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Cup finals questions: How are the ‘Hawks different from 2010?

Jun 10, 2013, 5:02 PM EDT

Three years ago, the Chicago Blackhawks snapped a 49-year drought by defeating the Philadelphia Flyers to win the Stanley Cup.

Many thought that championship would kickstart a potential dynasty, led by head coach Joel Quenneville and a core group featuring Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Brent Seabrook and Dave Bolland.

Fast forward to 2013, and not all’s gone according to plan.

Those coach and core guys are still in place, but the role players have been dramatically turned over.

As a result, the trip back to a Stanley Cup final took longer than expected (with a pair of first-round exits in between).

For brevity’s sake, let’s list the significant departures from the ’10 Cup-winning team:

Andrew Ladd, Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien, Antti Niemi, Troy Brouwer, Tomas Kopecky, Brian Campbell, Adam Burish, Ben Eager, John Madden.

The biggest challenge Chicago faced over the last three years was finding comparable depth players. Comparable, because finding equal ones would’ve been nearly impossible — Ladd, for example, was a third-liner during the Cup run.

This year, he was Winnipeg’s captain and leading scorer.

GM Stan Bownman deserves high praise for not just finding replacements, but grooming them from within.

Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell and Marcus Kruger are all Blackhawks draftees than have climbed through the ranks and are now paying dividends. Bickell in particular — a bit player during the ’10 run, he’s turned into a force this postseason, reprising the big-body Byfuglien role to tie for the team lead in goals, with eight.

The other significant change from the ’10 team is in goal, where Corey Crawford inherited Antti Niemi’s job and, after some shaky moments, has solidified his grasp on it.

Crawford’s postseason numbers — 1.74 GAA, .935 save percentage — are significantly better than the ones Niemi posted three years ago (.910 save percentage, 2.63 GAA). The Finnish goalie struggled at times and was largely seen as Chicago’s weak spot, whereas Crawford has been arguably the team’s most important player.

(On that note: Online sportsbook Bovada currently has Crawford as the favorite to win this year’s Conn Smythe trophy for playoffs MVP.)

The interesting thing about Chicago is despite all this turnover, the club’s identity has remained largely the same. Three years ago, Quenneville implemented a creative, attack-oriented, puck-possession offense — and today, it looks largely the same.

Forwards still have the liberty to criss-cross, weave and make plays; defensemen still have what seems like a constant green light to jump up and join the rush.

Toews is still Captain Serious, Kane is still a magician with the puck on his stick, and Keith can still skate like the wind.

In the end, that’s why the Blackhawks seem so similar — despite being so different.

For more 2013 Cup finals questions, click here.

 

  1. earpaniac - Jun 10, 2013 at 5:24 PM

    That was the scariest thing about that ’10 team. Their depth. Ladd was a third liner for Pete’s sake! This team is the deepest from top to bottom in the NHL now, but the ’10 team, that was a whole other level.

    • r8rbhawk - Jun 10, 2013 at 5:34 PM

      Agreed, just look at Ladd’s numbers for Winnepeg, 46 pts in 48 games, big Buff has 28 pts in 43 games. Tomas Kopecky and Brian Campbell were tied for 3rd on Florida’s roster in scoring. Versteeg had 20+ goals and 30+ assists last year for FLA. That 2010 team was incredibly deep. I like the 2013 team but I give the edge to the 2010 team.

  2. adambballn - Jun 10, 2013 at 5:25 PM

    The 2010 team was 5th in the league in goals against and 3rd in the league in goals scored; this year they were 1st in the league in goals against and 2nd in the league in goals scored. In the 2 seasons in between cup appearances when they were bounced from the playoffs in the first round the goals scored was always in the top 5 or so in the league but finished 2011 12th in goals against and last year 22nd. I think their improvements on the blue line, Leddy growing up, the Rosival addition, and the late trade last year for Oduya had the most to do with them getting back to the cup finals this year. Frolik and Kruger locking down the penalty kill has also been huge.

  3. Habib Marwan - Jun 10, 2013 at 5:43 PM

    Hawks in 6!

