June 15, 2015 was a GREAT day. The exclamation point on a 6 year run that punctuated a dynasty. The title of this blog is indicative of some of the bitterness I feel about how the 5 years have gone since this day. However, I feel like criticism without appropriate gratitude is a disease that plagues many conversations around even more serious topics. I want to take time to appreciate that Stanley Cup.
That wasn't the best Blackhawks team, but it might have been my favorite. That was a team with incredible leadership and championship resolve. They were grizzled. They knew how to win. It didn't matter that their best player broke his clavicle and missed the last 21 games of the regular season. It didn't matter that they basically only had 4 defensemen for the majority of the playoffs. It didn't matter that off-ice bullshit rumors swirled around the team. Nothing could sink them. They did enough to make the playoffs by finishing 3rd in the Central Division and when the lights came on it was...well it wasn't great out of the gates against Nashville. Kane was rusty, Crawford was just straight up bad, but luckily Scotty Darling was there
Duncan Keith was a machine. Hjalmarsson was a warrior. Toews and Kane cemented their legacies with monster playoff performances that had both of them over 21 points in the playoffs. Joel Quenneville was a mastermind. Stan did a nice job getting Vermette at the deadline. And the Blackhawks could withstand any amount of hits anyone could ever throw at them even with a short bench. I LOVE that team. The least talented of the three Cup teams, but probably the most guts.
On a more personal note, without the three year stretch from 2013-15 I am probably not employed by Barstool Sports. Those teams gave me an opportunity to write about the team and the sport I love every single day every single spring and without that opportunity I wouldn't have been able to carve out a role here. I am eternally grateful for the experiences from that year and everyone that played a part in it.
It is an absolute FAILURE that the Blackhawks haven't been able to win a playoff series in 5 years with all the principle players from that 2015 team still on the team and still performing at a high level. The ONLY reason why this team hasn't been competitive is asset management and internal evaluation. It's how you fire the greatest coach of all-time and replace him with a neophyte that had an entire summer to install his own system and Colliton decided to take the best thing the Hawks do(transition offense) and stick it in a drawer to play a dump and chase style(this is still mind boggling. It doesn't get enough attention. That was a HORRIBLE coaching decision). It's how you trade an EXTREMELY valuable RFA for an aging and slowing center(Saad for Anisimov) and then sign that center to a 5 year deal and a big raise sight unseen. It's how you throw a player as good as Teravainen in as a fucking sweetener to move a bad contract off your books. It's how you give an aging Seabrook an 8 year deal at 31 years old(when he was already showing signs of slowing down while the game was getting faster). It's how you take a guy who can get you 100 points(Panarin) and trade him a guy who can get you 50(Saad). Phillip Danault, another 1st round pick, for a couple of rental players who never helped. The list of mismanagement, failed plans, and missed darts thrown is longer than one paragraph. It's incredibly frustrating to look at guys like Toews, Kane, Keith, and Crawford still in their prime, still delivering every single night, and being on a team that is an afterthought and cautionary tale. I believe in those guys. I also believe that they deserve more.
No excuses. No axe to grind. It's just simply time for a change and a new hand on the wheel. Maybe the Hawks will never get back to the top, but this organization is too proud and the core is too strong for the Indian Head to be stuck in the mud for 5 years. 2015 is a both a fond memory and a reminder that things must change and they must get better.