Looking back at 2010 for the Blackhawks
If you ask most people about 2010 for the Blackhawks, most will talk about winning the Stanley Cup, and the parade, and the Cup's travels around Chicago. Some will talk about the Blackhawks players who won gold and silver representing their country at the Vancouver Olympics. Most will vent their frustrations over the first half of the new season, and talk about the "Stanley Cup hangover".
There's more to the year than that. There were four shutouts for the team - one by Cristobal Huet; the other three which all took place by rookie Antti Niemi during a grueling 13-day, 7-game stretch.
There was the joy of watching a team that had been five years in the making come together and have fun as only a team that is that comfortable and that cohesive can do. Most of the players had been together for three seasons as the 2009-10 season drew to a close. It was obvious from the natural ease they shared, how they laughed together during pregame skates, how passes almost magically found each other's sticks as they passed.
There was the long final moments in Game 5 in the Nashville series as the clock ticked out, Marian Hossa went to the box for a five-minute-major, and how a city held its breath, thinking this was surely going to put the series down 2-3 ... but instead, amazingly, Patrick Kane scored a tying goal to send it into overtime, and Hossa got out of the box four minutes later and blam, instantly scored the winning goal.
There were Dustin Byfuglien's wickedly gleeful post-goal-scoring celebrations as the playoffs became his coming-out party as a player. There were hat tricks by not just one but two Blackhawks on two games in a row against Vancouver.
There was a sweep of San Jose, and Captain Jonathan Toews resolutely not touching the Western Conference trophy. That night in the United Center, the fans all knew it: here was our team of destiny. Fans wept, kissed, cried, danced in the aisles as the Blackhawks and Sharks did the post-win handshake line, and the Jumbotron overhead changed from "5" to "4". The Blackhawks were going to the Stanley Cup!
There was the Final series: Blackhawks vs Flyers; an Original Six team against the Broad Street Bullies. The series was one of the wildest in years, with two goalies including one rookie backstopping their teams in a galloping goalfest. There was Chris Pronger, stealing pucks to deflect attention away from his team's poor play in the middle of the series. There was Patrick Kane, knocking in the goal that nobody saw, skating wildly down the ice and leaping into the arms of Niemi. The Blackhawks had won the Stanley Cup, breaking the longest active Cup drought in the league.
There was the pain of watching nearly half the Cup-winning team being traded away or allowed to walk after their contracts expired. It was clear none of the players wanted to leave.
There was prospect camp; an attempt from the Sharks to poach away RFA Niklas Hjalmarsson; there was arbitration the Hawks could not afford with their salary cap-pinched roster, so they had to let their Stanley Cup-winning goalie walk.
There was training camp, followed by a season riddled with one injury after another. It felt like no sooner would a player be getting ready to get off the IR when another player would take their place.
As of January 4th, there are only three players who have played all 41 games thus far: Duncan Keith (3G, 21A, 24pt); Brent Seabrook (3G, 19A, 22pt); and Troy Brouwer (10G, 12A, 22pt). Marian Hossa missed nearly half of the first half of the season. Jordan Hendry was a scratch for half the games. Brian Campbell missed 13 games; Fernando Pisani 10; Patrick Kane 9; Dave Bolland 8. In fact, after Toews returned to the team for Monday's game, the entire roster was healthy and intact for just about the only time since the preseason.
After a disappointing start to their championship defense season, the Blackhawks need to figure out what does work - because it's pretty clear what isn't - and make some resolutions for the months ahead.