Just six months ago, on a rainy Philadelphia night, the Chicago Blackhawks hoisted Lord Stanley’s cup for the first time in 49 years. What a difference six months makes.
Six months ago, the city of Chicago threw their hockey heroes a massive party, as two million plus crammed their way onto Michigan Avenue to bask in the glory of their title. It was a majestic scene, as an entire city came together behind their beloved Blackhawks. After the parade, it appeared as if it might take the city six months to clean up the mess created that day on Michigan Avenue.
Six months later, the confetti is long gone, the champagne has disappeared, and the only mess needing clean up is the one created by the Blackhawks just days after that glorious June morning in the Windy City.
Salary cap restraints backed the Blackhawks into a corner, and a portion of the team that fans got to know so well and love so dearly were sent out of town. The moves were unpopular but necessary. But try telling that to a disheartened Blackhawks fan this year, as “the departed” are finding success elsewhere while their replacements are struggling to keep the Hawks afloat in the Western Conference.
The gritty fan-favorite from Wisconsin spent four years with the Blackhawks before becoming just another salary cap casualty for the Blackhawks.
He signed a two-year deal with Dallas, and has amassed six points in 40 games for the Stars. Expect a ruckus ovation from the United Center crowd as he returns to face his former team on Wednesday.
Big Buff, as dubbed by announcers, had a coming out party during the Blackhawks playoff run last year.
Byfuglien tallied a team high 11 goals during the post-season, four of which were game-winners. Byfuglien played both defense and forward for Coach Quenneville, and was a thorn in the side of Roberto Luongo and Chris Pronger.
Byfuglien was sadly the first Blackhawk to leave this off-season, as he was traded to Atlanta. He is having a monstrous season there, scoring 41 points in 42 games, including 16 goals-tops for NHL blue-liners.
He also is an assistant captain for the Thrashers.
A physical presence for Chicago, Eager was never one to shy away from a scrap. His ability to get on the body has been missed by the Blackhawks this year.
He will always be known best as a Hawk for his fight with Kevin Bieksa of the Canucks and the goal he tallied during the Finals against the Flyers.
He has since joined the Thrashers along with three other former Chicago teammates, and has scored nine points in 33 games this year for Atlanta.
Fraser may not have been the flashiest of Blackhawks, but contributed nonetheless thanks to his ability to win face-offs and willingness to block shots.
The 25-year-old center now plays for the Edmonton Oilers, and has three points in 37 games. He is also third on the team in PIM.
Huet was the most-maligned hockey player this town has seen in quite some time. He never justified the large contract former GM Dale Tallon gave him, and he never started a game in the playoffs, as Antti Niemi took the reigns behind the net.
Huet is a long way away from his former mates, as he is currently playing for the Fribourg-Gotteron of the Swiss National League A, on loan from the Blackhawks.
“Ladder” was a grizzled veteran on the Blackhawks cup team, as he brought to the table a Cup ring with the Carolina Hurricanes. The winger was never fully appreciated in Chicago, as he did not receive the recognition he deserved for his role with the team.
Ladd scored six points during the post-season while posting an impressive +4 for Coach Quenneville.
He was dealt to Atlanta this off-season, where he is currently their Captain. The former top-five pick is on pace to have his best season as a pro, with 13 goals and 32 points through 42 games.
Madden was brought to town as a penalty-killing specialist and to help supply veteran leadership to a young squad, and he did just that for Stan Bowman and Co.
His ability to win key defensive zone draws paired with his superb skills on the penalty kill helped spur the Hawks to the Cup.
The veteran‘s salary desires were just too much for the cap-strapped Blackhawks, so he was not brought back and since signed with the Minnesota Wild.
He has ten points in 36 games for the Wild, where he joined ex-Hawks Cam Barker and Martin Havlat.
In an off-season full of frustrations and heartbreak for Blackhawk fans, nothing was more trying than the Antti Niemi saga. It was a forgone conclusion that Niemi would return, there was no way the Hawks could let him get away after what he did in the post-season, right?
Wrong. Dead Wrong.
We may never know the facts about why Niemi left, whether he truly was greedy enough to leave for what he thought would be more money, or if in fact Agent Bill Zito manipulated the Finnish tender into leaving by taking advantage of his poor English skills.
No matter what the case may be, Niemi is now a San Jose Shark, where he has struggled mightily this year, posting a 2.97 GAA.
He is however 3-0 on the year against the team he meant so much to last season.
Brent Sopel. Perhaps only Cristobal Huet was less popular among fans heading into the post-season last year. And perhaps only Dustin Byfuglien endeared himself more to the Chicago faithful during that post-season run.
Sopel was a relentless shot-blocker for the Blackhawks, his lack of regard for his body was priceless as his penalty-killing ability was uncanny throughout the post-season, and was never more evident than during game give against Nashville with Marian Hossa in the box.
Sopel has since been part of the Chicago exodus to Atlanta, where he currently has five points in 41 games for the Thrashers. He is second on the team at a +11.
Another fan favorite traded away, both fans and teammates alike have missed Kris Versteeg dearly.
The Blackhawks were a very tight-knit unit last year, and Versteeg was an integral part of the team chemistry.
The spunky winger who rapped during the Championship Parade was traded to Toronto, where he currently is third on the team with 25 points in 37 games.