How to conquer a 49 year Stanley Cup drought - The long, painful, and occasionally illustrious history of the Chicago Blackhawks

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Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks on winning the 2010 Stanley Cup!

The Blackhawks long dry spell - It didn't take so long to win the Cup the first couple of times!

It wasn't supposed to take this long for the Chicago Blackhawks to get a crack at winning a fourth Stanley Cup. They last won, as everyone is aware, 49 seasons ago in 1961, and just like their opponents in this spring's classic, the Philadelphia Flyers, they have since had five cracks at winning another.

Their first two Stanley Cups came in 1934 and 1938. After the win in 1961, they first defended their title in the 1962 Cup final, losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs in six games. In 1965, they suffered their fate at the hands of a revived Montreal Canadiens, losing in seven. The Blackhawks remained among the NHL elite, and made the finals again in 1971 and 1973, but were once more defeated by the Canadiens in seven and six games respectively. Their last shot came in 1992, when a Blackhawks squad led by the likes of Jeremy Roenick, Chris Chelios and Ed Belfour, fell in four straight to Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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In a little later in this article, we'll take a closer look at where Chicago have been since 1961, but before we settle in for a look back at 49 years of highs and lows and the general meanderings that comprise a long Cupless draught, the present must first be concentrated on.

How the current Blackhawks team was assembled

Drafting

The Blackhawks have employed 31 players during the regular season of 2009-10 and 24 players in this post season, and true to the tradition of winning teams, the majority of the clubs most important pieces have come via the draft.

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Ten of the total 24 Blackhawks players have been drafted by the team, and five of those (Toews, Kane, Seabrooke, Keith and Byfuglien) have been pillars in this post season. The remaning five, selected between the second and ninth rounds across the 2002, 2003 and 2004 drafts, have come to represent a strong suporting cast. 

2007: Patrick Kane, drafted 1st overall

2006: Jonathan Toews, drafted 3rd overall

2005: Niklas Hjalmarsson, drafted 108th, fourth round

2004: Dave Bolland, drafted 32nd overall, second round

2004: Bryan Bickell, drafted 41st overall, second round

2004: Troy Brouwer, drafted 214th, seventh round

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2003: Dustin Byfuglien, drafted 245th overall, eighth round

2003: Brent Seabrook, drafted 14th overall

2002: Duncan Keith, drafted 54th overall, second round

2002: Adam Burish, drafted 282nd overall, ninth round

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Trades

Of the six players acquired via transactions, none look bad today. The Sharp and Versteeg deals have been especially prosperous for the team when added to the elements already in place. Each trade, in a sense can be viewed as small upgrades from the time they were made, and as a whole they add up to the home run deals teams often swing for and miss.

One trade that looked impressive at the time it was complete was the Barker / Johnsson deal that played both into the Blackhawks present and future. In some ways seen as a slary dump for next season, the deal's present value was compromised when Johnsson suffered a concussion only eight games into his Chicago tenure.

2010, March 2: Nick Boynton acquired from Anaheim for future considerations

2010, February 12: Kim Johnsson and Nick Leddy acquired from Minnesota for Cam Barker

2008, February 26: Andrew Ladd acquired from Carolina for Tuomu Ruutu

2007, December 18: Ben Eager acquied from Philadelphia for Jim Vandermeer

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2007, February 3: Kris Versteeg acquired from Boston for Brandon Bochenski

2005, December 5: Patrick Sharp aquired from Philadelphia with Eric Meloche for Matt Ellison and Flyers 3rd round pick (later traded to Montreal - Ryan White)

2004, February 19: Colin Fraser acquired from Philadelphia for Jim Vandermeer and a second round pick (Bryan Bickell) for Alexei Zhamnov and a fourth round pick (R.J. Anderson).

Free agency

The Blackhawks have been generous, perhaps too much, with free agent dollars over the past two summers. Nonetheless, the spending sprees that brought along Campbell, Huet and Hossa are ultimately beneficial in the here and now. It will be interesting to watch how Chicago works with these deals against the cap in coming seasons.

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As is often the case when teams do many things right, it is sometimes the smaller, more unheralded signings that accomplish as much for an organization as the bigger headline grabbing contracts. Simply put, and with hindsight, the Blackhawks are not where they are today without the signings of Niemi and Madden.

