Core in place, Chicago Blackhawks think they can make another Stanley Cup run

  • Article by: JAY COHEN , AP Sports Writer
  • Updated: June 25, 2013 - 8:58 PM

CHICAGO — When Rocky Wirtz took over the Chicago Blackhawks six years ago, they were among the worst teams in the NHL.

Fast forward to Tuesday, when the owner mingled with fans and friends hours after the Blackhawks flew home with the Stanley Cup for the second time in four seasons. It's been quite the turnaround, and the 60-year-old Wirtz thinks there is more to come.

"I think we're going to see a lot of good years ahead of us," he said.

It sure looks that way.

Unlike in 2010, when the title-winning team underwent changes because of salary-cap issues, the Blackhawks will be able to bring back many of their top players next season when they try to become the first repeat Stanley Cup winner since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998.

Forwards Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp, and defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are all under contract for at least two more seasons. Brandon Saad, one of the finalists for the Calder Trophy given to the NHL's top rookie, is years away from restricted free agency.

"I think there's something about our core," said Kane, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs. "Hopefully we can stay together a long time, because that's two Cups in four years, and we seem to only be getting better and better as players as time goes on here."

The Blackhawks lost in the first round of the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons, but general manager Stan Bowman decided to stay the course.

He kept Joel Quenneville in place even though the coach was hired by his predecessor, Dale Tallon. Corey Crawford was given time to develop in goal, and he rewarded the organization's patience with a terrific performance in this year's playoffs. Kane matured into one of the NHL's top players.

Ask Wirtz and team president John McDonough about the Blackhawks' turnaround, and their response often includes some variation of hire the right people and then stay out of the way. The steady leadership in the front office is one of the reasons Chicago is the first franchise with two titles since the NHL instituted a salary cap in 2005.

"I think Stan Bowman and Al MacIsaac and Norm Maciver and everybody in our hockey operations, they do a meticulous job," McDonough said, "and they've been planning for this offseason as we did before for months and months, so we'll be ready for it.

"We're going to do everything we can and try to keep as many of these guys as we can and just keep this rolling."

But with the salary cap dropping to $64.3 million next season, it's going to be next to impossible for the Blackhawks to bring everyone back.

According to CapGeek.com, forwards Bryan Bickell, Michal Handzus, Viktor Stalberg and Jamal Mayers, defenseman Michal Rozsival and goalie Ray Emery are eligible for unrestricted free agency.

Bickell is likely headed for a big pay day that would put him out of Chicago's reach unless it decides to shed salary to make room for the physical winger. The 6-foot-4 Bickell had nine goals and eight assists in the playoffs, including the tying score at the end of the third period in the Blackhawks' title-clinching 3-2 victory at Boston on Monday night.

Stalberg and Emery probably won't be back, as well. Stalberg was in and out of the lineup during the playoffs after he had nine goals and 14 assists in his third season with Chicago. With Crawford's emergence, Emery didn't make a postseason appearance, and the Blackhawks also signed Antti Raanta of Finland in June.

"What you're going to have with a hard salary cap, you have to keep bringing in younger players all the time," Wirtz said. "You can't just go up the free-agent market and buy a team. You have to do it the old-fashioned way and it's developing it."

They certainly made all the right moves this year, when the Blackhawks stormed to the league's best record for the lockout-shortened season. They earned at least one point in the first 24 games, setting an NHL record.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Boston - A. Ranaudo 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - C. Morton
Toronto - D. Hutchison 6:05 PM
Baltimore - U. Jimenez
Washington - T. Roark 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Harang
Miami - N. Eovaldi 6:10 PM
NY Mets - B. Colon
NY Yankees - M. Pineda 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi
Cincinnati - J. Cueto 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - J. Arrieta
Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt 7:10 PM
Kansas City - L. Hendriks
Cleveland - C. Kluber 7:10 PM
Houston - N. Tropeano
Detroit - R. Porcello 7:10 PM
Minnesota - R. Nolasco
Milwaukee - W. Peralta 7:15 PM
St. Louis - L. Lynn
Los Angeles - D. Haren 7:40 PM
Colorado - T. Matzek
San Francisco - J. Peavy 8:40 PM
Arizona - J. Collmenter
Seattle - R. Elias 9:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Texas - N. Tepesch 9:05 PM
Oakland - S. Kazmir
Philadelphia - A. Burnett 9:10 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Philadelphia 30 FINAL
Indianapolis 27
Tampa Bay 9/18/14 7:25 PM
Atlanta
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
(5) Auburn 9/18/14 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close