The Chicago Blackhawks are one of the most storied franchises in the history of hockey. As such, it makes sense that they would not be lacking in terms of all-time greats who have laced them up for their side. From Mikita to Hull to Chelios to Esposito, it’s a sure bet that the Blackhawks’ best of all-time roster would be right up there with any other franchise’s group.
This post is the first in a series that will look at who from Chicago’s franchise history is worthy of being named to such a roster, and it’s a very difficult group to crack.
In hockey, it’s widely accepted that the most important position on the ice is the center. Their responsibilities while on the ice are more diverse than those of any other position on the team. The Blackhawks have been fortunate enough in their rich history to call some of the league’s greatest centers their own.
For some perspective, one player who is left off this roster due to the quality depth at this position is Pit Martin. Martin spent a little more than a decade playing for the Blackhawks from 1967 to 1978. In that time frame, he compiled 243 goals, 384 assists, and 627 points. Yet somehow, that doesn’t qualify him as one of the four best centers in this franchise’s history. So that’s the level of greatness that’s necessary to crack this roster of Chicago’s all-time greats.
So without further ado, here are the four pivots who would crack the Blackhawks’ best of the best roster if it were to ever somehow be assembled.
1st Line: Stan Mikita
This one had to be obvious, right? It really is the definition of a slam dunk. Mikita is the Blackhawks’ all-time points leader with 541 goals and 926 assists good for 1,467 points in a Blackhawks uniform. To this day, Mikita ranks 14th in NHL history in points.
Mikita’s laundry list of accomplishments is absurd. He won two Hart Trophies, going back to back with the award in 1967 and 1968. He was named to the NHL’s First All-Star team six times. He won the Art Ross Trophy four times in five years from 1964 to 1968. The only players in league history with more scoring titles are Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Phil Esposito, and Jaromir Jagr. That’s the type of company that Mikita keeps.
While it’s true that the Blackhawks’ history when it comes to the center position is outstanding, there isn’t another player on this list who even approaches the level of greatness that Mikita displayed throughout his career. There was a whole lot of talent packed into that diminutive 5-foot-9, 169 pound frame.
2nd Line: Denis Savard
Coming in right behind Mikita is none other than the great Denis Savard. Just as Mikita is a clear-cut choice for the top spot, so too is Savard for the second spot. Savard ranks third all-time in points among Chicago forwards and is second among centers. As a Blackhawk, he put up 377 goals, 719 assists, and 1,096 points.
Over 17 years with the club, Savard played in 881 regular season games. He was not a lifer, as he did also spend time with the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning before ultimately retiring as a Blackhawk in 1997.
Savard was never really among the elite of the elite during his time in the NHL. He never won any major awards, mostly due to the misfortune of having his career overlap almost entirely with Wayne Gretzky’s. He was, however, named to the All-Star Game nine times throughout his career and did come away with one inclusion in the NHL Second All-Star team in 1983.
Savard’s tenure as a Blackhawks player was far more successful than his tenure as the team’s head coach. Savard coached the Blackhawks for parts of three seasons from 2006 to 2008, and he was fired a mere four games into the 2008-2009 season. Of course, his successor Joel Quenneville was able to come in and lead the team to incredible new heights.
3rd Line: Jeremy Roenick
Roenick’s time with the franchise in terms of games played was the shortest of any player on this list, but it certainly was very impactful. Over 524 games with the club, Roenick produced 267 goals, 329 assists, and 596 points. Not only was he elite offensively, but he really brought it on the defensive side of the game as well. Roenick was Jonathan Toews before Jonathan Toews was Jonathan Toews, only without the outstanding supporting cast and multiple championships to boot.
The highlight of Roenick’s career as a Blackhawk came in 1990-1991, when he put up 94 points while exhibiting outstanding all-around play en route to Chicago’s capturing of the Presidents’ Trophy. After his first two years in the league, there wasn’t one season where Roenick failed to produce more than a point per game in a Blackhawk uniform. The American even topped 100 points in three straight seasons from 1991 to 1994.
Unfortunately for Roenick, he never won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks or with any other team for that matter. He is one of the greatest players in hockey history to never hoist the games’ greatest prize, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was one of the best centers to ever lace them up for the Blackhawks.
4th Line: Jonathan Toews
No depth chart of this nature would be complete without Captain Serious. Toews isn’t done writing his story as Chicago’s franchise player, but to this point it is quite a story that he’s written. In 2010, he became the youngest captain in NHL history to lead his team to the Stanley Cup. Then in 2013 his Blackhawks won it again. Then in 2015, they did it again.
The individual production from Toews in his career thus far isn’t overly striking, but it is very good. He’s just 27 years of age, and he’s already 14th among forwards in Blackhawks history in points with 223 goals, 283 assists, and 506 points.
Toews has had a lot of help surrounding him to be sure, but he’s gotten it done over and over again. There are people out there who overrate him, but you can’t argue with his outstanding prowess all over the ice. Toews gets it done on the power play and on the penalty kill. At even strength, his rate production stats are right up there with the best of them, and when he’s on the ice he acts as a human ice tilt in his team’s favor. There really isn’t much that Toews can’t do, and he absolutely belongs on the Blackhawks’ all-time roster.
* * * * * *
Be sure to let me know in the comments what you think of my selections. If you disagree, state your case for who you think should be on this list instead of someone who is.
Be sure to stay tuned in the near future for the continuation of this series. The order will be done as follows: left wingers, right wingers, defensemen, goaltenders. As always, thanks for reading.