2009, July 2: signs F John Madden as a FA

2009, July 1: signs F Marian Hossa as a FA

2009, July 1: signs F Tomas Kopecky as a FA

2008, July 1: sign D Brian Campbell as a FA

2008, July 1: sign G Cristobal Huet as a FA

2008, May 5: signs G Antti Niemi as a FA

2007, October 3: signs D Brent Sopel as a FA

2006, July 17: signs D Jorden Hendry as a FA

Now here is summary of what the Blackhawks franchise has been through and endured in the past 49 years to get where they are at today.

Players / Goalies / Coaches / Managers / Leadership

During the entire 83 year Blackhawks history, they have employed 740 skaters and 74 goalies for a total of 814 players. For an idea on the amount of player turnover that represents in Chicago, comparatives must be considered. The Canadiens and Maple Leafs joined the NHL nine seasons prior to the Blackhawks, with Montreal employing 734 players while Toronto has made use of 858 between 1917-18 and today. Therefore, in nine less seasons, the Hawks have dressed 70 players more than the Canadiens but 44 less than Toronto. The Bruins joined the NHL in 1924, two seasons before the Blackhawks, and have dressed 898 players in 85 seasons.

The best comparatives would be the Red Wings and Rangers, who entered the NHL with Chicago in 1926-27. Detroit, having used 857 players, have dressed 43 players more than the Windy City club. The Rangers, rarely ever league dominant for any stretch of their history, lead the pack with 936, which is 122 more players than Chicago over the same time frame.

Players

More specifically since 1961, the Blackhawks have employed 409 skaters and 48 goalies in the past 49 years (or 48 hockey seasons, to be precise).

While the list of skaters - everyone from Craig Adams to Andrei Zyuzin - is far too long to run off, here are the goalies listed chronologically since '61.

Goalies

The list includes some great ones, streaky ones, flashes in the pan, and oddly, both current Flyer goalies - well at least until next season!

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Glenn Hall (1958-67), Denis DeJordy (1963-70), Dave Dryden (1966-69), Jack Norris (1968-69), Tony Esposito (1970-1984), Gerry Desjardins (1970-72), Gilles Meloche, Ken Brown (1971), Gary Smith (1972-73), Mike Veisor (1974-80), Michel Dumas (1975-77), Gilles Villemure (1976-77), Eddie Johnston , Bob Janecyk (1978), Murray Bannerman (1981-87), Warren Skorodenski (1982-87), Darren Pang, Chris Clifford (1985-89), Bob Sauve (1986-87), Bob Mason (1988), Ed Belfour (1989-97), Alain Chevrier (1989-90), Jimmy Waite (1989-1997), Greg Millen, Jacques Cloutier (1990-91), Dominik Hasek (1991-92), Ray LeBlanc (1992), Christian Soucy (1994), Jeff Hackett (1994-99), Chris Terreri (1997-98), Andrei Trefilov (1998-99), Mark Fitzpatrick (1999), Jocelyn Thibault (1999-04), Marc Lamothe (2000), Steve Passmore (2000-04), Robbie Tallas, Michel Larocque (2001), Michael Leighton (2003-04), Craig Anderson (2003-06), Matt Underhill (2004), Adam Munro (2004-06), Nikolai Khabibulin (2006-09), Corey Crawford (2006-10), Brian Boucher, Sebastien Caron (2007), Patrick Lalime (2007-08) and Antti Niemi and Cristobal Huet (2009-10).

Coaches

There have been 21 coaching changes in Chicago since 1961, which is a triffle misleading on the surface. Four of those changes, occuring since 1978 have included sometimes GM / sometime team President Bob Pulford (the HHOF's most dubious inductee) placing himself behind the bench. What appears mathematically to be a coaching change about every two and a half seasons is dramatically altered when considering that coaches Rudy Pilous and Billy Reay were on the job for the first fifteen seasons combined, or up until the end of 1977. In the last 33 seasons, the Blackhawks have been quite impatient with coaches, making 19 changes in bench bosses. Considering or not that Pulford has been the replacement on four occasions, it is safe to conclude that the average Blackhawks coach has had less than two two seasons to work with the team.

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Here is the hiring and firing line.

Rudy Pilous (1961-63, 158 games), Billy Reay (1964-77, 1129 games), Bill White (1976-77, 48 games), Bob Pulford (1977-79, 192 games), Eddie Johnston (1979-80, 80 games), Keith Magnuson (1980-82, 135 games), Bob Pulford (1982, 28 games), Orval Tessier (1982-85, 231 games), Bob Pulford (1985-87, 211 games), Bob Murdoch (1987-88, 85 games), Mike Keenan (1988-1992, 380 games), Darryl Sutter (1992-95, 242 games), Craig Hartsburg (1995-98, 262 games), Dirk Graham (1998-99, 59 games), Lorne Molleken (1999-2000, 47 games), Bob Pulford (1999-2000, 58 games), Alpo Suhonen (2000-01, 82 games), Brian Sutter (2001-04, 251 games), Trent Yawney (2005-07, 103 games), Denis Savard (2007-08, 147 games) and Joel Quenneville (2008-10, 199 games).

