If the biggest question surrounding the Chicago Blackhawks right now is how much longer they can drag out the Stanley Cup window, next up has to be a reflection on what they’ve already accomplished. Three Stanley Cups since 2010 is an amazing feat, and puts this era of Blackhawks hockey among the most successful in the modern NHL.
So ... is it enough?
This question bubbles under the surface of every discussion regarding whether the Blackhawks can win another Stanley Cup. The past decade has been so wildly successful that any discussion of what comes next needs to come with an appreciation of how good things have been.
But being a fan doesn’t end just because your team reached the top of the mountain. That high can wear off pretty quickly when reality serves up a heavy dose of humility. But still, what a high it was.
With that in mind, a couple of us here at Second City Hockey have put forth both sides of the argument. On the one side, Dave Melton argues why this team needs another Stanley Cup. On the other, I argue why they’ve already done their part. Let’s go!
No, three championships aren’t enough
You know what’s enough? If the Blackhawks lift Lord Stanley every summer until I die, like Stan Bowman is playing Be a GM mode on Rookie.
Hot take: watching your team win the Cup is fun. Why do I have to settle for experiencing that fun three times? You know what’s better than three Cups? Four Cups. And then five Cups. And then six Cups, then seven, etc.
I realize how rare this era of Blackhawks hockey is. But I also know what the last two summers have been like, watching a team other than Chicago skating the Cup around the rink at the end of the year.
And there’s no reason to settle as a sports fan. We’ll lie to ourselves, but this is a part of our life we have zero control over, no matter how many times we sit in the same spot of the same couch in the same house drinking the same beer for “good luck.” In spite of that, we commit every morsel of our sanity to each puck hurled in the direction of the net from the first round to the final whistle of the playoffs. Each playoff victory is a temporary relief, helping that anxiety subside until the puck is dropped in the next game. The only long-term remedy for the ailment of being a hockey fan in the playoffs is the Stanley Cup. Everything else is just a cheap imitation.
And from another vantage point, there’s always something else that you wish you’d done during a postseason. There’s always one more bar you meant to visit for a game, one more friend you didn’t get a chance to catch a game with, one more credit card you’re now ready to max out and see the game in person. For example, I’m still kicking myself for being in Minnesota when the Hawks won their third Cup in 2015. I’ve vowed to be around Chicago if they do it again, and might have to sell an arm and/or leg to be there in person should the Cup get hoisted at the United Center again.
After the Bulls won their sixth title of the decade in 1998, I remember wondering if there was any way that Michael and Scottie could be convinced to give it one more go in 1999. Just to see if they could get number seven. For the last two seasons, I’ve been wondering how I’d celebrate the Hawks fourth Cup. Only one way to find out.
Four is better than three, and three ain’t enough.
Three is really, really dang good, though
Here’s the thing about winning three Stanley Cups — basically nobody does it. Or at least, basically no single franchise does it with the same primary group of stars in a salary cap era that requires teams to constantly retool on the fly.
What the Blackhawks have done over the past decade only occurs under a unique confluence of circumstances. If the team only drafted Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Jonathan Toews, there wouldn’t be three Stanley Cups. If the team only signed Marian Hossa and Keith to ridiculous bargain contacts, there wouldn’t be three Stanley Cups. If the team only hired Joel Quenneville, but didn’t give him such superlative talent, there wouldn’t be three Stanley Cups.
But the Blackhawks managed to hit on all those things, from drafting Toews and Kane to hiring Q to signing Hossa for less than $6 million annually, in a way that built a team so good it loomed over the entire NHL for years.
And maybe there’s more left in the tank — I wouldn’t recommend betting against these guys yet — but it shows you how remarkable the past decade was in the first place. The only team to come close in terms of recent success is the Pittsburgh Penguins, and they’ve had arguably the two best players in the NHL since 2007.
None of this is to say that the hunger for more Stanley Cups is gone. Of course we want more Stanley Cups, in the same way I want another scoop of ice cream even after I’ve had three. I want it because I’m gluttonous, not because I need it.
And within that recognition of gluttony comes the realization that, even if this team isn’t a major player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the next 10 years, it would probably be okay. It’s certainly not what I want — not after I got screwed out of remembering any of the Michael Jordan era because I was 6 years old when the Bulls won their sixth title — but given the lows I’ve experienced as a Chicago sports fan, I’m still grateful. If three Cups is what we get from this group, it’s enough.