Blackhawks plan on winning more titles
By The Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 10:03 p.m.
CHICAGO — When Rocky Wirtz took over the Chicago Blackhawks six years ago, they were among the worst teams in the NHL.
Fast forward to Tuesday, when the owner mingled with fans and friends hours after the Blackhawks flew home with the Stanley Cup for the second time in four seasons. It's been quite the turnaround, and the 60-year-old Wirtz thinks there is more to come.
“I think we're going to see a lot of good years ahead of us,” he said.
It sure looks that way.
Unlike in 2010, when the title-winning team underwent changes because of salary-cap issues, the Blackhawks will be able to bring back many of their top players next season when they try to become the first repeat Stanley Cup winner since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998.
Forwards Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp, and defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are all under contract for at least two more seasons. Brandon Saad, one of the finalists for the Calder Trophy given to the NHL's top rookie, is years away from restricted free agency.
“I think there's something about our core,” said Kane, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs. “Hopefully we can stay together a long time, because that's two Cups in four years, and we seem to only be getting better and better as players as time goes on here.”
The Blackhawks lost in the first round of the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons, but general manager Stan Bowman decided to stay the course.
He kept Joel Quenneville in place even though the coach was hired by his predecessor, Dale Tallon. Corey Crawford was given time to develop in goal, and he rewarded the organization's patience with a terrific performance in this year's playoffs. Kane matured into one of the NHL's top players.
Ask Wirtz and team president John McDonough about the Blackhawks' turnaround, and their response often includes some variation of hire the right people and then stay out of the way. The steady leadership in the front office is one of the reasons Chicago is the first franchise with two titles since the NHL instituted a salary cap in 2005.
“I think Stan Bowman and Al MacIsaac and Norm Maciver and everybody in our hockey operations, they do a meticulous job,” McDonough said, “and they've been planning for this offseason as we did before for months and months, so we'll be ready for it.
“We're going to do everything we can and try to keep as many of these guys as we can and just keep this rolling.”
But with the salary cap dropping to $64.3 million next season, it's going to be next to impossible for the Blackhawks to bring everyone back.
According to CapGeek.com, forwards Bryan Bickell, Michal Handzus, Viktor Stalberg and Jamal Mayers, defenseman Michal Rozsival and goalie Ray Emery are eligible for unrestricted free agency.
Bickell is likely headed for a big pay day that would put him out of Chicago's reach unless it decides to shed salary to make room for the physical winger.
The 6-foot-4 Bickell had nine goals and eight assists in the playoffs, including the tying score at the end of the third period in the Blackhawks' title-clinching 3-2 victory at Boston on Monday night.
Stalberg and Emery probably won't be back, as well.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ex-NHL player Moore frustrated $38 million lawsuit still in courts
- NHL notebook: League adjusts Devils’ penalty for signing Kovalchuk