It's a story that never gets old. Original Six, the Indian Head sweater, the roar of the old Chicago Stadium, Stanley Cup championships, the Madhouse on Madison, THE Anthem—the Chicago Blackhawks.
There have been a lot of great accomplishments for the storied franchise. And yes, there have been a fair share of low points, too. Many of hockey's greats got their start or enjoyed their best seasons dawning the famed Indian sweater.
The Blackhawks celebrated their 85th birthday last week (Nov. 17, 1926). To honor the occasion, let's look back at some of the best individual seasons in franchise history.
In his rookie season with the Hawks in 1982-83, Steve Larmer captured the Calder Trophy. He'd go on to play seven full seasons in Chicago. I say "full" because the Peterborough, Ontario native never missed a game. Those 884 consecutive regular-season games is the third-longest streak in NHL history.
Larmer scored 30 or more goals in nine of 11 campaigns. In 1990-91, he scored 44 goals and notched 57 assists. His 101 points that year was his highest total of his Blackhawk career and broke Jim Pappin's franchise record for most points by a right wing.
A model of consistency, Larmer deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
While his teammates—Bobby Hull, Tony Esposito and Stan Mikita—grabbed most of the headlines, Keith Magnuson became a Windy City sensation amongst fans with his bruising style of play. He suited up for 11 seasons in Chicago and was a cumulative plus-170 in his Hawk career while racking up 1,442 penalty minutes.
In his sophomore campaign in 1970-71, Magnuson set a then-NHL record with 291 penalty minutes, clearing pathways for Hull and Mikita and plowing bodies in front of Esposito. He scored a career-high three goals to go along with 20 assists, helping Chicago reach the Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost in seven games to the fog—I mean, the Montreal Canadiens (sigh).
The very next season, the two best plus/minus ratings in Blackhawks history were recorded. In 1971-72, Bobby Hull scored another 50 goals and was a plus-54.
Right behind him? The late, great Keith Magnuson, who was plus-52 that same year.
When you think of good power forwards today, who comes to mind? Lucic? Backes? Clowe?
Well, Al Secord’s season in 1982-83 put all three to shame.
In a full season of games, Big Al scored 54 goals (20 on the power play) and 86 points. He had a plus-34 rating and 180 penalty minutesthat just a year after recording 309 minutes in box time.
Of all the players that have come through the Blackhawks organization, it's Secord who owns the second highest single-season goal total, tied with Bobby Hull's 54-goal season in 1965-66.
The Sudbury native kept it going in the playoffs as well. In 12 postseason tilts, he had 11 points (four goals, seven assists) and 66 PIM's.
When the subject of Blackhawks fan favorites comes up, Jeremy Roenick certainly comes to mind. Chicago made him the eighth overall pick in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft, and Roenick immediately began a rise to stardom.
His third full season in the NHL in 1991-91, Roenick his the 100-point plateau for the first time in his career, just the fourth different player in franchise history to accomplish the feat. He scored 53 goals that season, becoming the third Blackhawk to pot 50 or more. To this day, that total is the third highest in club history.
J.R. scored a Blachawks record 13 game-winning goals, was a plus-23 and also contributed 98 penalty minutes that year. Chicago reached the Stanley Cup Finals, where they were swept by Mario Lemieux's Penguins.
I think most Blackhawks fans would agree the 2009-2010 season was a pretty good one.
Especially for Chicago's top blueliner. In a full 82-game regular season, DK scored 14 goals, 55 assists, a plus-21 rating and about a billion minutes on the ice. While that last number may be a little off (2,180:34 actual minutes, an average of 26:35 per game), it’s not off by much.
What Keith lost in teeth during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he made up for in hardware that year, earning Olympic Gold with Team Canada, a Stanley Cup championship and a Norris Trophy.
When most "modern-day" Blackhawks fans hear the name Doug Wilson, they think of the San Jose Sharks or offer sheets (Niklas Hjalmarsson and Antti Niemi).
Just a reminder, Wilson was one of the best defensemen to put on a Blackhawks sweater. He owns the three highest point outputs for a blueliner in club history. The top spot belongs to his 1981-82 campaign in which he piled on the opposition with 39 goals and 46 points for 89—yes, 89—points.
His offensive explosion that season helped him take him the James Norris Memorial Trophy.
