Blackhawks feel they can make another Cup run

CHICAGO — When Rocky Wirtz took over the Chicago Blackhawks six years ago, they were among the worst teams in the NHL. Fast forward to Tuesday, when the owner mingled with fans and friends hours after the Blackhawks flew home with the Stanley Cup for the second time in four seasons. It’s been quite the turnaround, and the 60-year-old Wirtz thinks there is more to come.

CHICAGO — When Rocky Wirtz took over the Chicago Blackhawks six years ago, they were among the worst teams in the NHL.

Fast forward to Tuesday, when the owner mingled with fans and friends hours after the Blackhawks flew home with the Stanley Cup for the second time in four seasons. It’s been quite the turnaround, and the 60-year-old Wirtz thinks there is more to come.

“I think we’re going to see a lot of good years ahead of us,” he said.

It sure looks that way. Unlike in 2010, when the title-winning team underwent changes because of salary-cap issues, the Blackhawks will be able to bring back many of their top players next season when they try to become the first repeat Stanley Cup winner since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998.

Forwards Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp, and defencemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are all under contract for at least two more seasons. Brandon Saad, one of the finalists for the Calder Trophy given to the NHL’s top rookie, is years away from restricted free agency.

“I think there’s something about our core,” said Kane, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs. “Hopefully we can stay together a long time, because that’s two Cups in four years, and we seem to only be getting better and better as players as time goes on here.”

The Blackhawks lost in the first round of the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons, but general manager Stan Bowman decided to stay the course. He kept Joel Quenneville in place even though the coach was hired by his predecessor, Dale Tallon. Corey Crawford was given time to develop in goal, and he rewarded the organization’s patience with a terrific performance in this year’s playoffs. Kane matured into one of the NHL’s top players.

Ask Wirtz and team president John McDonough about the Blackhawks’ turnaround, and their response often includes some variation of hire the right people and then stay out of the way. The steady leadership in the front office is one of the reasons Chicago is the first franchise with two titles since the salary cap era.

“I think Stan Bowman and Al MacIsaac and Norm Maciver and everybody in our hockey operations, they do a meticulous job,” McDonough said, “and they’ve been planning for this off-season as we did before for months and months, so we’ll be ready for it.

“We’re going to do everything we can and try to keep as many of these guys as we can and keep this rolling.”

But with the salary cap dropping to $64.3 million next season, it’s going to be next to impossible for the Blackhawks to bring everyone back.

According to CapGeek.com, forwards Bryan Bickell, Michal Handzus, Viktor Stalberg and Jamal Mayers, defenceman Michal Rozsival and goalie Ray Emery are eligible for unrestricted free agency.

Bickell is likely headed for a big pay day that would put him out of Chicago’s reach unless it decides to shed salary to make room for the physical winger. The 6-foot-4 Bickell had nine goals and eight assists in the playoffs, including the tying score at the end of the third period in the Blackhawks’ title-clinching 3-2 victory at Boston.

Stalberg and Emery probably won’t be back, as well. Stalberg was in and out of the lineup during the playoffs after he had nine goals and 14 assists in his third season with Chicago. With Crawford’s emergence, Emery didn’t make a post-season appearance.

Just Posted

Updated: Red Deer welcomes 2019 Canada Winter Games Team Alberta

About 250 Alberta athletes are participating in the Games

Syrian immigrants feel welcomed

Winter Social held at Festival Hall to promote multiculturalism

Small group rallies with pro-immigration message

Group wanted to counter misinformation on United Nations migration agreement

Trump says ‘things are going very well’ with North Korea

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Saturday that “things are going very… Continue reading

NDP won’t stop until Trans Mountain is built, says minister

Deron Bilous speaks at Red Deer chamber luncheon

VIDEO: Students in MAGA hats mock Native American at Indigenous Peoples March

Diocese in Kentucky says it is investigating the matter, caught on video by onlookers

CONSUMER REPORT: What to buy each month in 2019 to save money

Resolve to buy all of the things you want and need, but pay less money for them

Anxiety in Alaska as endless aftershocks rattle residents

Seismologists expect the temblors to continue for months, although the frequency has lessened

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Kriechmayr edges Swiss favourite Feuz to win WCup downhill

WENGEN, Switzerland — It takes a special run to beat Switzerland’s best… Continue reading

WestJet plane heading to Victoria slides off Edmonton runway, no injuries

EDMONTON — A WestJet plane has slid off an icy taxiway at… Continue reading

Sam Bennett scores twice, Flames beat Red Wings 6-4

Flames 6, Red Wings 4 CALGARY — Sam Bennett scored twice including… Continue reading

Rare ‘super blood wolf moon’ takes to the skies this Sunday

Celestial event happens only three times this century

Most Read