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Can Chicago avoid a Stanley Cup hangover?

Aug 16, 2013, 6:56 PM EST

hawkscelegetty Getty Images

Most hockey fans remember it clearly: the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks rampaged to a Stanley Cup victory, yet a money crunch decimated their supporting cast. That next season saw the defending champions merely struggle to compete.

Naturally, then, the question is: will the same thing happen to 2013’s reigning title holders? Let’s look at some big reasons why and why not.

Avoiding huge losses

There’s no doubt that the 2013-14 Blackhawks will look a little different than last year’s model, but losing the likes of Michael Frolik, Dave Bolland and Viktor Stalberg pales in comparison to the losses the 2010-11 team coped with.

Whether it be by trade or free agency, Chicago lost the likes of Antti Niemi, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Kris Versteeg that summer.

Goaltending

This time around, the ‘Hawks retained their Cup-winning goalie in Corey Crawford. (At least for next season.)

Ray Emery left of Philly in favor of ancient backup Nikolai Khabibulin, so that change plus tough-to-top numbers from 2013 means that the Blackhawks will probably deal with smaller margins of error.

Seriously, how can Crawford + Khabibulin equal the combined regular season and postseason that Crawford + Emery produced in 2013?

Crawford: 19-5-5, .926 save percentage in regular season, 16-7 with .932 in playoffs.
Emery: 17-1-0 with a .922 save percentage in regular season.

Injuries and bad luck

The Blackhawks rolled with some punches last year, but the wrong set of injuries could keep them from being near the dominant team that made history in 2013.

Sure, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are still surprisingly young, yet that core put on a lot of mileage last season. (We’re looking at you, Marian Hossa.)

Easier division

On paper, at least, the new Central Division is far more manageable than the old one. The Detroit Red Wings and (possibly rising) Columbus Blue Jackets leave for three teams that failed to make the playoffs (Colorado, Dallas and Winnipeg) plus one that was easily dismissed in the first round by Chicago (Minnesota).

That alone seems like a nice trade for the Blackhawks, even if they’ll miss their rivalry with Detroit.

***

Even if everything goes right, Chicago might not top last season. Still, the Blackhawks are much better suited to defend their title this time around.

More Blackhawks day on PHT:

Pirri leads list of ‘Hawks prospects to watch

Second-line center spot up for grabs in Chicago

Crawford’s cloudy future

  1. paperkid96 - Aug 16, 2013 at 7:44 PM

    Dang, with that headline I normally make a Patrick Kane joke, but since he cried on camera i can’t just can’t do it anymore.

  2. jcmeyer10 - Aug 16, 2013 at 8:07 PM

    Paper, I’ll take the reigns. He beat my team for the Cup, I got less sympathy.

    Patrick Kane can help out his team with hangover cures!

  3. bwana63 - Aug 16, 2013 at 8:18 PM

    Emery didn’t leave due to cap concerns. He left for a chance to play more frequently (and a decent raise, but not all that much more than the Hawks offered). In fact, Khaby signed for $350K more than what the Flyers are giving Emery.

    • James O'Brien - Aug 16, 2013 at 8:24 PM

      Good point, I’ll tweak that bit.

  4. endusersolutions2013 - Aug 16, 2013 at 9:31 PM

    And the other guys were not let go primarially due to cap issues. Stallberg was benched twice during the playoffs. While he was 6’3/209, he did not use his size, avoided the corners. The three guys were a combined 47 points, but a cap hit of 7,833,000.

    Freeing up the cap room allowed them to sign Bickel who has a whole lot more upside than any of the three. He had almost as many points in the playoffs (17) as the three combined (19).

    The Hawks have guys coming up who will have better productivity for less.

    Nikolai Khabibulin should be OK in a backup role, not having to carry a starting load at his age. He’s a bridge to Ranta anyway.

    • phillyphanatic77 - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:15 AM

      Even though Bolland and Frolik didn’t produce much offensively in the regular season, it could be argued that the Hawks don’t win the Cup without their contributions. Both scored some big goals. And Frolik was one of their big time penalty killers. Fortunately for the Hawks, they have a deep prospect pool to fill out their bottom 6 (and maybe even 2nd line C).

  5. blackhawks2010 - Aug 17, 2013 at 12:15 AM

    Hawks are loaded for 2014, no holes.

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  7. nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 17, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    The story seems to ignore what I’ve heard cited as a major factor in a team not repeating as champs: 26 other teams got at least a month more of vacation to focus, if desired, on recuperating, recharging, and training for the next season; 2 of the other Conf. finalists got 2 weeks more. Alone of the finalists, the champs had at least some of their off season occupied with celebrations and personal appearances. This will of course impact people differently, ranging from a lot to not at all.

  8. cnwedit52 - Aug 21, 2013 at 3:26 PM

    Winning the Stanley Cup takes talent, luck and timing, and I’m lumping injuries and players peaking at the right moment in the latter category. The Hawks were hungry coming into this year because of the way the last two years ended, and the 2012 playoffs left a particularly bad taste in their mouths. They actually benefited from the lockout because both Toews and Hossa had additional recovery time from their concussion problems and players like Bryan Bickell and Patrick Kane had an opportunity to work harder to redeem themselves from disappointing seasons. It will be interesting to see if, with all that is happening this summer in terms of weddings, babies, and Stanley Cup celebrations, if the Hawks have the same fire in the belly as they had in 2013.

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