The Chicago Blackhawks were founded way back in 1926. They are classified as one of the “Original Six” teams in the NHL. The franchise is tied for 4th in the history of the NHL with 6 Stanley Cup wins.
The team had a lengthy Stanley Cup drought that lasted 49 years. Only this year were they bumped out of second all time with the continued failures of the Leafs and Blues. In that time the franchise had its fair share of struggles. From 1974 until 2009 they would only make one Stanley Cup Final appearance (1992). The team had been mismanaged by the Wirtz family. The owner was more concerned with money than winning.
Wirtz’s hard stance on money led to many of the moves on this list. From the trade of Phil Esposito to the moving of their young star Jeremy Roenick. It all came down to money for Bill Wirtz and that hurt the club. It is no coincidence the team has improved vastly since Bill’s son Rocky took over.
Since Rocky took over the team has won three Stanley Cups and is still one of the strongest teams in the NHL. The team is a model franchise for the NHL. Here in this article, we are going to take a long look back at the history of the Chicago Blackhawks. So let’s get this started as we countdown the 8 best and 7 worst moves in Chicago Blackhawks history.
15. Best: Signing Marian Hossa
This is a signing that the Blackhawks may live to regret one day soon. For now, though he is still a producing member of their core. Hossa has long been one of the elite wingers in the NHL. He hits hard and shoots harder. He chased the Stanley Cup, joining the Red Wings and the Penguins only to lose in the finals each time. Hossa saw the writing on the wall with Chicago and signed a 12-year deal worth $62,800,000. In 520 games with the Blackhawks, Hossa has scored 181 goals and added 226 assists in 520 games. This season is Hossa’s 15th season with 20 or more goals in a season. Hossa continues to be a big part of the Blackhawks but only time will tell how he stands up to father time.
14. Worst: Drafting Karl Dykhuis
Chicago definitely regrets the 1990 NHL draft. The Hawks had the 16th overall pick that year. Wanting some defensive help they selected Karl Dykhuis. Dykhuis would be a huge disappointment for the Blackhawks. He would only play 18 games over two seasons, scoring 1 goal and adding 8 assists. The Hawks would move on from him in 1995 trading him to the Philadelphia Flyers for Bob Wilkie and Philadelphia’s 1997 5th round pick (Kyle Calder).
The 1990 draft was littered with solid NHL players. By picking Dykhuis, the Blackhawks missed out on Keith Tkachuk and NHL legend Martin Brodeur. The 90s would have been much more productive for the Hawks featuring either Tkachuk or Brodeur. Maybe their cup drought wouldn’t have lasted until 2010.
13. Best: Signing Artemi Panarin
Somehow Artemi Panarin went through the entire 2010 NHL entry draft with no takers. Panarin went back to Russia and joined the KHL. In the KHL Panarin had a hell of a run. In his last season playing for SKA Saint Petersburg, Panarin had 26 goals and 36 assists in 54 games. He made the decision to join the NHL for the 2015-16 season. His services were in high demand but he decided to sign a two year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. To say his first season was a success would be a huge understatement. Panarin had 77 points in 80 games playing with Patrick Kane. Panarin won the Calder Trophy last season. He is having another solid season this year with 20 goals and 38 assists in 65 games. Panarin signed a new two-year deal worth $6 million a year.
12. Worst: Drafting Cam Barker
Heading into the 2004 NHL draft the Hawks had already drafted some of the elite players that would push their current dynasty. The Blackhawks would make few misses at the draft in the 2000s. In 2004 they took a big swing and missed on defenseman Cam Barker. The Blackhawks selected Barker 3rd overall passing on players like Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler. Barker would struggle in the NHL. He wasn’t defensively reliable, and he couldn’t provide much offense. Barker would play five seasons with the Hawks, only playing in 200 games. After only putting up 80 points with the Hawks, the Blackhawks pulled off one of their best deals to not make this list.
They traded Barker to the Wild for defenseman Kim Johnsson and Nick Leddy. Leddy would play a big part in the Blackhawks cup win in 2013. Barker would bounce around the NHL, continuing to struggle. His NHL career would end after the 2012-13 NHL season. He now plays in the KHL with no hope of an NHL return anytime soon.