  4. canucks30 - Jun 10, 2013 at 6:05 PM

    They’re missing about 300lbs of Byfuglien.

    I still like their chances.

    • hammerhead5573 - Jun 10, 2013 at 6:59 PM

      But this years big Buff is Bickel. I watched pretty much every game this year of the Hawks and Bickel was not nearly as impressive as he is now in the playoff’s. He always had that shot and some decent speed but for some reason he is putting it together now.

      • alexbaymac - Jun 10, 2013 at 9:52 PM

        The biggest difference between Bicks & Buff (IMO)? Bickel can be coached externally. Buff is only motivated by Buff; that’s his biggest strength & weakness. That big carcass is worthless if he’s not ‘on’ on a given night.
        Bickell is a big player that shoots, gets in the corners & in front of the net…but he listens. Play 3rd line? OK. Play top line. Got it. Play spoiler out front? Yup. Sit & let someone else block shots on the PK? NP. Sit & rest while Kaner takes a double-shift? Might not like it but……..OK.
        That’s a BIG difference.

  5. pmonte3122 - Jun 10, 2013 at 6:06 PM

    No byfuglien, Ladd, Niemi. They all contributed dearly to their cup win

    • adambballn - Jun 10, 2013 at 6:09 PM

      Crawford > Niemi
      2010 Forwards > 2013 Forwards
      2013 Defense > 2010 Defense

      • 19to77 - Jun 10, 2013 at 8:59 PM

        2013 Crawford > 2010 Niemi, sure. But let’s not act like Niemi wasn’t lights-out this year. Vezina nomination and all that.

    • dfpoor - Jun 11, 2013 at 9:34 AM

      Byfuglien scored 2 game-winning goals. He also bullied Pronger. It was a shame Chicago moved him. But with all that firepower, you can see how a D man becomes expendable.

      • adambballn - Jun 11, 2013 at 11:45 AM

        The Hawks only used him on D a couple games when they had some injuries and depth problems during the regular season. He was a forward for the Hawks.

  6. hammerhead5573 - Jun 10, 2013 at 7:10 PM

    If the 2010 Hawks had to play this years Hawks I think it would be a battle for the ages. That year was all magic. Who remembers being down by 5 goals against the flames only to come back and win it in OT? Or Hoss’a OT winner against the Preds in the playoff’s, only seconds after serving 5 minutes in the box. This years team had that incredible streak to START the season. and pretty much never looked back from that point. In the playoffs I think I would pick the 2010 team. They were just stacked with big dudes who backed down from no-one, and honestly they made it look pretty easy all the way up to the finals that year.

  7. joeyg88 - Jun 10, 2013 at 11:19 PM

    2010 team had size. 2013 team has speed. Niemi stood tall against Philly in finals. Hope crow can do the same. But defense in 2010 team was way better. Keith seabrook Campbell hjalmerson. sopel blocked a ton of shots for them too

    • adambballn - Jun 11, 2013 at 11:48 AM

      I don’t agree. This years D is way better… led the league in goals against per game… I think Leddy is just as good if not better than Campbell, Hammer is older, stronger, and more mature now and Oduya and Rosival are huge upgrades over Sopel, Boynton, and Hendry.

  8. myspaceyourface - Jun 11, 2013 at 8:48 AM

    In game 1 of the Pens series the officials showed that they were going to let Boston maul on the Pens. Even a bloodied lip from a high stick on Crosby wasn’t called.

    Consistency has always been a problem come playoff time. Something definitely needs to be done about this.

  9. crusty14 - Jun 11, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    Quit the whining myspace! The refs had no outcome on the series, the bruins just shut them down !

  10. ilikejay - Jun 11, 2013 at 7:38 PM

    Time will tell. If the Hawks get past the Bruins, well I say 2013 is the better team. They dominated the season, and are doing pretty good in the playoffs minus the Wings scare. But if they lose (god-forbid), well mute argument. I believe they are the better team, and that is good because we don’t have to let 10 players go afterwards this time.

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