Since Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals the Blackhawks have
traded five players from their active roster (Ben Eager, Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien,
Andrew Ladd, and Brent Sopel).
These five players accounted for 22 of the ‘Hawks 78 playoff
goals and 62 of the team’s 271 regular season tallies. Of the 22 playoff markers, eight were
game-winners, meaning half of Chicago’s
playoff victories were decided by these players.
is also likely to lose two more players, John Madden and Nick Boynton, via free
agency, or possibly retirement in Boynton’s case, before the summer is
over. And don’t forget that during the
year the ‘Hawks traded promising young defenseman Cam Barker.
It’s not uncommon for a championship team to lose a few key
parts in the ensuing offseason, but usually this happens through free agency
when other teams overpay solid, if not spectacular players because of their
roles on the winning team. But the Blackhawks
lost their five key players because they simply couldn’t afford to keep the
There’s no mistaking who Chicago considers to be its core following
all these moves. Patrick Kane, Jonathan
Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas
Hjalmarsson, and Antti Niemi are the unquestioned leaders of the ‘Hawks. But given their financial state, the
Blackhawks were forced to part with some of their talented young players they
would have much preferred to keep.
was only in position to win the Stanley Cup in the first place because of impressive
drafting and player development, but the success in this area that brought the
Blackhawks a championship cost them many of the players that helped deliver it.
The truth is that while most successful NHL teams have
realized that building from within is the best recipe for success, nowhere in
the NHL rules does it say that it’s the only or recommended way to build a team. The ‘Hawks have done an enviable job in
getting to the top of the mountain, but the constraints of the Salary Cap apply
the same for them as for teams hiring mercenaries.
It’s disheartening to watch an organization build its roster
“the right way” and have to dismantle it weeks after winning it all, but such
are the consequences of success. The
Blackhawks won because they groomed players into stars, and they lost those
players because they developed into stars that deserved significant pay
The Blackhawks deserve kudos for building a team of mainly
homegrown talent, but it doesn’t mean they get a reward.
The truth is there’s no infallible way to build a team. Building from within seems like the best way
but the ‘Hawks have proven that it can present the same problems as signing
free agents to massive deals. The Salary
Cap ensures that a team can only pay a certain number of top players, whether
they’re from within the organization or elsewhere.
The ultimate goal in the NHL is sustained success. The Blackhawks won a title this year, and are
undoubtedly a contender for next season. But considering the impact the players they parted with had throughout
the season, Chicago
is certainly weaker now than it was a few months ago. Though they’ve maintained their young
identity, it can’t have been easy for management or fans to wave goodbye to key
cogs of their title team.
The good news for the ‘Hawks is that they turned most of their
former assets into future assets, by acquiring draft picks and prospects who
could one day fill the same roles as the players they replaced.
But it’s no guarantee. Maybe Nick Leddy, Jeremy Morin, Kevin Hayes, Justin Holl, Viktor
Stalberg, Ivan Vishnevsky, Philippe Paradis, Christopher DiDomenico, et al. will
one day help guide the ‘Hawks through the playoffs to another title. But maybe some of Chicago’s newest prospects will not develop
as well as the former Blackhawks and the team will struggle a bit with its
Chicago achieved every
team’s ultimate goal, but just as quickly the Blackhawks were forced to take
apart their team. Considering the stars
they’ve retained, the ‘Hawks are a good bet to contend for several years. But they couldn’t avoid the wrath of the
Salary Cap, for better or worse.