Oh how different things could have been!
Last season, the Chicago Blackhawks had a chance to win their first back-to-back Stanley Cups in 49 years.
Alas, they fell short of that goal.
Here is a list of the top seven reasons why Chicago failed to reach its goal and how these failures have been corrected by general manager Stan Bowman during the offseason.
While he helped build the championship team, he also prevent a repeat.
The man responsible for the Stanley Cup run in 2010 is arguably the one most responsible for the team's inability to repeat.
The cliche of mortgaging the future to win today has never been more true. While he did not rid the organization of top prospects, he did tie current GM Stan Bowman's hands during the offseason.
The salary dump, known in here as "The Fire Sale," really stung when the Blackhawks tried to re-sign goaltender Antti Niemi who wound up taking less money to take his talents to the South Bay.
Now that most of the pricey contracts have been eliminated, Bowman was able to get the core players re-signed and acquire the role players to sustain the long haul of a season, even making key trades at the deadline if necessary to boost the roster for a deep playoff run.
While Troy Brouwer did his best, the 2010-2011 Blackhawks still had trouble in the hit department.
You have to admit, ever since Adam Burrish, Ben Eager and Dustin Byfuglien left, the Blackhawks were a softer team with no real enforcer. The lack of a strong man to match the skill of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp was evident during the opening round of the Western Conference Finals.
With the additions of Daniel Carcillo, Andrew Burnette and Jamal Mayers, there will be no doubt the Blackhawks will be doing their fair share of dishing out the hits and starting trouble this upcoming season.
Any doubt of that was erased during Monday's press conference when Carcillo called out the Vancouver Canucks saying "...(in the first round) they really played out of their shoes."
Carcillo will deliver on that promise November 6 when the Canucks visit the United Center for the first game since Game 6.
While they are arguably the hottest young tandem in the NHL, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews still need a few more years of mentor-ship to break through to the next level.
The Fire Sale included vets Nick Boynton, John Madden and Brent Sopel who helped guide the hottest young guns in the NHL during that magical season.
However, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane still need a little more maturing before they can become elites in the NHL.
With the team's ability to sign good veterans, Blackhawks fans will not only see these two mature into NHL elites, but could also witness a dominance not seen since the days of Bobby Hull and company.
While Corey Crawford was great (even dominate at times), Antti Niemi could have been even better.
It's hard to say what last season would have been like had Antti Niemi stayed between the pipes for the Blackhawks, but one thing is for sure—his voice in the locker room was sorely missed.
He probably would have calmed the boys down during the opening round against Vancouver, but his arbitration hearing while still an restricted free agent made it impossible for the team to keep him.
With one full season under his mask, Corey Crawford now has the skill set that Niemi had while minding the net.
Crawford will join those great goalies who have donned the Indian Head and bring Lord Stanley back home to the Madhouse.
It happens to everyone...
This was inevitable.
Not since the 1997-1998 season has a team gone back-to-back and won both times.
The decline the next season was somewhat expected—especially after The Fire Sale. Combine that with the target on the team's back and this one couldn't really be helped.
Now that target has shifted not only in the league, but also the conference, the Blackhawks should play much looser than they did last season and will likely contend for the President's Trophy as well as Lord Stanley's mug.
The hit that sparked the comeback may very well have prevented the win.
While Raffi Torres' major penalty and suspension-worthy hit on Brent Seabrook sparked the comeback by the Blackhawks and nearly won the series for them, had Seabs not been knocked out of Game 3, he could have won that game for the 'Hawks.
Seabs was playing extremely well up until that point in the game. There is no doubt that he would have had his revenge at a crucial moment and been the hero instead of the inspiration for a near epic comeback.
Falling down on the last game of the season cost the Blackhawks at least one position in the final standings and gave them the Vancouver Canucks first instead of further down the road
During the regular-season finale, the Blackhawks fell to the rival Detroit Red Wings 4-3 in regulation and had to rely on the Minnesota Wild to defeat the Dallas Stars to get back into the playoffs as the eighth seed. Had they gone into OT, they would have tied for points with the Los Angeles Kings to become the seventh seed.
Instead of facing Vancouver, it would have been a series against Antti Niemi and the San Jose Sharks, which actually struggled against the Kings in the opening round. The Blackhawks could have only been challenged by conference finals series against the Canucks and most likely faced the Boston Bruins for the Cup.
Had they won outright, the Blackhawks could have been as high as the fourth or fifth seed with 99 points. Either way, the Blackhawks would have had at least a full series under their belts before facing the new arch rival, the Canucks.
Will this be the pose again?
Based on the deals Stan Bowman has made during the offseason, I say the Blackhawks have a much better chance at winning the cup this year compared to last.
With the additions of Daniel Carcillo and the other free agents, the Madhouse on Madison will be rocking clear into June next year with another long parade down Michigan Avenue—only this time the Blackhawks will wrap it up at home and cause a spike on the Richter Scale.
Bowman added most of these players without taking off a huge chunk of the salary cap. So, not only will this be a great season, but the next five should be pretty good as well.