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Tipping my hat to the Blackhawks as the team prepares to ‘reload’

Having a 2 AM-conversation with Franklin Steele on Twitter, I had to amend my take as to why the Chicago Blackhawks weren't able to defend their Stanley Cup championship. As a Red Wings fan, I would argue that a team needs Vladimir Konstantinov and Sergei Mnatsakanov-sized motivation to repeat, and I would point out that the Blackhawks played until June 24th of 2013--and sometimes forget that 90% of the players who didn't make the Conference Final are already beginning their summertime workouts to prepare physically and mentally for the next season.

Chicago played so very late into the lockout-marred 2013 season that the mental and physical challenges the speedy Hawks faced had to feel insurmountable, and then Franklin reminded me that on top of having perhaps nine weeks to re-focus, TEN Blackhawks participated in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

Even as a Wings fan, I have to applaud the hell out of the Hawks for getting to Game 7 of the Western Conference Final given the challenges they faced.

ESPN's Craig Custance penned an Insider-only entry as to what the Blackhawks need to do to "reload for 2014-2015," and while I'm sure that you'd argue point 1 of 3, inking Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to contract extensions ahead of the pair qualifying for unrestricted free agency next summer, is job #1, I'd suggest that Custance's second point may matter more than the guaranteed first occurring:

2. Shore up the backup goalie spot: There was a lot of competition to land Antti Raanta, who is an impending restricted free agent this summer. In his first 25 NHL games, he went 13-5-4, with an .897 save percentage, suggesting he still needs some adjustment time to the NHL. The most logical solution is that the Blackhawks sign him to a contract extension and plug him in behind Corey Crawford as the backup, although Crawford’s struggles in the Western Conference finals provided fodder for his doubters (who were quiet in the first two rounds).

Crawford entered Game 7 with a .884 save percentage against the Kings in the conference finals, and then allowed five goals in Chicago’s last game of the season. If Bowman is feeling nostalgic, he could probably pry Antti Niemi away from the San Jose Sharks without too much trouble.

Despite his struggles against the Kings, Crawford entered the game with a career save percentage of .921 in his first 55 postseason games, more than good enough to win future Stanley Cups. This was perhaps an ugly way to go out, but it's also no reason to panic.

As always, the Blackhawks could use a No. 2 center, but they’ve survived pretty well without one during the past few seasons. More seasoning for Teuvo Teravainen might eventually solve that problem.

Custance continues...

Filed in: | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: chicago+blackhawks, corey+crawford, jonathan+toews, patrick+kane, teuvo+teravainen


Primis's avatar

Really interesting to read some comments over on Deadspin re: the Hawks and Hawks fans


“Glad it’s over, got 2 or 3 days of bitching then WSCR goes into their typical summer format of White Sox/Bears talked rarely interrupted by NBA offseason gibberish. Like 2% of this town actually knows the first thing about hockey but it gets discussed ad nauseum and very few are really emotionally invested.”


“hawks fan here, aint even mad that was one for the books, im still going to watch the stanley cup unlike 98% of hawks fans…  ...I admire the love for the hawks fans but they are like heat fans, they are on the bandwagon. They don’t care about the rangers incredible run, didn’t know that the Kings have been to 3 straight conference finals, very good chance they didn’t know Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were on the 2010 Flyers; you can be cocky for one thing, but know the sport. I sincerely hope this series humbled them and I look forward to teams that are getting better like the Wild and Avs to make the Hawks earn it more.”


“Agreed, it’s bandwagon fandom. I grew up in Chicago and never saw anyone wearing Hawks gear until 2009. Like it was cool when they won it last year based on celebration alone, but I know it meant more for the Hawks fans who went through the grind of losing seasons and Bill Writz. I’m not heartbroken at all, the Kings were the more resilient team and the probable Stanley Cup champ.”


“I live in chicago but I’m a pens fan. I am amazed that most “hawks fans” have no clue who Writz was or that home games used to be blacked out”

I live in SW Michigan and closer you got to the lake now… you see more Hawks jerseys and apparel in Michigan.  But only if they have a Cup.  After a season with no Cup, you see basically NO Hawks gear out anywhere.

What I’m saying here is that this “CHI fandom” stuff seems to be wearing even on many of the actual CHI fans.  I’ll be curious where the Hawks go now.  No Cup = Falling a bit off the CHI sports radar, and I wonder at what point without a Cup (regardless of how successful they are otherwise) we start to see empty seats there.

Posted by Primis on 06/02/14 at 08:41 AM ET

phillyd's avatar

Primis, I’d argue that happens almost everywhere with any team, any sport. I’ll admit, I only loosely follow basketball, but when the Sixers made their run to the finals, I had the flag on the car, watched the games, etc. A good case in point, look at all the new ballparks built over the last 15 years. Everyone got a boost in attendance from them, but if the team didn’t win, people stopped going and probably have stopped buying or wearing their gear. Winning breeds shows of support like wearing gear around town, talk radio discussion, etc. Now, the Blackhawks have won 2 SCs, and been to the conference finals one other time in the last 5 years should garner more then just wearing gear when they are playing but Chicago is also a town with 4 other sports teams as well.

I would also surmise that none of the posters here at KK fall into this category and are above the casual fan allegiance/show of support.

Posted by phillyd from Southern New Jersey on 06/02/14 at 09:04 AM ET

TreKronor's avatar

Primis, I’d argue that happens almost everywhere with any team, any sport.

I’ll politely counter Phillyd - no.  smile

Apparently like Primis, I too was originally from SW MI, and there were a couple fans here and there - no big deal.  More Hawks fans when you get close to New Buffalo and St. Joe.  BUT I now live in Chicago, where there aren’t really any hockey fans until mid-April.  Until mid April: no people wearing jerseys, no one talking about the team on public transportation, no write-ups in the Red Eye (the only paper that seems to matter to people around here).  Nothing. 

Is it a Chicago thing?  I don’t think so.  This city seems to genuinely love the Bears and they are the talk of the town from September through January, everywhere you go.  Papers, buses, bars, etc.  Plus, people actually know what they are talking about when it comes to the Bears. 

Are there other cities like that?  Yeah, absolutely.  It’s fun to get caught up in the momentum of your city’s team when they are doing well.  But please, for the love of everyone else, be humble about it.  People on the train will talk trash to me when I have a Wings jersey on, but they can’t pronounce their coach’s name.  True story. 

On Primis’s post: I have a good friend who is a Hawks fan, and he can’t stand their fan base.  So take that for what it’s worth. 

Enough of that - going to brew some beer.

Posted by TreKronor on 06/02/14 at 10:09 AM ET


It seems to me that more than most Hawks fans actually being bandwagon jumpers, Wings fans just like to bitch about how Hawks fans are bandwagon jumpers. This is especially true when Chicago is a much better team than Detroit.

Posted by godblender on 06/02/14 at 10:27 AM ET

pautna's avatar

The Kings played until June 8th last year, had quite a few Olympians as well, played the same condensed schedule and still found a way to win. So I don’t think fatigue was so much of the issue. Chicago simply met their match. With that said, if the Kings lost, I would have said the same thing. Two excellent, evenly matched teams played each other to the limit and the team who had the last ‘bounce’ prevailed. In other words, it could have gone either way.

Posted by pautna on 06/02/14 at 10:52 AM ET


I’ll politely counter Phillyd - no.

You’re right.  In fact, I think I read that the term “bandwagon fan” was coined in 2010, because that’s the first and only time I ever heard of people cheering for a team just because they were good at that moment.

You’d think it happens in every city and every sport, but apparently not.  Only happens with the Hawks.

Posted by Garth on 06/02/14 at 12:49 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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