Managers

Surprisingly, in Blackhawks history, there have been but a dozen general managers at the helm of the club since 1926. That is due in some part to ownership tying success more to the bottom line than to winning Stanley Cups. Hence, long reigns at the stewardship of the Hawks have been quite common, and again, Pulford, as team president, has often acted as an almost perennial interim went things did not go so well. With owners a little south of sanity, such as McLaughlin and William Wirtz, combined with a visionless yes-man the likes of Pulford, it is almost self explanatory when it comes to the long Hawks draughts.

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Major Frederic McLaughlin (1926-42), Bill Tobin (1942-54), Tommy Ivan (1954-77), Bob Pulford (1977-90), Mike Keenan (1990-92), Bob Pulford (1992-97), Bob Murray (1997-99), Bob Pulford (1999-2000), Mike Smith (2000-03), Bob Pulford (2003-04), Dale Tallon (2005-09), Stan Bowman (2009-10).

Leadership

When the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 1961, their captain was a player named Eddie Litzenberger, a solid vet with some scoring punch and good years left, but on a downward slope at only 28 years old, In the summer of '61, Chicago traded him to Detroit for a pair of players. Since then, the Blackhawks captainship has been a sketchy proposition at times, with deserving captains being unnamed, co-captains at times, an underserving name in times of leadership vacuums, and no captain at all for five of the last 48 seasons. Pretty amazing when one considers that Stan Mikita was only ever captain for two years, late in his career, and not in 1971 or 1973 when Chicago reached the finals against Montreal.

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Pierre Pilote (1961-68), no captain (1968-69), Pat Stapleton (1969-70), no captain (1970-75), Stan Mikita (1975-77), Pit Martin (1975-77), Keith Magnuson (1976-79), Terry Ruskowski (1979-82), Darryl Sutter (1982-87), Bob Murray (1985-86), Denis Savard (1988-89), Dirk Graham (1989-95), Chris Chelios (1996-99), Doug Gilmour (1999-2000), Tony Amonte (2000-02), Alexei Zhamnov (2002-04), Martin Lapointe (2005-07), Adrian Aucoin (2005-07), no captain (2007-08), and Jonathan Toews (2008-10).

The NHL Entry Draft

There have been 433 players selected by Chicago in the NHL Entry Draft since 1969 and 162 of them went on to play NHL games, not all with Chicago, of course.

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First round picks that have panned out include J.P. Bordeleau (1969), Dan Maloney (1970), Phil Russell (1972), Darcy Rota (1973), Grant Mulvey (1974), Real Cloutier (1976), Doug Wilson (1977), Tim Higgins (1978), Keith Brown (1979), Denis Savard (1980), Tony Tanti (1981), Ed Olczyk (1984), Dave Manson (1986), Jeremy Roenick (1988), Karl Dykhuis (1990), Deam McAmmond (1991), Ethan Moreau (1994), Dan Cleary (1997), Tuomo Ruutu (2001), Brent Seabrook (2003), Cam Barker (2004), Jonathan Toews (2006), and Patrick Kane (2007) while duds named Dan Spring (1971), Greg Vaydik (1975), Jerome Dupont (1980), Ken Yaremchuk (1982), Bruce Cassidy (1983), Everett Sanipass (1986), Jimmy Waite (1987), Adam Bennett (1989), Sergei Krivokrasov (1992), Eric Lecompte (1993), Dimitri Nabokov (1995), Mark Bell (1998), Steve McCarthy (1999), Mikhail Yabukov and Pavel Vorobiev (2000), Adam Munro (2001), Anton Babchuk (2002), Jack Skille (2007) came and went.

Chicago have had a pick in the first round of every single Entry Draft except 1996 when they chose Remi Royer as their first player in the second round.

Over the years, the Blackhawks have had middling success finding quality players in later rounds. Some of the better ones have been Bob Murray (1974, 52nd, third round), Darryl Sutter (1978, 179th, eleventh round), Steve Larmer (1980, 120th, sixth round), Dominik Hasek (1983, 207th, tenth round), Eric Daze (1993, 90th, fourth round), Duncan Keith (2002, 54th, second round), Dustin Byfuglien (2003, 245th, eighth round), and Troy Brouwer (2004, 214th, seventh round).