“Let's let bygones be bygones, alright?”
Chris Chelios’ exit from Chicago and subsequent career in Detroit aside, the defenseman had some spectacular seasons in an Indian head sweater. In 1992-93, Cheli dominated the NHL on the blueline with 15 goals, 58 assists (73 points) and an incredible 282 penalty minutes, eventually taking home the first of the two Norris trophies he won as a Hawk.
Pilote dominated along the blueline in the 60s for the Blackhawks. He was a part of the Stanley Cup-winning team in 1961 and was then given the keys to the locker room being named captain.
He won three consecutive Norris Trophies starting in 1963 and concluding with an impressive campaign in 1964-65, where he scored 59 points (14 goals, 45 assists) in 68 games. It was a great individual season for a few Hawks: Stan Mikita led the league in scoring and Bobby Hull won the Hart Trophy.
The team went to the Finals, but lost to the Canadiens in seven games.
Of all the great goaltenders in Blackhawks history, Charlie Gardiner was the first. In 1933-34 Chicago finished second in the American Division, led by Gardiner. Their backstop played all 48 games, shutting opponents out 10 times and allowing a league-best 83 goals (1.63 goals-against average).
When the playoffs rolled around, Gardiner was there again, winning six games and two by way of the shutout. The Hawks captured the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
In hindsight, what made Gardiner's season so remarkable was the fact that he was unknowingly playing with a brain tumor. And sadly, just two months after hoisting the cup, Gardiner passed away from a brain hemorrhage at the age of 29.
When it comes to play between the pipes for the Blackhawks, it’s all about Tony-0. Mr. Esposito spent 15 years in goal for Chicago. In his rookie year in 1969-1970, Esposito went 38-17-8, which, at the time, set a Hawks record for wins. His 15 shutouts that season is a modern-day record that still stands.
He took home a couple awards as well, awarded both the Calder and the Vezina.
There is a reason why he has a bronze statue outside the United Center. Stan Mikita's storied career has many highlights and notable achievements. It's tough to single out just one of Stosh's accomplishments, but 1966-67 will certainly do.
It was that season he became the first player to be awarded three of hockey's major individual trophies. Mikita captured the scoring title for the third time with 97 points, which was then a record for a single season. He also claimed the Hart and Lady Byng trophies.
I guess the accomplishment isn't that big of a deal considering he did it again in 1967-68.
If you don't already know how much Mikita contributed to the Blackhawks from a statistical standpoint, just peep the franchise's all-time leaders. First in points. First in assists. Second in goals.
Just a few short days ago, Ed Belfour was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. In 963 career games played, he has 484 wins to accompany a 2.50 goals against average and .906 save percentage.
The “Eagle” of course got his start in the Windy City, and holy smokes, did he start with a bang. It was the 1990-91 season when Belfour won a franchise record 43 games in goal, posting a 2.47 GAA and .910 save percentage. He won the first of his two Vezina Trophies and also took home the Calder Trophy.
Bobby Hull made 50 goals look like a walk in the park. He did it five times in his career with Chicago starting in 1961-62, when the Golden Jet became the first Blackhawk to score the magic 5-0.
Over the next three seasons, Hull "only" managed a high of 43 goals. But it was in 1965-66 that the Blackhawks legend became the first player in NHL history to score more than 50 in a season.
Denis Savard was definitely “Committed to the Indian.” He proved it through point production. Savard owns the top four single-season point totals in Blackhawks history. His highest output came in 1987-88 to the tune of 44 goals at 87 assists. Savy’s 131 points that year is 44th all-time in NHL history.
Gold medal (named top forward at the Vancouver Olympics as Team Canada's best all-around player), joining the Triple Gold Club (youngest player to accomplish the feat), a Conn Smythe (29 points in 22 playoff games) and I know I'm forgetting something. Oh! Winning a Stanley Cup. Jonathan Toews did that all...in one season...at the age of 22.
In 76 games, he tallied 25 goals, 43 assists and a plus-22 rating. Fantasy geeks will be the first to point out the players that scored more goals than Toews, but the fact is, Toews is one of the best two-way players in the game and logged a lot of ice time throughout the season in key situations.
2009-10 was a special year in Chicago, with the Hawks winning their first Cup in 49 years. It was Captain Serious who led the way.