocky Wirtz welcomed Hull back as a distinguished Blackhawks alumni in 2008.

    Hull is often seen at the United Center acknowledging his fans and supporting the current team. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.

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