WARR’s hockey writer Sidney Brown offers his takes on the Blackhawks
As the Chicago Blackhawks begun its resurrection project nearly eight years ago, not too many people could envision success happening quickly down the line, even though the cornerstones of the franchise were anointed pretty quickly in Jonathan Toews, the third overall pick of the 2006 NHL draft and Patrick Kane, the first overall pick in 2007.
Two Stanley Cups later and a franchise’s rocket ride out of league obscurity later and the best tandem in the NHL was rewarded with twin contract extensions of eight years, $84 million ($10.5 million each), making the pair the highest paid players in the league. Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals each excitement and star power to hockey but overall a lack of success with only one Cup title between them in spite of a combined 13 Stanley Cup playoff appearances. Pair anyone from any hockey team against Kane and Toews and you’d still come away saying the Hawks’ guys are the best duo out there.
You can argue that Kane and Toews are the best duo in Chicago sports since none other than Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen from the Chicago Bulls’ two 3-peats in the 1990s. In their few short years together, Kane and Toews have brought excitement back to hockey fans in Chicago with their skill, leadership and repeated clutch play.
With their two Stanley Cups, as a franchise the Hawks are a national attraction again, which should help the dynamic duo further establish themselves as primary players in this era of the NHL and the beauty of it all as far as Chicago goes is now, at the age of 26, the two are locked up into their mid-30’s. An entire run of these two already established winners in their prime also leads to the reasonable takeaway that more hockey titles are to come to Chicago soon.
The alike numbers for Kane and Toews don’t stop at their salaries, their outputs on the ice are also very similar. Let’s take a look.
Career Stats (Regular Season)
Patrick Kane — Games: 515, Goals: 178, Assists: 315, Points: 493
Jonathan Toews — Games: 484, Goals: 195, Assists: 245, Points: 440
Career Stats (Playoffs)
Kane — Games: 93, Goals: 37, Assists: 54, Points: 91, 2013 Conn Smythe Winner (Playoff MVP)
Toews — Games: 94, Goals: 29, Assists: 52, Points: 81, 2010 Conn Smythe Winner
With numbers like that props have to be given to Hawks general manger Stan Bowman for getting the deals done.
Bowman had to restructure the roster once already following the 2010 Stanley Cup Championship when they had to shred salary due to the mistakes of the previous GM, Dale Tallon. After two first round disappointments in ’11 and ’12, Bowman was rewarded with another Stanley Cup in 2013 and has managed to this point to keep the Hawks afloat in a new salary cap era of the NHL.
In order to win championships, you need cornerstones as your foundation to build around and they need to produce consistently. Kane and Toews have clearly done that and fans should be proud and not take it for granted. Other teams around the league wish they could have the problem Chicago had during this off-season.
These contract extensions of Kane and Toews kick in beginning in the 2015-16 season, the Hawks can now focus on keeping pieces around the superstars and with their young talent in the minor league system, the pipeline should be good for years to come. The salary cap for the upcoming 2014-15 season is set at $69 million and the Hawks are currently $2 million over the cap, but they can take their time until opening day of training camp to see what move(s) they need to make.
Here’s my list of players who could be on the move before the start of next season:
Michal Rozsival, Defenseman, ($2.2M) — free agent following next season
Johnny Oduya, D, ($3.3M) — free agent following next season
Nick Leddy, D, ($2.7M) — restricted free agent following next season
Key Free Agents for the Summer of 2015:
Moves that could be made for the Summer of 2015:
Brent Seabrook, D, ($5.8 million — next two years)
Patrick Sharp, F, ($5.9 million — next three years)
Fans must remember regarding the salary cap, this system was created to keep teams from building dynasties and it has worked in the NHL. Along with the Hawks, the current champion LA Kings are the only franchises to win two Stanley Cup so far in the time surrounding the League’s work stoppages in the ’04-05 and ’12-13 seasons.
If the Hawks can manage their salary cap, make smart moves and see that their young talent produces they should remain as one of the top teams in the NHL for the foreseeable future.
Be sure to listen to The Sports Cypher this Sunday starting at 9 pm central on 1690 WVON-AM here in Chicago and at wvon.com to hear more of my thoughts on the off-season of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under Regal Radio; follow Sidney on Twitter @sidkid80