“Dynasty” isn't a term you throw around lightly in any sport. Hockey is no exception. In order to create a dynasty, you need multiple generational talents, players considered the best or among the best in the league at their position. You need to find players, coaches, and management who are willing to work tirelessly day in and day out to get better, to reach their maximum potential. You need, above all else, a commitment to winning that stands up year in and year out. The Chicago Blackhawks have done all of this and much more for almost a decade, and their efforts have paid off in spades, with three Stanley Cups in the past six seasons.
The Blackhawks have had more than their fair share of stars over the past few years, so it's easy to forget the players who were more or less along for the ride. Don't get me wrong, virtually every player on the Blackhawks roster during their historic run belongs in the NHL, but next to some of the league's superstars there are going to be players who should just try and stay out of the way. Every NHL team needs some warm bodies and the Blackhawks are no exception.
This season, the Blackhawks have started strong once more and Chicago looks poised to contend for their fourth Stanley Cup in seven years. We're going to look back at the rosters that have gotten the Hawks to this point and try and figure out the ten players who have had the biggest impact on their incredible run, as well as the ten players who didn't really do anything useful during their time in Chicago. Some of these players are no longer on the Blackhawks, but every player on this list spent significant time with the Hawks and won at least one Stanley Cup in Chicago.
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19 Best - Andrew Ladd
Despite playing only a season and a half with the Blackhawks during their "dynasty," Ladd managed to win a Stanley Cup with Chicago and contributed long before that. He played for a couple of seasons with Chicago before they managed to win in 2010. After that, Ladd signed a contract in Winnipeg and played with the Jets until this past season...when he was traded back to Chicago at the deadline. Ladd helped the Blackhawks make a playoff push in 2016 that ultimately fell short in the first round when the Hawks lost to the St. Louis Blues in seven games during the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Ladd is a very dependable power forward on the wing with a nice scoring touch. His time in Chicago might be forgotten easily, but there's no doubting the impact he made while he played for the Blackhawks. Ladd signed an extended contract with the Islanders over this past off-season so it doesn't look like he'll be back with the team any time soon, but nothing is out of the question.
18 Worst - Antti Niemi
Antti Niemi earns a special spot on this list as the only starting goalie for the Chicago Blackhawks over the past seven seasons not named Corey Crawford. He backstopped Chicago to their first Stanley Cup win back in 2010 after Cristobal Huet faltered as the starter during the regular season. Having said that, maybe he knew from the get-go that he couldn't live up to what was expected of him in Chicago long-term.
In his one season in Chicago, Niemi posted average numbers, with a save percentage barely over .910 in the regular season and in the playoffs. This goes to show just how dominant Chicago was becoming at the turn of the decade; even with unremarkable starting goaltending, Chicago managed to blow the field out of the water in the 2010 playoffs, never facing an elimination game. Niemi would sign a deal to start with San Jose the following season. where he was inconsistent, and Corey Crawford would supplant Nemo as the starter for the Blackhawks.
17 Best - Patrick Sharp
Patrick Sharp was a fixture on the Blackhawks for so long, people forget that he actually played for the Flyers a couple seasons before he went to the Blackhawks in 2005. Sharp spent over a decade with Chicago and during that time became one of the Hawks best and most beloved forwards. Sharp was a deceptively quick skater and was fantastic on the power play for Chicago for a decade, surrounded with other skilled forwards. Sharpie would have always played first-line minutes anywhere else, so he excelled in a reduced role in Chicago.
Sharp really came into his own with the Hawks and consistently put up almost a point a game with the exception of a rough season in 2014-15. Sharp was a part of all three Chicago Stanley Cups and a key one at that. All good things must come to an end, and the Blackhawks were forced to trade Sharp in the 2015 off-season to the Dallas Stars. At least they didn't lose the most valuable Blackhawk named Patrick.
16 Worst - Michael Frolik
Michael Frolik is a talented winger and has a decent amount of experience in the NHL, but the time he spent with the Blackhawks was straight up forgettable. Frolik put up a pair of 20 goal seasons with the Panthers in his first couple NHL campaigns before he was traded to Chicago before the deadline in 2011. Frolik's play drastically deteriorated during his two and a half seasons with the Hawks. He put up a fluke 10 points in the playoffs during Chicago's 2013 Stanley Cup run, especially taking into consideration that Frolik only scored 10 points over 45 games during the entire regular season.
