Last night was incredible. A reminder of how good it was to be a Blackhawks fan and what it could be again some day. Duncan Keith in an Oilers jersey shaking hands with a retired and alarmingly bald Nik Hjalmarsson was making me sad. Then we had this little moment that summed up the entire era
That was the culture. Everything was a competition with those guys. Even a ceremonial puck drop. That was the common link in the DNA of that team. Toews, Kane, Keith, Sharp, Hammer, Hossa, Seabs, Crawford, Versteeg, Bolland, Oduya, Brouwer, Kruger, Shaw, Darling, Ray Emery, Saad and Bickell in the playoffs. Those guys fought and battled for every fucking inch. They knew when to turn it up to 11 and knew what it took to win every single day. That was the culture that was fostered by Coach Q and the leadership group all had it burning in them. Somewhere along the way (when Stan's finger prints got on the roster in a bigger way) that baseline trait you need to be a successful NHL player was lost. They brought in too many Schmaltzs, Nylanders, Boqvists and as the original guys got a little long in the tooth the culture became toxic because they didn't have enough talent, enough coaching, and enough heart to bring that fire every night. Last night it was a silly face-off that they all had fun with, but it was a window into who they are and what the Blackhawks were
Toews, Kane and Seabs were all pretty high picks, but the rest weren't. Now it is up to Kyle Davidson to find those guys. The guys who would gladly take a puck to the throat or teeth and barely miss a shift if it helps the team win. You might not find a Hall of Famer in the 2nd round like Keith, or a legend in the 4th round like Hjalmarsson, but it is important to identify the trait and recreate the competitive culture that led to success. It is so hard to win the Cup. It's nearly impossible to find the right guys and surround them with winners and get the results that you want. Just ask Toronto. What the Blackhawks can do is build the type of culture and foster an environment where guys are extremely competitive. Show up with that attitude every day, the results will be there, and even if they don't have the talent to be winning the last game of the season, the fans will show up and love them for the effort. People will come. People will most definitely come.