The Chicago Blackhawks were one of the worst NHL teams for nearly a decade. This poorly run franchise did just about everything wrong on and off the ice and lost a once rabid fan base. But if a team is going to be bad long enough, it’ll eventually earn enough top draft picks to build a solid core of young players upon which to build a contender. The Hawks built this core just as the owner of the team passed away, allowing new management to establish a new business model where they could capitalize on the strengthening product on the ice.
Two years later they were Stanley Cup champions. But the following summer the team was met with overwhelming salary cap issues. A lot of those younger players contracts expired at the same time and when you’re on a team that has just won the Cup, you’re going to want a raise.
This forced management to fire the GM, Dale Tallon, and expert at evaluating talent but sub par at negotiating contracts. They brought in Stan Bowman to fix the salary cap issues. He did so by trading away 13 players from his Stanley Cup roster and focussed on rebuilding the team around Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharpe, Marion Hossa, Brian Campbell, and Dave Bolland, as good as any core in the NHL. They brought some young rookies into the lineup, including goaltender Corey Crawford, who has played liked a 10 year veteran. They relied on young talent and the young talent responded.
The main reason they’ve been able to maintain this success is because of the man behind the bench. Joel Quenneville is a master at developing young players and putting them in a position to succeed. He builds their confidence and makes sure they know that they can compete on a daily basis in the NHL. And they’ve responded. It’s refreshing to see a coach have so much confidence in players who are just learning the game. And as long as that core stays intact and Quenneville continues to do his magic, the Blackhawks will continue to contend for the Stanley Cup.