Which Blackhawks Stanley Cup Team Was the Best?

The landscape of modern sports is a complex one at best. With salary-cap implications dictating each and every move that a franchise makes, creating dynasties has become a nearly impossible task. While there have been many dynasties across major league sports in the past, forming a modern-day, salary cap-era dynasty as the New England Patriots, and San Antonio Spurs have in recent years is very difficult. While the ultimate goal in sports is to win a league championship, the long-term plans of any good franchise, or dynasty, is to remain a contender for that championship for as long as possible.

(Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)
(Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

Despite the salary cap, the Chicago Blackhawks may be as close to a modern-day dynasty as it gets in the NHL. When looking at their recent history, the credentials speak for themselves. The Blackhawks have been involved in every NHL post-season since 2009, which puts them in good company relative to other North American professional sports teams.

The only other franchises to make every playoff since 2009 other than the Blackhawks are the Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, New England Patriots, and Green Bay Packers. Not a single team in Major League Baseball has made each post-season since 2009. Over the course of six seasons, the Blackhawks won three Stanley Cups, in 2010, 2013, and 2015, and have been considered a top-contender to win in each season in between.

One of the best defensemen in the history of the NHL had this to say about the Chicago Blackhawks:

Dynasty is a pretty strong word, but I’ll tell you what, in today’s era with the free agency and how hard it is to keep star players around and the money that’s being thrown out there, if it’s not a dynasty, it’s pretty darn good anyway,”

“It’s a pretty darn good job of keeping everybody in the same place and winning games. – Larry Robinson

While it’s clear that the Blackhawks have found a lot of success in recent years, the question that begs to be asked is this one. Which of the recent Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks teams is the best?

Chicago Blackhawks 2010 Team

In the 2009-10 season, the Chicago Blackhawks compiled a record of 52-22-8, which was good for 112 points and first place in the Central Division. The only two teams to finish with more points than the Blackhawks that season were the San Jose Sharks and the Washington Capitals, who posted 113 and 121 points respectively. The Blackhawks posted impressive goal totals as well, finishing third in the NHL in goals-for with 271, and goals-against with 209.

One of the most stressful times for a franchise and its fans comes during a game-seven match in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Blackhawks did themselves, and the entire city of Chicago a favor by saving them that stress and not playing in a single game-seven in the 2010 playoffs.

The quarterfinal match-up against the Nashville Predators was decided in six games, with the Blackhawks coming out on top. The Hawks also outscored the Predators 17 to 15 during that series.

In the Blackhawks semifinal match-up against the Vancouver Canucks, there was a lot of animosity between the two clubs as they had also met in the playoffs in the previous year. As was the case in the 2009 playoffs, the Blackhawks took care of the rival Canucks in six games, and managed to outscore them 23 to 18.

(Barbara Johnston-USA TODAY Sports)
(Barbara Johnston-USA TODAY Sports)

As mentioned, the San Jose Sharks were one of two teams in the NHL to finish with a better point-total than the Blackhawks during the 2009-10 season, and the only team in the West to do so as well. The two Western powerhouses matched up in the Western Conference Final that year, but the result was one that fans of the Sharks would soon like to forget. In just four games, the Blackhawks outscored the Sharks 13 to 7, and the sweep solidified the Blackhawks as the best team in the entire Western Conference.

The 2010 Stanley Cup Finals match-up between the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers proved to be a high-scoring affair in just about every game, with only game two featuring less than seven total goals allowed. The Blackhawks outscored the Flyers 25 to 22, and won the series in six games with arguably the strangest game-winning goal in NHL history.

 

YouTube player

The only person on the ice to know that Patrick Kane scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal was Kane himself, but the Blackhawks were finally Cup champions once again.

When looking at the success the Blackhawks had that season, it’s hard to argue that they were one of the most stacked teams in hockey in recent memory. The one flaw that the team really seemed to have, as evidenced by the Stanley Cup Finals high-scoring goal totals, was goaltending. While Antti Niemi is a solid goalie in his own right, he was one of the weaker links on a Blackhawks team that was filled-to-the-brim with star talent.

When looking back on the names that were present on the roster that season, it’s easy to see why the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. Some of the notable centers on the team include Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, and Dave Bolland. The winger list includes Andrew Ladd, Troy Brouwer, Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Kane. The most notable defenders were Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook, and Brian Campbell, and with Joel Quenneville behind the bench, the Blackhawks were simply too much to handle for the rest of the NHL.

Chicago Blackhawks 2013 Team

In the 2012-13 lock-out shortened-season, the Chicago Blackhawks posted a record of 36-7-5, good for first in the NHL. The Blackhawks produced very impressive goal-totals once again by scoring 155 goals-for and only allowing 102 goals-against. The only team to score more goals than the Blackhawks during the 2012-13 season was the Pittsburgh Penguins who scored 165 goals on the year. The Blackhawks did allow the fewest goals on the year, however, with Ottawa coming in a close-second by only allowing two more goals all year than the Blackhawks with 104. Projecting the Blackhawks point total of the course of an entire 82-game season would give the Hawks an astounding 132 points, which would tie them for first-place all-time with the 1976-77 Canadiens who posted that point total in just 80 games at the time.

