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Chicago Blackhawks: How Much Does Team Chemistry Affect Winning?

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 13:  Pekka Rinne #35 of the Nashville Predators makes a save against Patrick Kane #88  of the Chicago Blackhawks during a shootout at the Bridgestone Arena on November 13, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
Bryan DietzlerSenior Analyst INovember 23, 2010

It is believed that many people expected the Blackhawks to suffer a little bit of a “Stanley Cup Hangover” to start the new season. 

Every team that wins a championship in any sport tends to start things off a little bit slow at times the next season but the Blackhawks had more than a championship hangover to deal with to start.

Chicago was the unfortunate recipient of some major moves during the off-season.  These moves had to take place because the team was well over the salary cap for this year and something had to be done to relieve that salary cap pressure.  So, Chicago traded a bunch of their players away (from last year’s team) released some of those guys that no longer fit with the team and brought in some new talent.

What did these moves do exactly?

Of course they cleared out cap space but they also destroyed a lot of the chemistry that had been built within the club last season and if people don’t think that chemistry isn’t important in hockey, or any other sport for that matter, are crazy.

What does chemistry do for a team?  It’s pretty simple.  Chemistry is the result of extended time practicing and playing with a group of people in order to build cohesion and team unity.  Sports that require teamwork such as hockey and football use team cohesion to build better winning teams.

But what happens when that chemistry is interrupted?  What happens when a player or players are let go from the team and new talent is brought in?  How does that affect the chemistry of the team and how it wins games? 

Team sports like hockey are directly affected by the players that play together.  These players play in smaller units where teamwork and knowing your fellow players is very important.  Lines in hockey have to be able to work well together, be able to think and do things without speaking and know each other’s tendencies.

They must move as one single unit, together not separately and if they don’t work together then they aren’t going to help their team win. That’s why continuity is important.  The more that these players work together, the more familiar they become with one another and the better they play.

So how has this affected the Blackhawks?  After a season of playing with one another (in 2009), those guys from that championship team had grown together and knew each other very well.  They understood one another well, they knew what the other person would do in a certain situation and they worked together so well that they won an NHL Championship.  

When the team was broken up this offseason, the strong chemistry that was built from last year’s squad was lost.  No longer would the Blackhawks be playing the same lines this year as they did last year.  No longer would those Championship players be playing with one another.  Instead, the team would be fractured and those remaining players from last year’s team would have work with new players to try to rebuild chemistry and turn the Blackhawks into a winner.

So perhaps you can consider this to be a big reason why the Blackhawks are struggling to start the season.  They have started out the 2010-2011 somewhat cold and while they are still winning games, they aren’t necessarily winning some of the games that they should nor are they winning some of these games in resounding fashion.

The chemistry that was lost as of taking apart last year’s team is slowly coming back with the Blackhawks this year. 

With each game, we are starting to see their lines solidify and play better as last year’s guys are getting more comfortable playing with this year’s guys.  It took a little while for these guys to come together but it appears that they are finally starting to become a solid team.

What does this mean for the Blackhawks and the rest of this season?  It means that once this team has finally started to put things together and gel, they will play better and win more games. 

Hopefully what they have things put together in the little time they have before December so that they can roll and start winning games and get into the playoffs where they will attempt to defend their Stanley Cup Title.

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