CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 29: Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks and Raffi Torres #37 of the Phoenix Coyotes battle for the puck at the United Center on November 29, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Coyotes defeated the Blackhawks 4-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
In this week's edition of Ricky-Bobby-Zach, the SB Nation Chicago staff looks at the Chicago Blachawks. After getting bounced in the first round for the second season in a row, are the 'Hawks a disappointment?
Bobby Loesch (@bobbystompy):
I wouldn't mind discussing the Chi 'Hawks playoff loss. I kept thinking about how painful these last two playoff losses were ('Yotes this year, 'Nucks the year before), and how I almost wish these had happened before the Stanley Cup championship to make us appreciate the title more when it happened. I mean, sure, the Blackhawks were bounced once before they won the title in 2010, but I almost feel like we didn't have to pay our dues. Think about the Bears winning the Super Bowl. I could probably float to Lake Michigan on the power of my own tears. The Bulls had to go over the Pistons. The Sox had to basically buck all odds. And if and when the Cubs win the World Series, it'll basically be the complete antithesis of this Blackhawks path. I'm well aware of Chicago's title ending the longest Stanley Cup drought in the NHL -- so don't think that history is getting lost here -- but for the more casual (read: not bandwagon, more... ignorant to no fault of their own) fans, these last two years have felt like the real bumps and bruises fans inevitably have to earn.
Z.W. Martin (@ZWMartin):
I totally get what you're saying, Bobby. The typical path, it seems, is struggling to get over some kind of hump. Usually that hump is a team**. The 'Hawks did not have a 2004 Red Sox/Yankees series. They did not have to face an 18-0 Patriots team like the Giants did in 2007. They didn't continually bump heads with fate, only to be thwarted year in and year out. Chicago went from bad to great kind of overnight. The 2009 playoffs were more of a setup for a knockout punch than a disappointment. But, like you said, we basically have to ignore a 49 year cup drought.
I watched game five at Lottie's in Bucktown. A friend I was with moved to Chicago about five years ago and became a Chicago sports fan as soon as he turned onto Armitage off the Dan Ryan. He was lamenting that he wished he had hockey in his life as a child and that since he's moved here, he's really become a big hockey fan. I should mention he's from Phoenix.
Ignoring the ridiculous irony in his comment, it made me think about my childhood as a 'Hawks fan. The 90s Blackhawks were an extremely talented group with fun personalities, but unable to win it all, regardless of their unprecedented ranking in Sega's NHL '96. JR, Chelios, Eddie Belfour. Those teams were sick. The Blackhawks are quickly moving in that direction, which is scary. They have a ton of talent, but a lot of holes. The Stanley Cup team had two current captains ON THEIR THIRD LINE. They were stupid talented and I don't care how good you draft, sign or trade, you will not regain that talent in two years.
I am extremely sad today. At the beginning of the year, I truly thought the 'Hawks had a real shot at making a strong push for the Cup. It seems I was wrong and I hope the 2012 off-season will bring Chicago a step closer to prominence, because two first round bounces in a row will not fly in this city anymore.
It's not 2007.
**Or a cat and goat. What's the deal animal kingdom? Cut the Cubs some slack, yo.
Ricky O'Donnell (@TUP_Ricky):
The thing with these 'Hawks -- I feel like we'll be referring to them as the Toews-Kane-Keith-Seabrook years when we are old men, though maybe they'll just be the "Toews Years" -- is that they became so good so quickly with such young talent. When the 'Hawks won it 2010, relief, particularly for the long-suffering hockey diehards in this town, was the chief emotion. But after that? Most of the new fans immediately started fantasizing about the 'Hawks becoming a dynasty. The massive salary cap bind the team put itself in just to get that one cup basically sabotaged last season; this playoff run could have been DOA the moment Marian Hossa had to be carried off the ice on a stretcher in Game 3 at the United Center. It puts in perspective just how hard it is to win *one championship*, which is an important lesson to remember moving forward in regard to our Bulls.
I understand Bobby's sentiment about the Cup feeling a bit cheapened by consecutive playoff losses in the following seasons, though I think it's extremely short-sighted. We like to think of championships as a culmination of sorts, but really, that isn't always the case. It was with Jordan's Bulls; maybe it was too with the '05 Sox. But I'll frame another question this way: if the Bulls defeat the Heat this year and win the NBA championship, but lose to the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals the next three years (with Miami winning two or three titles), are the Bulls a success or a failure?
Though it's basically unrelated, I think it's at the heart of Bobby's hockey lament. Is one championship good enough? Does it all have to do with circumstance? Part of me feels like holding out for a dynasty -- and not being satisfied until you get it -- can equate with bloodlust. It's just not enough to be king, you must rule and punish with a iron-clad fist. I find that kind of sad, if only because how hard it is to win one title.
All I want from D. Rose is one championship. Maybe that makes me a jellyfish. I dunno. But these things are only so precious because they are so hard to accomplish. The 'Hawks got there title and it was great. You can't expect them to do it every year, particularly in hockey. Just look at the playoffs this year. A No. 1 seed went down already and the Rangers may be next. Even if the 'Hawks had the best team this year (they didn't), it still can't be that much of a shock and/or disappointment if they didn't win.
What makes these 'Hawks great, I think, is how sustainable they seem. Theo Epstein can only fantasize about building something this organic and this fruitful. The 'Hawks will be back. 2010 wasn't an end, it was a beginning. Chicago can win another Stanley Cup with Toews and Kane at the helm. Hell, they can do it next year. So long as there are smart people making the decisions and talented young players in tact, you can count on going through the emotional roller coaster that is playoff hockey on an annual basis.