11. Best: Drafting Patrick Kane
If Toews is the leader than Kane is the offensive firepower. Unlike Toews, Kane has had a fair amount of controversy in his career thus far. No one can question his ability on the ice. Kane has lit the NHL on fire since his debut during the 2007-08 season. Kane has 280 goals and 453 assists in 723 career games. Off-ice he has been a huge distraction to the team at times. He was arrested for beating up a cab driver with his brother in 2009. He also faced allegations of sexual assault in 2015, shortly after the Hawks captured their third Stanley Cup in six years. Even with all his problems, there is no way that the Blackhawks would take anyone else over him from the 2007 NHL Draft class.
10. Worst: Trading Dustin Byfuglien
The salary cap has forced many teams into some very difficult decisions. The Blackhawks are one of the teams that have been hit the most by the cap. Due to their solid decisions at the draft, they ended up with a wealth of top players. Top players demand top money and you can’t afford them all. The Hawks were forced to make some difficult cuts after their cup win in 2010. The Hawks knew that their big defenseman/winger would need a big contract. On June 23rd 2010, the Blackhawks traded Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel and Akim Aliu to the Atlanta Thrashers for Joey Crabb, Jeremy Morin, Marty Reasoner, a 2010 first round pick (Kevin Hayes) and a 2010 2nd round pick (Justin Holl).
None of the players that Chicago got would amount to anything for the Blackhawks. Hayes is the only player currently in the NHL, but he never played for Chicago. Dustin Byfuglien has become one of the elite defensemen in the NHL. The Winnipeg Jets have built their defense around the player that Chicago damn near gave away for nothing.
9. Best: Drafting Steve Larmer
Steve Larmer was a star for the Chicago Blackhawks through the 1980s and early 1990s. All of the NHL teams screwed up majorly letting a player like Larmer fall to the 6th round (120th overall in the 1980 NHL Draft). Larmer would break out in the 1982-83 season with 43 goals and 47 assists in 80 games. Larmer would star for the Blackhawks for 13 seasons. In that time he scored 406 goals and added 517 assists for 923 points in 891 games. He was also a part of the Hawks team that would reach the 1992 Stanley Cup Final. Larmer ended his career ast the 6th highest scoring player from the 1980 draft. It is safe to say this is one of the Blackhawks’ best moves in the history of the franchise.
8. Worst: Trading Jeremy Roenick
Jeremy Roenick had the makings of a true star for the Chicago Blackhawks. Roenick had 596 points in 524 games with the Hawks including three straight seasons of 100+ points. Roenick’s contract was up and he wanted the money he felt he deserved. The Blackhawks’ owner wasn’t willing to pay and instead traded his young star to the Phoenix Coyotes for Alexei Zhamnov, Craig Mills, and Phoenix’s 1st round choice (Ty Jones) in 1997. Roenick would become a huge star with the Coyotes. A Stanley Cup eluded Roenick but he would retire with 513 goals and 703 assists in 1,363 career games. Mills and Jones would be huge failures in Chicago. Alexei Zhamnov would be a solid depth player for the Hawks. He could be relied on for 20 goals and 50 points per season, he was not an elite player like Jeremy Roenick.
7. Best: Acquiring Glenn Hall & Ted Lindsay
In 1957 the Chicago Blackhawks pulled off a hell of a deal with the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings were pissed at one of their stars Ted Lindsay for trying to start a union. They punished him and one of his closest friends in the locker room Glenn Hall with a trade to the last-place Blackhawks. Ted would only play a few seasons in Chicago before moving back to Detroit. Glenn Hall on the other hand, would play 618 games with the Blackhawks. Hall had a record of 275-229-106 with a GAA of 2.60.
While with the Blackhawks, Hall played 502 consecutive games spanning eight seasons, an NHL record that is unlikely to ever be broken. Legend says Hall used to throw up before every game due to nerves. Nerves or not Hall had a hell of a career and was a real coup for the Chicago Blackhawks as none of the players they gave up accomplished much with the Red Wings.
6. Worst: Trading Chris Chelios
Chris Chelios was an ageless wonder in the National Hockey League. He would play nine years with the Chicago Blackhawks after their shrewd deal to land him from the Canadiens. He would have 487 points in 667 games as a Blackhawk. The Hawks thought Chelios was near the end of his career. On March 23rd, 1999 the Hawks would trade Chelios to the Detroit Red Wings for Anders Eriksson, a 1999 1st round pick (Steve McCarthy) and a 2001 1st round pick (Adam Munro).