The best start to a season by an NHL team in league-history came during the 2012-13 lockout-shortened season, with the Chicago Blackhawks going 24 games without losing a single match in regulation. In terms of overall undefeated streaks, the Blackhawks strong showing to start that season rank third all-time behind only the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens and 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers who won 28 and 35 games respectively. The Blackhawks finished the regular season with a .802 winning percentage which ranks as the fifth-best all-time.

(Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)
(Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

During the playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks made quick work of their opponents once again, finishing off three of their four playoff series’ in less than seven games.

The Western Quarterfinals resulted in a 4-1 victory by the Blackhawks over the Wild with the ‘Hawks outscoring their opponents 17 to 7. The Western Semi-Finals were a bit tougher for the Blackhawks as they were forced to game-seven by the Detroit Red Wings. After winning the first game of the series by a score of 4-1, the Blackhawks found themselves backed into a corner after losing three straight games.

The Hawks ultimately won the series by winning their last three-games and narrowly-outscored the Red Wings 16 to 15. In the Western Conference Finals, the Blackhawks found themselves up against the Los Angeles Kings, the 2012 Stanley Cup Champions. It took the Blackhawks only five games to knock-out the Kings in a series where they outscored their opponents 14 to 11.

The Stanley Cup Finals led to another memorable moment in Blackhawks’ history as another strange Stanley Cup-clinching goal was scored.

When do you celebrate a goal as if it’s an overtime game-winner, when there’s still 00:58 of ice time remaining on the clock? When it’s game-six of the Stanley Cup Finals and that goal just solidified the Blackhawks’ as champions for the second time in just four seasons.

YouTube player

Many will remember the goal scored by Dave Bolland just 17 seconds after Bryan Bickell tied the game for the Hawks. The Blackhawks ended up getting outscored by the Bruins, with only 14 goals to Boston’s 15, but the final result was all that mattered as the Chicago Blackhawks once again reigned supreme.

With many notable-changes from their last Stanley Cup winning team, the Blackhawks still managed to keep their core in-tact. Toews, Bolland, Kane, Hossa, Sharp, Keith, Hjalmarsson, and Seabrook were all still on the team.

Some notable additions to the roster however, include Johnny Oduya, Nick Leddy, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger, Michal Handzus, and of course Corey Crawford.

Despite some questions and criticisms about Crawford, the Blackhawks had finally found a goalie who could carry the franchise moving forward, and he has done just that following his first Stanley Cup victory.

Chicago Blackhawks 2015 Team

The Chicago Blackhawks finished the 2014-15 regular season with a 48-28-6 record, good for 102 points and third place in the Central Division. The Hawks didn’t dominate the goals-for category as they had done in previous Stanley Cup-winning years with only 229 goals-for, but they still managed to be elite in the goals-against department. The Blackhawks were tied for first in the NHL alongside the Montreal Canadiens with only 189 goals-against allowed. Given the fact that the Montreal Canadiens have arguably the best goalie in the entire world in Carey Price, that’s some elite company to be paired with.

(Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)
(Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

In the playoffs, the Blackhawks were able to succeed against their own division under the new playoff structure which had been implemented in the previous season. While the first round of the playoffs gave way to some difficulties for the Blackhawks including a double-overtime and triple-overtime in games one and four respectively, the Hawk’s managed to win their series against the Nashville Predators in six games, despite being outscored by their opponents 21 to 19.

In the second round of the playoffs, the Blackhawks outscored the Minnesota Wild 13 to 8 in a sweep that showcased their scoring depth. In game four, The Blackhawks scored four goals with four different goal scorers – a series of fours, including the four games it took to win the series itself.

The Blackhawks’ series against the Anaheim Ducks proved to be a close one, as the series stretched to seven games, including four one-goal games. The Blackhawks ultimately outscored the Ducks 25 to 22, and were heading back to the Stanley Cup Finals for the third time in seven years.

The Blackhawks went on to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games after outscoring the high-flying Lightning team 13 to 10. The win marked the Blackhawks third Stanley Cup victory in the last seven years, giving them a perfect 3-0 record in their first appearances in the Finals since the 1991-92 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Final Verdict

The Blackhawks have won each of their most recent Stanley Cups in game-six. All three teams have consisted of the same core players with a shuffling of support-cast players; some of whom have gone on to form very successful careers in other cities. While it’s hard to really declare any of these three teams better than another, the 2013 Blackhawks’ team should be considered the best of the group.

(Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)
(Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

Despite the list of stars that the 2010 team produced, the lack of consistency between the pipes is something that cannot be overlooked. As for 2015, the lack of defensive depth was a glaring hole on the Chicago team as Duncan Keith was forced to play in more minutes than should be expected of any player.

With the record accomplishments set by the franchise coupled with the goaltender that the team was missing during the 2010 Stanley Cup run, it’s hard to bet against the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks under any circumstances. While the season was shortened due to the lock-out in the first half of the year, there’s no reason to believe the Blackhawks would have slowed down in the second half of the season as they proved in the playoffs; winning the Stanley Cup with a 16-7 record.

In all, the Blackhawks’ may or may not be a dynasty, but their consistent play over the last eight years has been a breath of fresh air for the city of Chicago. The 2010, 2013, and 2015 Stanley Cup champion teams will forever live in infamy within the city, with the 2013 team holding a slight-edge over its predecessors, and successors.