There have been a lot of special seasons for the Blackhawks over their 92 years of existence. As one of the NHL’s “Original Six” teams, they’ve won 18 division titles, two Presidents’ Trophies, and six Stanley Cups. It’s not quite Canadiens territory, but fans have a long history to be proud of.
The same goes for the players and their individual accomplishments. Members of the Blackhawks have won nine Art Ross Trophies, eight Calder Trophies, three Conn Smythe Trophies, three Selke Trophies, eight Norris Trophies, eight Lady Byng Trophies, 12 Vezina Trophies, six William J. Jennings Trophies, and seven Hart Trophies.
That’s a whole lot of hardware, and it points to the many legendary greats who have played for the Blackhawks, including some who are still on the team today. The team may have had some serious dry spells of success under its previous owner, but it still uncovered a lot of players who have etched their way into Chicago sports history.
While this doesn’t appear to be one of those seasons for the Blackhawks, as many of their star players are showing signs of decline, it shouldn’t stop us from looking back at the greatest performances in team history. Comparing across eras and positions is tricky, but we’re doing it anyway. Feel free to yell at us in the comments.
First, here’s a rundown of some honorable mentions for players who didn’t make the list, in chronological order:
Max Bentley, 1946-47
Roy Conacher, 1948-49
Doug Bentley, 1948-49
Pierre Pilote, 1964-65
Doug Mohns, 1966-67
Pit Martin, 1972-73
Al Secord, 1982-83
Troy Murray, 1985-86
Steve Larmer, 1990-91
Jeremy Roenick, 1993-94
Tony Amonte, 1999-00
Marian Hossa, 2011-12
Corey Crawford, 2015-16
Here’s our breakdown from No. 10 to a very special No. 1.
10. Doug Wilson, 1981-82 season
It shouldn’t be difficult to see why Wilson’s best season with the Blackhawks begins this list. He set franchise records for goals (39), points (85), and shots on goal (325) that hold up to this day.
No other Chicago defenseman has ever had a season within 14 goals of Wilson’s absurd production. Only three blue liners in NHL history have recorded a season with more goals: Paul Coffey (twice), Bobby Orr, and Dit Clapper, all Hall of Famers.
Wilson ended up running away with Norris Trophy voting, taking 29 of 63 first-place votes and 177 points overall. Ray Bourque finished second with eight and 80, respectively.
9. Chris Chelios, 1992-93 season
The first Blackhawks player who I ever thought was cool enough to get his sweater, Chelios made an indelible impact in Chicago even though he also spent lengthy parts of his NHL career in Montreal and Detroit. At his peak, he was one of the best players in the league, and a regular contender for the Norris Trophy.
During the 1992-93 season, Chelios finished second on the Hawks with 73 points in 84 games, ran away with Norris voting (33 of 50 first-place votes), and led the team to a division title. He stumbled in the playoffs, recording just two points as the Blackhawks were swept in the first round, but it’s still a standout performance.
8. Ed Belfour, 1990-91 season
Even on a team that had Chris Chelios, Steve Larmer, Michel Goulet, and Jeremy Roenick, Belfour was clearly the Blackhawks’ best player in 1990-91. The goaltender’s full season debut was an announcement from the rafters that one of the NHL’s next top goaltenders had just arrived.
Belfour finished that season leading the NHL in wins (43), saves (1,713), shots faced (1,883), save percentage (.910), goals allowed average (2.47) and minutes played (4,127). Think about that combination: Belfour not only led NHL goalies in workload, but he was also the best in terms of save efficiency.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until arriving in Dallas that Belfour became the beastly playoff goalie who led the Stars to back-to-back Cup Finals and a championship in 1999.
7. Duncan Keith, 2009-10 season
Arguably the greatest defenseman in franchise history was never better than the 2009-10 season. Keith, then 26 years old, dominated the regular season with 69 points in 82 games en route to his first Norris Trophy. Adjusted for era, it’s the best offensive season ever by a Blackhawks defenseman, even topping Wilson’s 85-point season.
But what really puts this season over the top is what happened in the playoffs. Keith took his game to the next level by recording 17 points and 28:11 average ice time over 22 games as the Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years. He proved he was a championship-caliber No. 1 defenseman, a role he would fill for the better part of the next decade.
6. Stan Mikita, 1966-67 season
There are a bunch of Mikita seasons you could choose from, but we’ll go with the season where he led the NHL in assists and points, won the Hart Trophy, and captured his first Lady Byng Trophy.
