A Decade of Dominance: Part One

Three Stanley Cup Championships in six years. Some would call it a dynasty while others would say the Chicago Blackhawks are the team of the decade. No matter what you call them, they have embarked on a Decade of Dominance. How did a team go from missing the playoffs five consecutive years to three-time Stanley Cup Champions? By laying a foundation.

(Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)
Duncan Keith joins Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews as Conn Smythe winners.(Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

The Foundation

There are seven members of the 2015 Stanley Cup Championship team that have been around for all three Cup victories. These players are generally referred to as the “core” of the Chicago Blackhawks. How these players were acquired would become the blueprint the Blackhawks success over the course of this decade.

Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Duncan Keith was the very first member of the “core” to join the team. Drafted after his freshman year at Michigan State, Keith did not join the Blackhawks until the 2005-06 season. A two-time Norris Trophy recipient, Keith has established himself as one of the premier defenseman in the NHL. Keith was named an Alternate Captain for the Blackhawks in 2008.

The very next year Chicago would draft Keith’s partner in crime Brent Seabrook. Seabrook was drafted by Chicago 14th overall in the first round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Before joining the Blackhawks in the 2005-06 season, Seabrook spent four years with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL. Often overlooked because of Keith’s outstanding play, Seabrook has made a name for himself making big shots when needed.

The Blackhawks would add another defensemen in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft when they selected Niklas Hjalmarsson 108th overall. Before making his debut in the 2007-08 season Hjalmarsson spent three years with the HV71 of the SHL. Hjalmarsson joined two other notable players making their debut that year.

Patrick Sharp is the only player of the seven to be acquired via trade. The Blackhawks received Sharp and Eric Meloche from the Philadelphia Flyers for Matt Ellison and a 3rd round pick during the 2005-06 season. Sharp was named an Alternate Captain for the Blackhawks in 2008.

With the 3rd overall pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, the Blackhawks selected Jonathan Toews, as he joined Keith as the only members of the group to be drafted out of college. After playing the 2006-07 season for North Dakota, Toews would forgo his final two years of college and join the Blackhawks for the 2007-08 season. A year later Toews would be named Captain of the Blackhawks.

Chicago made Patrick Kane  the highest selected member of the group when they picked him with the 1st overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Unlike previous members, Kane would join the team right away making his debut in 2007-08. His selection would become the catalyst in the rebirth of the Chicago Blackhawks franchise.

Unlike the previous players who were either drafted or acquired via trade, Marian Hossa was brought in as a free agent prior to the 2009-10 season. Signed to a 12 year, $62.8 million contract, Hossa banked on the Blackhawks to bring him his first Stanley Cup Championship, after failing to win one the previous two years despite making it to the Finals. The signing of Hossa would trigger the end to the Martin Havlat era, the team’s MVP and leading scorer the previous year.

Three of the seven players have gone on to win a Conn Smythe trophy, as Keith joined Toews (2010) and Kane (2013) this year with his play in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

(Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)
Stan Bowman has built this team from the ground up. (Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)

Front Office

Along with the seven players above, these four people helped build this team to where they are now.

After taking over the team following the death of his father William W. Wirtz in 2007, Rocky Wirtz was quick to change the culture around the team. Unlike his father, Wirtz knew the best way to get his team out there was to put home games back on television, something his father said was not fair to the people who went to the games. Wirtz named John Mcdonaugh, who worked for the Chicago Cubs, as team President, and trusted him with the marketing of the team. Along with Mcdonaugh, Wirtz brought in Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita as team ambassadors, making amends with the men after they had a falling out with his father.

While many view Stan Bowman as the architect of this team, many people forget the Dale Tallon was behind the blossoming of this team. Tallon joined the Blackhawks in 1998 as Director of Player Personnel and quickly moved up the ranks when he named Assistant General Manager in 2003. Following the lockout in 2004-05, Tallon was named the team’s eighth General Manager on June, 21 2005. Charged with revitalizing the team, Tallon would make the trade for Sharp as well as bringing in big free agents Brian Campbell, Martin Havlat, Kris Versteeg and Hossa. Tallon was also the man at the helm when Toews and Kane were selected.

Tallon would make a huge blunder in June 2009, when he failed to submit the qualifying offers for the team’s restricted free agents. Tallon was able to get the RFA’s under contract, but his blunder cost the team millions.

After the mishap, the team demoted Tallon to senior advisor and made Bowman the ninth GM in team history. Bowman joined the team in 2001 as a Special Assistant to the GM, and then became the Director of Hockey Operations in 2005. In 2007 Bowman became the Assistant GM, a title he held up until his promotion to GM.

Joel Quenneville
Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville is now 3rd in all-time coaching wins with 693 (Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE)

The Coach

After leaving as head coach of the Colorado Avalanche in 2008, Joel Quenneville joined the Chicago Blackhawks as a Pro Scout. That title would only be temporary, as he was named Head Coach when Denis Savard was fired four games into the season. He has been at the helm for all three Stanley Cup Championships, and will go down as one of the best coaches in Chicago Blackhawks history.

We will dig deeper into Coach Q’s accomplishments further into this series, but he is without a doubt a key part in the foundation of this team.

Without these men, the Blackhawks as we know may not exsist.

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Matt Bowen is a Chicago Blackhawks contributor for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter@MattBowenTHW