After he won his ring in 2013, the Blackhawks traded Frolik to the Winnipeg Jets and he's managed to return to form. Now playing for Calgary, Frolik has put up 15+ goals in each of the last three seasons and has proven to be a far more dependable winger. You have to wonder if Frolik's career heads in a different direction if he stuck around in the Windy City.
15 Best - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Hjammer Time might be the unsung hero of the Blackhawks dynasty. Niklas Hjalmarsson has quietly played as one of the NHL's best second-pairing defenseman on the Blackhawks for the better part of a decade. There isn't that much flash to his game, but Hjalmarsson has arguably been the most reliable player on the Blackhawks since they became a powerhouse in 2010.
Hjalmarsson mostly plays as a stay-at-home defenseman and is considered by many as one of the NHL's best shot blockers. He's right at home on the penalty kill and while he isn't the most offensively-gifted player, he knows how to compliment the stars on his team. At only 29, Hjalmarsson is just now entering his prime and there's little doubting he'll be a key piece of the puzzle if the Hawks want to win in the future. He's one of only seven remaining players who have been a part of all three Blackhawks Stanley Cup wins over the past seven years.
14 Worst - Johnny Oduya
Johnny Oduya is a defensive defenseman, and not a horrible one at that, but he definitely got more playing time than he deserved in Chicago. He played a lot of second-paring time with the Blackhawks and was definitely one of the greater liabilities on the blue line during his four seasons with the Blackhawks. Having said that, like many Blackhawks over the past few years, Oduya has two Stanley Cup rings despite minimal contributions.
Oduya has never scored more than four goals in a season and it's probably for the best that he doesn't play in Chicago anymore. On both ends of the ice, there wasn't too much that impressed about his game. He can only be considered somewhat effective on an NHL team where the offense can sustain his play, like Chicago, or his current home in Dallas. Oduya's not a terrible defenseman, he's just not a good one.
13 Best - Brandon Saad
Brandon Saad's play left Chicago little reason to be 'Saad' during his three season tenure with the team (our apologies, we couldn't help ourselves). Saad was only 20 when he played his first full season with the Blackhawks back in 2012-13, managing 27 points during a shortened season. He also managed to pick up a Stanley Cup ring, along with a second in 2015. Saad's physical game compliments his offensive capabilities exceptionally well. People might have let his talents go a little unnoticed in star-studded Chicago, especially considering that he had an opportunity to get better with time.
Salary cap issues forced Chicago to trade Saad in the 2015 off-season to Columbus, where he plays to this day. He put up 31 goals in his first full season with the Jackets and while his trade was one of necessity, Chicago might be kicking themselves that they traded away one of their brightest young stars in Brandon Saad.
12 Worst - Marcus Kruger
Marcus Kruger is playing his fifth season in Chicago this year and he's producing to the level you'd about expect from a fifth-round draft pick. Having said that, given the way he's produced, it's surprising he's stuck around on the Blackhawks as long as he has. He has some skills; Kruger is a good checking forward at times and a decent penalty killer. Beyond that though, there isn't much to his game. Chicago needs role players like every other NHL team but you'd hope the Hawks would reach a little higher than Kruger.
Kreuger's spent some time with Chicago so it's certainly not unbelievable that he's got two Stanley Cup rings. Having said that, Chicago only played Kruger for 41 games last season and there's certainly the possibility that he's falling out of favor. I bet Chicago would love Kruger to break out this season; he's a prime candidate to be a one-off success that Chicago could flip in a trade down the road. The Hawks have made a franchise out of deals like that. However, 23 games in so far, it doesn't look likely.
11 Best - Brent Seabrook
Brent Seabrook is a career Chicago Blackhawk and has provided solid defense since day one. He doesn't get nearly the attention that Duncan Keith does, but Seabrook is a fantastic blueliner who deserves his first-paring minutes. At 6'3” he's actually one of the larger defenseman the Hawks have had in recent memory, but for the most part Seabrook plays with skill rather than size. While he's known for his ability as a defensive defenseman, his offensive capabilities are often overlooked; he averages 30 to 40 points a season and possesses a slap shot harder than most fans recognize.
Seabrook has reliably paired up with Duncan Keith for the better part of a decade and it has paid him dividends. He's already won three Stanley Cup rings and he's currently signed to a contract that averages him almost $7 million dollars per season. Seabrook's contract, remarkably, pays out more than Keith's on the cap. It's safe to say that Chicago won't be letting go of Seabrook any time soon regardless of what he's making.
