As the Chicago Blackhawks prepare for the early part of the 2013-2014 NHL season, the only place to go is downward. The Blackhawks captivated hockey fans all across the country last season on their way to winning their fifth Stanley Cup Championship since being founded in 1926. The 2012-2013 championship season was the club’s second championship of the decade, as they also won the Stanley Cup in the 2009-2010 season.
That said, the word “dynasty” is beginning to build up amongst not only the Chicago Blackhawk fan base, but also the hockey world in general. With a full 82-game season ahead, the Blackhawks face the tough task of going for back-to-back Championships. The last time an NHL team took home the Cup two years in a row was the 1997 Detroit Red Wings. However, Chicago has kept its core intact, something that is difficult to do in a league with limited salary cap.
Chicago possesses one of the most dangerous offensive attacks in the league with an array of talent in their front line starting with their captain and all-star center, Jonathan Toews. Toews is coming off another remarkable season as he finished the year with forty-eight points in a season that was cut short due to the NHL lockout. Surrounding Toews is the electrifying fan favorite, Patrick Kane. Kane and Toews, along with Bryan Bickell, create an extremely potent and lethal offense. Chicago’s second and third forward lines pose threats to defenses with solid role players such as Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Andrew Shaw. However, the team recently lost key contributors Michael Frolik, Dave Bolland and backup goalie Ray Emery.
The Blackhawks did, however, manage to keep all seven defensemen from last year’s championship season. Led by veterans Duncan Keith and Brian Seabrook, the defensive side of the puck should be as impressive as last year. With championship experience on the defensive side, goalie Corey Crawford should be very confident. Not only is the 28 year old Canadian goalie coming off a 19-5-5 record, he also recently signed a $36 million deal.
Chicago put together a remarkable season last year with a twenty-four game point streak to start the season, something that will likely not happen again for quite awhile. In a league that features contenders in teams like the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Los Angels Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins, a repeat is seemingly extremely difficult but far from impossible. Remember, during the last championship, Detroit had the advantage going into the fifth game of the Stanley Cup playoffs, as the series was 3-1 in favor of Detroit. Chicago, led by Jonathan Toews, made a remarkable comeback to win the next three games and, as a result, the series. Even though the Blackhawks won the President’s Tropy for the league’s best record last season, that doesn’t mean that luck wasn’t a factor in their path toward success.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, entering his sixth season with the team, faces the daunting task of living up to past accomplishments. As the fan base continues to grow on a communal and national level, Chicago is poised to repeat. If the team can stay healthy and have a bit of luck on their side, there is no reason a repeat is not possible. With rising stars Toews and Kane and an extremely supportive fan base, expect the Hawks to keep flying at high altitudes.