The 2010-2011 Chicago Blackhawks seemingly cannot find a groove. Coming off a season that saw very few impediments on the way to the Stanley Cup; many believed the 'Hawks would reach the playoffs with very little effort, and then the team might be in trouble.
But, that does not seem to be the case as the team is scuffling mightily to even have a shot in the last month of the season to reach the eight seed in the playoffs. It has not been because of injuries or the competition in the Western Conference getting better. It has been mostly because of some players underperforming and what some believe is a Stanley Cup hangover.
So I have compared the Blackhawks to the "year after" teams of the last decade to see if in fact this is the worst follow-up after a Cup win.
Those dominant Avs teams that were full of All-Stars and arguably the greatest goalie of all time, Patrick Roy, were an extremely talented bunch.
Coming off the Cup in 2001; they captured the division crown with 99 points and allowed the fewest goals in the league. They also were hit hard mid-season by the Olympics like the Blackhawks were last season. Even with that they took the Red Wings to seven games in the Western Conference Finals after blowing a 3-2 lead in the series.
The Red Wings saw the season after winning another Cup as a transition for sure. Scottie Bowman was no longer the man in charge, and captain Steve Yzerman was out for much of the season. However, the Wings still recorded 110 points to finish second in the conference with the likes of Brett Hull and Curtis Joseph.
They would go on to be shocked in the first round that no one could have foreseen. The Los Angeles Kings swept the champs out in stunning fashion.
Advantage: Red Wings
The Blackhawks hope to be in the Kings' position if they make the playoffs to knock off a high seed.
The Devils, like the Avs, won more than one Stanley Cup in there heydey. In their case it was three, but the year after beating Anaheim they were unable to get back to the Stanley Cup.
This Devils team was led, pure and simple, by Martin Brodeur. The Devils that season allowed the least amount of goals in the history of the NHL under the current format. They started the season hot, but cooled off in the second half. Injuries to key defensemen were there undoing as they lost in the first round of the playoffs as the six seed.
If the Blackhawks can have a late season run they can maybe get the six or seven seed though.
It's difficult to put the Lightning on here simply because they were not given the chance to properly defend their title.
The labor dispute that wiped out hockey for a year left the young franchise that had overcome the odds unable to show if they had what it took to be in the elite group of back-to-back champs. Nikolai Khabibulin would move on to the Blackhawks and when hockey resumed the Lightning earned 93 points and were knocked out in the 1st round.
They did not get the chance to repeat and cannot be compared to this year's Blackhawks team.
The Hurricanes team that captured the Cup in 2006 was a team that does not rank among the greats of all-time. They certainly liked to keep it interesting as they lost nine games in the playoffs and still won it in seven games against the Oilers.
The following season they flopped. They finished as the 11th seed in the Eastern Conference, becoming the first team since the Blackhawks in 1939 to not qualify the season before or after winning the Cup.
Though the Blackhawks are the 11th seed as the Hurricanes were; they are four points away from the six seed in the West. And, I find it hard to believe that the 'Canes that season were better as they didn't make the playoffs in the following season either.
The Ducks became the first California team to win the Stanley Cup, in 2007. This was a big moment for hockey, as the west coast teams finally had an example to say they belonged. But, the following season they were unable to bring back the Disney magic.
The Ducks brought in players like Todd Bertuzzi and Jonas Hiller who at the time was backing up J.S. Giguere. It was not enough though, as they ended up finishing as the fourth seed. They would get knocked out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals by the Dallas Stars.
The Blackhawks have an outside chance of passing the Ducks.
The Red Wings had beaten the Penguins the year before to win their 11th Stanley Cup. In the offseason they added Marian Hossa in hopes of winning another one. They were able to get to 100 points, becoming the first team to do it nine seasons in a row. They also won the famous game against Chicago at Wrigley Field on New Year's Day.
As the two-seed in the playoffs, Detroit was able to advance beating the Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals. They were beaten in seven game however by the Penguins on their own ice.
Advantage: Red Wings
In the last season at Mellon Arena; the Penguins started off hot, but would eventually cool down to become the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. They also showed the wear and tear that happens to champion teams over the season.
They would barely get out of a grueling series with Ottawa in the first round, only to lose to the Canadiens in the second round.