About Me

My photo
SportstownChicago.com Tuesday 3-5pm CT

Friday, August 6, 2010

Coach Q Keeps Stache', Cup?

There are 47 days until the Chicago Blackhawks take the ice for their first pre-season game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Winninpeg. Players are preparing themselves individually to join training camp, which is right around the corner. Some Hawks prospects are playing amongst the most promising hockey talent in the world at the World Junior Evaluation Camp contests. It's 90 degrees outside in Chicago, but the smell of cold steel on ice is in the air.

How do you top a Stanley Cup winning season? The obvious answer is to say that they should repeat. This task however, is no walk in the park. Only twice in the last twenty-one years have the same team won in back to back seasons, with the Mario Lemieux's Pittsburgh Penguins doing so from 1990-91 and 91-92 seasons. Then the Scotty Bowman helmed Detroit Red Wings followed suit in the 96-97 to 97-98 seasons. In addition to that, in that time only three other teams have even made a return trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, only to lose. So it's safe to say that odds are not in the Blackhawks favor in this high player salary, short term contract cultured, and cap driven National Hockey Leaugue. So where does hope lay?

It doesn't lay in the departed hands of Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg, Colin Fraser, Brent Sopel, Adam Burish, Ben Eager, Antti Niemi, or John Madden. All of these players have found new homes thanks to trades or free agency. It doesn't lay in the acquisition of 3-time All Star veteran goalie Marty Turco. It doesn't even lay in the hands of the young and consistently impressive team captain Jonathan Toews. It lay in the steady leadership, quiet cool, and proven plans of coach Joel Quenneville.

Watching the young Chicago Blackhawks evolve from the leagues worst team to the Stanley Cup champions is in no small way due to his leadership and hockey intellect. With the proven core of players still in place from the championship season, and a young cast of enthusiastic newcomers, he has an opportunity to do what only his colleague Scotty Bowman has done in the last two decades. Through his style of discipline, emphasis on a strong forecheck, and ability to develop forwards into strong two way players, the Chicago Blackhawks have their hope.

They'll find strength in toughness in young winger Brian Bickell, and even younger future star Kyle Beach. Both possess the ability to fill the role left open by Dustin Byfuglien's post season trade. Bickell played well in spot starts during the season and even in the post season when "Big Buff" was moved to the blue line. Beach, at 6'3", 202lbs as of now is the picture of a strong power forward with no fear when it comes to planting himself in front of the net, or facing off against another teams tough. Either one represents a potentially stronger replacement for Byfuglien's sporadic output in the regular season.

Other forwards like resigned Jack Skille and newly acquired Viktor Stalberg will likely fill out the roster, providing the youth, skill, and enthusiasm to replace Versteeg and Ladd's departure. The top 4 on defense remain, with a great addition of a much needed giant in John Scott, and a likely return of Jordan Hendry on the third pair.

The Chicago Blackhawks are in great shape. Even more important to a hockey fan is the fact that a great team has made some changes, but still has an ability to play great hockey, maybe better hockey. If this core can continue to grow together while inspiring their youth and new faces in the process, they have to be considered contenders for three more years. Rest assured Chicago, the cup doesn't have to leave.

The Blue Line
7-9pm CT

No comments:

Post a Comment