Why the Chicago Blackhawks Have Not Been Decimated By the NHL Salary Cap

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Why the Chicago Blackhawks Have Not Been Decimated By the NHL Salary Cap
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

As Hawks fans awoke from the Stanley Cup hangover, what greeted them wasn’t much of a remedy. The Indian Head was sent spinning thanks to an avalanche of inevitable trades shortly after the team’s first Stanley Cup title in 49 years.

Now, just a few months after that Patrick Kane goal which sent Chicago into pandemonium, many old faces were sent packing, including Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Andrew Ladd, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager, Adam Burish, and more.

But don’t spike those four feathers just yet, Hawks fans.

Chicago is going to be okay.

Why? Just look to the east, Chicago, to that city often on the foul end of your tongues. These Blackhawks have developed a core similar to the one that led the Detroit Red Wings to a long run atop the NHL standings, including four Stanley Cup titles.

First, young Jonathan Toews, the playoff MVP, has often been compared to Detroit’s Steve Yzerman. Both players were fantastic two-way forwards and inspiring leaders to their teammates. Both wore number 19, and both were designated as the captains of their respective franchises at an early age.

But the parallels between the two teams go far past the No. 1 center.

Brendan Shanahan, a gifted goal-scorer on the left wing with a big body, powered the Red Wings offensive attack, similar to the way that Marian Hossa did when in uniform for the Hawks this season.

Any offensive attacks by opponents were thwarted by Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom, a six-time Norris Trophy winner. The 2010 winner of the Norris, Duncan Keith, is developing into the next great NHL defenseman. Lidstrom had help from two other Detroit defensemen, as well: Viacheslav Fetisov and Vladimir Konstantinov. Keith has that same confidence when he looks down the blue line at teammate Brent Seabrook.

If you’re looking for a sniper, there were not many better in the 90s than Sergei Fedorov. The lasers fired from Patrick Sharp’s stick are just as befuddling to NHL goalies in this decade. I think Brian Boucher is still looking for the puck Sharp rifled past him in Game Five.

And Fedorov’s ability to fly around the ice at an incredible speed is echoed in the blazing strides taken by Chicago’s Patrick Kane.

In the crease, the combo of Mike Vernon, Dominik Hasek, and Chris Osgood combined to secure the four titles for Detroit. Antti Niemi earned the first for the Hawks, making the right saves at crucial times to backstop Chicago’s 2010 title run. If Marty Turco can provide the same solid—but not necessarily spectacular—performances in net, then the Hawks back end will do their part to keep the Hawks at the top of the conference.

It wasn’t just the stars that led Detroit’s four Cup banners to the Joe Louis Arena rafters, though. They received plenty of support from role players such as Darren McCarty, Kris Draper, Igor Larionov, and Tomas Holmstrom. The Hawks, meanwhile, benefitted greatly in 2010 from the contributions of Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer, Brian Campbell, and more. All those players are under contract through at least 2011.

A host of players joined the Red Wings on some of these Cup runs, including future Hall-of-Famers Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, and Chris Chelios. And when some of the big Detroit names like Yzerman, Shanahan, and Fedorov stepped aside, Datsyuk and Zetterberg were right there to pick up the slack. New role players like Johan Franzen, Daniel Cleary, and Niklas Kronwall also filled in when needed.

But it was the elder Wings that allowed this younger generation to succeed in the past decade. Their skills drew the attention of the opponents, giving the adolescent NHLers time to develop their game at the professional, without having to carry a franchise at the same time.

In a similar manner, the Hawks will be carried through the next decade by the likes of Toews, Hossa, Keith, and Kane. Bolland, Sharp, Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and others could continue to be the role players, provided the Hawks keep them around. This will allow the prospects in the Hawks’ system to work their way into the NHL game. Names like Jack Skille, Bryan Bickell, and Kyle Beach could be the future players filling in the lineup.

The bottom line is this, Hawks fans: Your team isn’t going anywhere. Salary cap or not, this team is built for a long run. It may not match the four titles that the Wings tallied during their outstanding run, but it’s a safe bet that Michigan Avenue will be full of red, black, and white at least one more time in the near future.

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