In hindsight, a few franchise alterning draft miscues along the way would include Skille (2005) over Devin Setoguchi or Anze Kopitar, Babchuk (2002) over Cam Ward, McCarthy (1999) instead of one of the Sedin twins. Mark Bell (1998) instead of Alex Tanguay, Simon Gagne or Scott Gomez, Steve McCarthy (1999), instead of Sergei Gonchar, Jimmy Waite (1987) instead of Joe Sakic, Bruce Cassidy (1983) instead of Claude Lemieux, and Jerome Dupont (1980) instead of Brent Sutter.

Silverware

One knock I recall reading about the 1960's and 1970's Chicago teams (by a former player, I believe) was that the team often had great individual stars, but that the depth players, come Cup challenges against Montreal or Toronto, failed to measure up. Fans from that era are better judges of that time, but since 1961, there have been 40 individual awards won by Blackhawks players.

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The Art Ross Trophy: 1961-62 Bobby Hull, 1963-64 Stan Mikita, 1963-64 Stan Mikita, 1964-65 Stan Mikita, 1965-66 Bobby Hull, 1966-67 Stan Mikita, 1967-68 Stan Mikita.

The Hart Trophy: 1964-65 Bobby Hull, 1965-66 Bobby Hull, 1966-67 Stan Mikita, 1967-68 Stan Mikita.

The James Norris Trophy: 1962-63 Pierre Pilote, 1963-64 Pierre Pilote, 1964-65 Pierre Pilote, 1981-82 Doug Wilson, 1992-93 Chris Chelios, 1995-96 Chris Chelios.

The Lady Byng Trophy: 1963-64 Ken Wharram, 1964-65 Bobby Hull, 1966-67 Stan Mikita, 1967-68 Stan Mikita.

The Calder Trophy: 1969-70 Tony Esposito, 1982-82 Steve Larmer, 1990-91 Ed Belfour, 2007-08 Patrick Kane.

The Vezina Trophy: 1962-63 Glenn Hall, 1966-67 Glenn Hall / Denis Dejordy, 1969-70 Tony Esposito, 1971-72 Tony Esposito / Gary Smith, 1973-74 Tony Esposito, 1990-91 Ed Belfour, 1992-93 Ed Belfour,

The Bill Jennings Trophy: 1990-91 Ed Belfour, 1992-93 Ed Belfour, 1994-95 Ed Belfour

The Bill Masterton Trophy: 1969-70 Pit Martin, 2003-04 Bryan Berard

The Jack Adams Trophy: 1982-83 Orval Tessier

The Selke Trophy: 1985-86 Troy Murray, 1990-91 Dirk Graham

Prior to 1961

In 1931, under the tutelege of former Black Hawks player Dick Irwin, Chicago made the Stanley Cup final only five seasons into their existence, losing a five game set 3-2 to the defending Stanley Cup champion Canadiens.

In 1934, the Black Hawks earned their first Stanley Cup win. Four seasons later, the Black Hawks became the NHL's all time Stanley Cup longshot winner, when they translated a miserable losing regular campaign into Cup glory after going 14-25-9 in the regular season.

Ten years passed before Chicago returned to the final. The year was 1944 and the opponent was again the dastardly Canadiens, this time lead by goalie Bill Durnan, the Punch Line of Elmer Lach, Toe Blake and sophomore Maurice "Rocket" Richard, and former Hawks' coach Dick Irvin.

It would another seventeen seasons before Chicago would get another shot at Lord Stanley's mug.

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Close Calls

As mentioned at the top, the Blackhawks, between 1962 and 2010 have had five shots at winning their fourth Stanley Cup. Here is what happened on each of those occasions, with summaries from the Legends of Hockey site.

