With three Stanley Cup victories between 2009 and 2015, the Blackhawks were the closest this hockey generation has seen to a dynasty. In the salary cap era, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain a roster that stands out as being particularly elite and deep, especially when someone forgets to qualify a bunch of restricted free agents by the NHL’s deadline, allowing several key players to negotiate deals as unrestricted free agents instead. Even so, the Blackhawks were able to reform their team on the fly almost every offseason, trading veteran middle-of-the-pack and depth players for cheap, unheralded help, draft picks and/or prospects for a long time and maintain their spot as the NHL’s most dangerous team. All things come to an end eventually, though, and while the Blackhawks have continued to fill their roster with surprisingly strong, young depth while keeping a good chunk of their core intact, age and continual roster turnover seem to have finally taken enough bites out of them that they’re no longer an elite team. This isn’t to say the Blackhawks are currently bad; they’re in a tough division and could easily still make the playoffs. But let’s look at their team performance year by year since that first Stanley Cup in 2009. Looking at even strength alone doesn’t tell us the whole story, but we can get a pretty good feel for the last decade of Blackhawks hockey. They hit their peak the year they won their first cup, and under salary cap pressures had to do a quick retool. It took them two seasons before hitting a second peak that led to two Stanley Cups in three seasons, before falling off once again, only much further, into the realm of being an average playoff team. What’s a little interesting is that while the improvement is marginal, it looks like the Blackhawks are in the middle of another retool and are improving again. The problem is that their core players are aging out of their primes this time, which makes it much more difficult to build a contending team. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are 29, Brent Seabrook is 32, Corey Crawford will be 33 on New Year's Eve, and Duncan Keith is 34. Marian Hossa and Niklas Hjalmarsson are now gone.
Blackhawks' Central survival depends on fixing defensive decline — soon
Sporting News | Dec 9