10 Worst - Daniel Carcillo
The nickname Car Bomb can be a little insensitive, but it's a pretty fair representation of the way Daniel Carcillo played. He was acquired by the Blackhawks in 2011 and was mostly used as muscle by the Blackhawks for two seasons. He spent a year with the Kings (where he won a second Stanley Cup ring) and another year with the Rangers before Chicago signed him in 2014-15 for what would be the last season of his career.
In retirement, Carcillo has since been an excellent advocate for NHL players, doing interviews and supporting greater focus on mental health for hockey players, both during and after their careers. Carcillo wasn't anything special in the NHL, and that includes his time with the Blackhawks, but Chicago fans should take pride in the fact that one of the league's most progressive retirees retired with their team.
9 Best - Corey Crawford
Corey Crawford is a two-time Stanley Cup winner and he deserves both of those rings. He started between the pipes for Chicago the year after their first Stanley Cup win and has cemented himself as one of the NHL's best goaltenders. Crawford is a two-time William M. Jennings winner for maintaining the league's best goals against average, an award some might consider misleading at times when selecting a best goaltender. Sure, Crawford benefits from a great Chicago defense, but he's one of the league's more consistent goalies and without a talent like him between the pipes, there's a good chance the Blackhawks aren't where they are now.
Crawford is signed through the end of the 2019-20 season, so it's safe to say that he's going to be the Blackhawks goalie for a long time. Chicago can't get much more talented than they were in the past, so it's not a bad guess that the Hawks might get a little less dominant down the road. If they do, Chicago will need to depend on Crawford like they never have before. Here's hoping he gets the chance to swear at more victory parades.
8 Worst - Michal Rozsival
Michal Rozsival is an NHL veteran and wasn't a Blackhawk until well into his 30s, so it's understandable that his play might have slipped a bit. That still doesn't excuse the fact that Rozsival has consistently been the Blackhawks' least impressive defenseman since he joined the team in 2012. He's played third-paring minutes for the most part and he's definitely a solid penalty killer, but he doesn't do all that much beyond that, especially with the puck. Rozsival has scored three, count 'em, three goals in his first four seasons with Chicago.
At 38, it's fair to assume that Rozsival will likely be retiring a Chicago Blackhawk. He's already won two Stanley Cups in Chicago, so it will be interesting to see if he gets a shot at a third. He's a decent seventh defenseman for the Blackhawks, but nobody will be wildly concerned if he decides to hang them up in the next season or two. Rozsival is more than replaceable.
7 Best - Marian Hossa
The potential Hall of Famer has played with five different NHL teams during his career, but there's little doubt that Marian Hossa will be best remembered for his time with the Blackhawks. The two-way stud has been a consistent second-liner for Chicago from the start of it all, when he joined the team back in 2009-10, producing on both ends of the ice. Hossa is both a prolific scorer, even now at 37, and a prestigious winger and penalty-killing forward. He's as well-rounded as they come out on the wing.
With three Stanley Cup rings, Hossa has to be nothing but thankful for his time with the Blackhawks. Hossa's still got a few years left on his contract with Chicago and if he keeps producing at the level he has early this season, there's little doubt he's going anywhere. It's hard to imagine anyone finding something to critique about Hossa's game.
6 Worst - Dave Bolland
Dave Bolland was a decent player during his time with the Blackhawks and even scored a few key playoff goals, but as more and more time passes, it seems evident that was mostly due to the fact he was playing with great players in Chicago. Bolland spent six years in Chicago and he was a decent scoring forward who was good on defense, at least for the first season or two. His biggest accomplishment was scoring Chicago's game-winning goal over the Bruins in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals, which gave Bolland his second ring. Ever since then, he's been in pretty rapid decline.
Bolland went to Toronto in 2013-14 and severed a tendon in his ankle early in the season. Things have only gotten worse for him since then. Bolland went to Florida for a couple years, but that didn't salvage much. He hasn't played in the NHL for months now and Bolland's days in Chicago are a thing of the past.
5 Best - Jonathan Toews
Captain Serious might get to wear the 'C' but he only manages to snag the #3 spot as the best Blackhawks player over the course of their dynasty. That if nothing else should speak volumes about how good Chicago really is. Jonathan Toews is one of the NHL's premier two-way forwards and has been a dominant force at center since he entered the league back in 2007. With the exception of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Toews has managed to put up at least 50 points every season while remaining one of the best defensive forwards and face-off takers in the league.