1962 Finals - Six game loss to Toronto Maple Leafs

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The Stanley Cup champion Chicago Black Hawks met the first place Montreal Canadiens in the semi-finals. It was a classic NHL confrontation that Chicago won 4 games to 2. The Hawks, after losing the first two games, won four straight contests to earn a spot in the final for a second straight season. Toronto and New York faced off to decide on the other participant for the final. The Maple Leafs won this series four games to two, taking the final game of the semi-final 7-1. In the Stanley Cup final, the Hawks faced the Leafs, who had not won a Stanley Cup since Bill Barilko's famous overtime winner in 1951. Toronto took games one and two, but in game three, Leaf star Johnny Bower pulled a leg muscle stopping a Bobby Hull slapshot. Back-up goaltender Don Simmons was summoned to carry the ball for Toronto, but allowed a goal by Reg Fleming on his first shot. Chicago won game three 3-0, then took game four 4-1 to tie the series. In game five, played in Toronto, Bob Pulford scored a hat-trick to help Toronto to an 8-4 victory. The teams returned to Chicago for game six. Simmons shook off his nerves, and both he and Chicago netminder Glen Hall played shutout hockey for the first two periods. Bobby Hull scored mid-way through the third, and the play stopped for ten minutes while the ice was cleared of debris thrown by celebrating Chicago fans. But Toronto scored to tie the game. Then, Dick Duff, alone in front of Hall, scored to not only win the game, but to win the Stanley Cup. It was the first of three Cup celebrations the Maple Leafs would win.

1965 Finals - Seven game loss to Montreal

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First place Detroit was challenged by the Chicago Black Hawks in one semi-final series, while the two Canadian teams, Montreal and Toronto, battled in the other. It took seven games, but the Black Hawks eliminated the Red Wings, and the Habs pushed the Leafs aside four games to two, ending Toronto's three-year Cup run. Montreal's Gump Worsley played in his first Stanley Cup final after 12 seasons in the NHL. The Canadiens won the series against Chicago four games to three, but three of those four victories came by shutout. Charlie Hodge recorded one shutout, while the veteran Worsley played four games, recording two shutouts, most notably shutting out Chicago in game seven to lift Montreal to the Stanley Cup title. Captain Jean Beliveau won the first-ever Conn Smythe Trophy for Most Valuable Player in the playoffs, scoring 16 points in 13 games.

1971 Finals - Seven game loss to Montreal

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After missing the playoffs for the first time since 1948, the Montreal Canadiens entered the 1970-71 season on a mission. They did not disappoint. The Habs were able to defeat the Chicago Black Hawks in a thrilling seven-game final. Henri Richard was the hero of game seven, scoring two goals in Montreal's come-from-behind 3-2 win. Rookie netminder Ken Dryden stole the playoff limelight by posting a 3.00 goals-against average in 20 playoff games. Dryden was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy in the process. Montreal collected their 16th Stanley Cup win, and said goodbye to captain Jean Beliveau, who retired at the conclusion of the season.

1973 Finals - Six game loss to Montreal

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In what was a rematch of the 1971 Stanley Cup Finals, the Montreal Canadiens met the Chicago Black Hawks. The series pitted the league's top two netminders, Ken Dryden of Montreal and Tony Esposito of Chicago. However this series was far from a defensive battle. In fact, in four of the six games, the teams combined for ten or more goals. Montreal prevailed winning the Cup in Chicago. This would be Henri Richard's 11th Cup win, a record, and coach Scotty Bowman's first. Yvan Cournoyer scored 15 goals to capture the Conn Smythe Trophy.

1992 Finals - Four game loss to Pittsburgh

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The Stanley Cup flew home with the Penguins for the second straight season. Mario Lemieux had an incredible regular season, scoring 131 points in just 64 games. He averaged just over two points a game and was equally magnificent in the post-season scoring a league-leading 34 points while capturing his second straight Conn Smythe Trophy. This Stanley Cup win was the sixth for former Montreal Canadiens coach Scotty Bowman. Scotty actually took over the Penguins' coaching reigns after head coach Bob Johnson died suddenly. Pittsburgh tied a record winning 11 straight games en route to the Stanley Cup. Ironically, the Penguins halted the other record holder, Chicago, sweeping the final series four games to none.

Other Blackhawks related articles from Eyes On The Prize

TV broadcast highlights from the 1971 final between Canadiens and Hawks

The Canadiens and Blackhawks - April 1, 1967: A Forum Memory Beyond Compare

56 Goals in the 1973 Finals! - Wouldn't it be sweet for the Flyers and Blackhawks to go for this?

Twenty - Five Great Moments From The Blackhawks First Fifty Seasons: 1927 to 1977

1961 Stanley Cup Champions Chicago Blackhawks in Video and News Clips

Canadiens and Blackhawks 1973 - A Classic Stanley Cup Final: part One

Canadiens and Blackhawks 1973 - A Classic Stanley Cup Final: part Two

Canadiens and Blackhawks 1973 - A Classic Stanley Cup Final: part Three

 

Other articles of interest

Video Clips from the Habs / Blackhawks '65 Final

2010 Blackhawks like 1961 Blackhawks

Game Six links from Greatest Hockey Legends

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