Chelios wouldn’t leave the Red Wings until after the 2008-09 season. He was a defensive stalwart for the Red Wings as they would win two cups during his time with the club. Eriksson would only have 41 points in 97 games with the Hawks. Neither draft pick would pan out for the Hawks either. The team would struggle on for a few years before the pieces of this new dynasty started falling into place.
5. Best: Acquiring Chris Chelios
What were the Montreal Canadiens thinking? After seven solid years as a defenseman for the club, the Canadiens traded Chris Chelios and a 1991 2nd round pick to the Blackhawks in exchange for Denis Savard. The president of the Canadiens (Ronald Corey) was worried how Chelios’s off-ice activities would reflect on his company (Molson Breweries). Corey demanded the team move Chelios immediately, so the Habs never got fair value for their young star defenceman.
Chelios would have a great career as a member of the Blackhawks. Chelios would play nine years with the club, adding 487 points in 664 games with the Hawks. The Blackhawks would eventually move Chelios in a horrible move of their own. Savard would only play three seasons in Montreal, compiling 179 points in 210 games.
4. Worst: Trading Dominik Hasek
On August 7th, 1992 the Chicago Blackhawks traded Dominik Hasek to the Buffalo Sabres for goalie Stephane Beauregard and a 1993 4th round pick. The Hawks used the pick on Eric Daze (more on him later). Ed Belfour was the clear stater in Chicago, and the Hawks had Jimmy Waite as a backup. They decided that their young prospect Hasek was expendable. All Hasek would go on to do was win six Vezinas, two Hart trophies and two Stanley Cups. He single-handedly carried the Sabres to the cup final in 1999. Hasek would end his hall of fame career with the Red Wings where he would win his two cups. The Hawks traded Beauregard three days later to the Jets for Christian Ruuttu.
At least Eric Daze would become a big part of the Blackhawks. Daze would play for the Hawks for over a decade, scoring 226 goals including four seasons with 30 or more. He was a solid player but Hasek is one of the all-time greats.
3. Best: Trading For Patrick Sharp
It’s easy to forget that the ‘Hawks didn’t originally draft Sharp, as the team that did draft him, Philly, took him in the third round of the 2001 draft. Sharp’s time in a Flyers uniform was pretty forgettable, as he had difficulty staying healthy. He made his NHL debut in the 2002-03 season but spent much of the next two years in the AHL with the Philadelphia Phantoms. Sharp would end up playing 22 games for the Flyers following the lockout before he was sent off to Chicago along with Eric Maloche in exchange for Matt Ellison and a third round pick.
Sharp would spend the next 10 years in Chicago, and was an essential part of the team’s core that won three Stanley Cups in a six-year span. And all it took was sending Ellison and a third to Philly.
2. Worst: Trading Phil Esposito
On May 15th, 1967 The Blackhawks made a trade that affected their team for decades to come. The Hawks made a blockbuster trade, moving Ken Hodge Sr., Phil Esposito and Fred Stanfield to the Boston Bruins for Jack Norris, Pit Martin and Gilles Marotte. Esposito signed with the Hawks as a teenager in 1960. He quickly became a first line player, teaming up with Hawks great Bobby Hull.
The Blackhawks were the big losers of this deal. Phil Esposito became one of the all-time great players in NHL history. Esposito would hold the record for most goals in a season until Wayne Gretzky came around. He would win two cups with the Bruins. Esposito would play nine seasons in Boston scoring 459 goals and added 553 assists in 625 games. Stanfield and Hodge were also top players for the Bruins, helping the team become a powerhouse in the early 1970s. Pit Martin would have a solid career for the Blackhawks (627 points in 740 games over 11 seasons) but he was nothing compared to Esposito.
1. Best: Drafting Jonathon Toews
From 1997 until 2008 the Chicago Blackhawks only made one playoff appearance (in 2000-01 and were eliminated in five games) The tide started to shift in the early 2000s as the Blackhawks made some solid picks in the draft. In 2006 they selected their fearless leader. The Blackhawks were fortunate that Jonathan Toews was still available when they picked him #3 overall. Both the Blues and the Penguins regret not taking “Captain Serious”.
Since debuting in the NHL, Toews has become one of the premier two-way forwards. He has led the Blackhawks to three Stanley Cup wins and played a big part in two Olympic Gold Medal wins by Team Canada. A team is only as good as its leader and Toews is one of the best in the NHL.
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