So all you new-found Blackhawks fans have been slapped with a hard dose of sports reality.
If you thought the Stanley Cup was nothing but Fourth of July fireworks and cherry pie, well, you'll have that in abundance. But now you have to take some gruel and a cold shower amid the celebration. You just found out why it's so hard to keep championship teams together, why dynasties are so rare in sports anymore.
Hold on to those memories of Big Buff psyching out Roberto Luongo, then finally dumping Chris Pronger on his butt. The Hawks have made him the biggest sacrificial offering to the encroaching salary cap in his headlining role in the off-season's first, and biggest trade. The title honeymoon lasted all of two weeks before the deal was reported, on the same night Duncan Keith triumphantly won the Norris Trophy.
I thought Stan Bowman would find a way to keep Dustin Byfuglien, figuring he could bottle his heavyweight work from the postseason to forge a force by the net throughout the first post-championship regular season. But the cold, hard numbers required a big name be placed into the belching volcano. Three playoff contributors, in fact. Ben Eager had his spring moments. And Brent Sopel was a skilled shot-blocker.
All the Hawks get back to work further under the cap in the deal with the Atlanta Thrashers is veteran forward Marty Reasoner. They will receive first- and second-round picks.
That championship-team chemistry is so fine, yet so volatile. You can hardly re-create it if you tried 1,000 more times. Bowman knows his core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Keith, Brent Seabrook and Antti Niemi is secure. But they couldn't win the Cup by themselves. No matter what lower-priced players Bowman acquires, they won't be the same, exact combo that complemented the stars.
History provides a guidepost. The 1985 Bears, probably the greatest team in Chicago sports history, actually exceeded its defensive brilliance the following season, allowing even fewer points. But the quarterback position went up for grabs due to Jim McMahon's injuries, and the Bears were one-and-done in the playoffs. Linebacker Wilber Marshall soon left, other stars defected and what should have been a proud dynasty lasted just one year.
The Bulls even had to re-tool their complements to Michael Jordan from one three-peat to another, and around Jordan's first retirement. Horace Grant, Bill Cartwright and B.J. Armstrong would have gone stale had they stayed. In came Dennis Rodman, Luc Longley and Ron Harper. The original chemistry just did not last long. The Bulls were fortunate to come back better than ever after Jordan's return.
The Sox traded good clubhouse influence and hustling center-field defender Aaron Rowand soon after winning the World Series in 2005. In return, they snared Jim Thome, rated throughout the game as everyone's favorite teammate. But although Thome produced, the numbers somehow did not make up for Rowand. Bullpen bridge guys Cliff Pollitte and Neal Cotts also had a short post-2005 Sox stay. Orlando Hernandez also was quickly gone from the championship roster.
The Hawks' fans summer of fun should not be spoiled. But freeze-frame Kane's cross-ice dash to Niemi to celebrate his overtime goal in Philadelphia, save the DVRs and TiVos and other video records. Maybe the Hawks can run the playoff gauntlet and win again in future seasons. They are talented. But that same exact group, what made that team so special, can't be duplicated. And that makes repeat titles just a little bit harder.
It's a toy factory, indeed, but it intersects with the real world on a regular basis. Sorry.