Mikita’s transformation in the middle of his career into one of the NHL’s most “gentlemanly” players on the ice is well known. But what’s particularly remarkable is that, even as his PIM dipped from 154 to 58 to 12 over a three-year span, his production on the ice was never impacted.
During the 1966-67 season, Mikita put that all together to rack up 97 points and just a dozen penalty minutes in 70 games. There was really nobody else like him.
5. Tony Esposito, 1969-70 season
One of the greatest rookie seasons ever by an NHL goaltender needs to be high up on this list. Esposito burst onto the scene in 1969 with a league-leading 38-17-8 record and 15 shutouts. He won the Calder Trophy and Vezina Trophy, and finished second behind Bobby Orr for the Hart Trophy.
We can’t really dig too deep into his numbers because the NHL didn’t record save statistics at the time, but Esposito’s modern record of 15 shutouts in a season hasn’t been matched by any player since 1929. Everyone else around him on the all-time leaderboard played in the 1920s until you get to Dominik Hasek’s 13 shutouts in 1997-98.
It’s fair to consider this the greatest goaltending season in Hawks history, even if Belfour’s best gives him a good run for his money.
4. Denis Savard, 1987-88 season
Savard has the four highest single-season point totals in Blackhawks history, so it’s no surprise he comes in pretty high on this list. Naturally, we’re going with the 1987-88 season where he tied his own franchise record for assists (87) and set the franchise record for points (131).
Those numbers are partially the result of playing in the high-flying 1980s, when star players regularly topped 100 points, but Savard’s production still holds up even though those adjustments. Unfortunately, it ended up being the third straight year where the Blackhawks were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
3. Jonathan Toews, 2009-10 season
A lot of this post has focused on incredible production during the regular season, but Toews’ 2009-10 season is a bit different. He “only” recorded 68 points in 76 games for the Blackhawks, an exceptional season but not one that stands up compared to the numbers of other legends.
However, Toews’ playoff and international play elevates him into this special spot. The captain delivered the greatest postseason in franchise history, recording 29 points in 22 games en route to the Conn Smythe Trophy and a Stanley Cup. And at the 2010 Winter Olympics, he recorded eight points in seven games as Canada won the gold.
With the Conn Smythe, Stanley Cup, and Olympic gold medal all happening in a matter of months, Toews’ season stands up among the greatest ever by a Blackhawk.
2. Bobby Hull, 1965-66 season
Hull’s peak in a Blackhawks uniform still stands the test of time. It’s probably fair to say that the team has never had a scorer as dominant as Hull, even if we still find it embarrassing that the team uses him as an ambassador given his off ice history.
Back in 1965-66, Hull was at the height of his powers by recording a league-leading 54 goals and 97 points in 65 games. Those are obviously impressive numbers just seeing them, but in the context of the league leaderboards, they’re simply ridiculous.
Think about this: Hull was 22 goals ahead of Frank Mahovlich, who finished second in the NHL with 32 goals. That’s the same gap between Mahovlich and Rod Gilbert, who finished 48th in the league with 10 goals. Hull had nearly as many even strength goals (31) as the next-best guy in all situations.
He may not have cracked 100 points, but Hull’s domination of the 1965-66 NHL season is pretty much unprecedented in Blackhawks history. Except that was in a league with six teams. The guy ahead of him pulled off his magic in a much deeper, more challenging 30-team NHL.
1. Patrick Kane, 2015-16 season
You could make good arguments for several of the other performances on this list, but Kane’s 2015-16 season stands out as the best in Blackhawks history. The winger teamed up with Artemi Panarin for a ridiculous 46-goal, 106-point performance highlighted by a 26-game point streak, the NHL’s longest since 1992-93.
Adjusted for era, that’s the most productive season in Blackhawks history. Here’s the top five in that category:
1. Kane, 2015-16 — 119 points
2. Savard, 1987-88 — 110 points
3. Conacher, 1948-49 — 107 points
4. Mikita, 1966-67 — 106 points
5. Hull, 1968-69 — 105 points
Kane’s performance is similarly remarkable in terms of the gap between him and his contemporary peers. For that season, Kane recorded 17 more points than second-place Jamie Benn. That’s more points between No. 1 and No. 2 than separated No. 2 and No. 14, Tyler Seguin. He was also one of just two guys to record more than 41 goals along with Alex Ovechkin.
The 2015-16 season didn’t quite end the way anyone hoped with a first-round loss to the Blues, but that doesn’t take away from what Kane accomplished in the preceding 82 contests. It’s the greatest individual season in Hawks history.