Chicago has given Toews everything he could possibly want and more: success, trophies, Cups, great teammates, a respected captaincy, and so much more. Toews is only 28 years old, but he's already already been the Blackhawks captain for over eight seasons. For better or for worse, Toews is a permanent fixture of the Chicago Blackhawks in the future and by all accounts it looks like he's just getting started. You couldn't ask for a better leader.
4 Worst - Bryan Bickell
Bryan Bickell's career is at the very least "interesting," but you can call the same career "not good" pretty easily too. Bickell spent almost his entire career with the Blackhawks organization, from when he was drafted in 2004 to his stint with the Rockford IceHogs this past year. He was always a depth forward, depending on his size to manufacture chances, especially along the boards. Bickell was one of the Hawks' streakiest forwards, and he's well known for his out of the blue performances in the playoffs; in 2013 Bickell put up 17 points in 23 games en route to a Stanley Cup. On the other hand, he slipped off the Hawks' roster last season when he only managed to put up two points in 25 games during the regular season.
Bickell joined the Hurricanes this season, but only managed to play a few games with Carolina before injury took him out of the lineup. Just a few weeks ago, Bickell was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and it's certainly questionable whether or not he'll play hockey ever again. Bickell certainly wasn't the best hockey player but he had a memorable career without a doubt. At the end of the day, he's a three-time Stanley Cup champion. Wishing him the best of luck moving forward.
3 Best - Duncan Keith
Duncan Keith is a two-time Norris Trophy winner as the NHL's best defenseman and even a blind man could probably see why. Keith is one of hockey's most dominant defensemen, both in the offensive zone and in terms of shutting down opposing stars. Keith is one of the best skaters you can find on the blue line in the NHL. This helps him on both ends of the ice immensely and it's noticeable in his play right away. You'd have to imagine any team would kill for a defenseman like Duncan Keith and his three rings only prove how valuable he is to any hockey team.
On top of being one of the NHL's best blueliners, it's easy to argue that Keith is signed to the best contract in the whole National Hockey League. Keith rings up at a $5.5 million cap hit through the 2022-2023 season, which is exactly the kind of contract that a star-studded team like Chicago needs to stay afloat. Keith is pretty obviously the best defenseman for the Blackhawks and he is not leaving the Windy City any time soon.
2 Worst - Brandon Bollig
Even taking into consideration the fact that Brandon Bollig spent limited time with the Blackhawks, it's still easy to tag him as the worst offensive player on Chicago over the past decade. Bollig spent a few years with Chicago's AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, before he managed to pick up some games with Chicago. In his first two seasons with the club, between 43 games in the regular season and another nine in the playoffs, Bollig had one NHL point (a goal during the 2012 playoffs). Even for an enforcer, Bollig's offensive touch was non-existent. In spite of that, the Blackhawks decided to play Bollig for a full 82 games during the 2013-14 campaign, and remarkably he improved to 14 points on the year.
Chicago knew it was likely a fluke and parlayed Bollig into a third-round pick from Calgary that off-season. He sputtered out quickly after that and started 2016-17 in the AHL for the Flames. Bollig's time in Chicago was long enough for him to pick up a Stanley Cup ring in 2013. Thank goodness there aren't too many lasting memories of Bollig.
1 Best - Patrick Kane
People talk about Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Connor McDavid an awful lot, but right now, looking at the raw numbers, it's hard to dispute that Patrick Kane is the best player in the NHL. He won the Art Ross and the Hart Memorial last season in Chicago as the league's highest scorer and best player, respectively. Kaner put up 106 points with the Blackhawks last season and, like every other year, was downright fatal for the other team when he had the puck. Between speed, hands, and shot, it's difficult to find an offensive threat as potent as Kane anywhere else in the NHL.
Kane's averaging a point a game early this year and he's not slowing down any time soon. Like his teammate Toews, Kane has a max contract and looks to be in Chicago for many years to come. Like many other names you hear in Chicago today, 88's number will be hanging from the rafters sooner or later. You could argue in Kane's case it's an honor he already deserves, but I think he's content with the three Stanley Cups and the rest of his trophies for the time being.
As long as Kane continues to produce on offense at the rate he has, Toews plays a solid two-way game up front, and Keith continues to lead Chicago's defensive core, Chicago shouldn't have any problems any time soon, even with some of the mediocre Blackhawks we've seen the past few years. Add a supporting cast the likes of which we've seen the past few years, and Chicago will be a powerhouse in the Western Conference, nay, a living dynasty, for years to come.
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