What more can you say about the Chicago Blackhawks and their accomplishments to date? They have been a force to be reckoned with in the West, making the playoffs for nine consecutive seasons.
Since Joel Quenneville was promoted from a scout to head coach by Chicago in October 2008, he led them to the Cup Finals three times and won each time because of their offensive skill, team speed, steady defense and hot goaltending. And despite their newfound success over the last eight seasons, they've had salary cap troubles following their Cup victories. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman picked up a long list of disappointing players, either signing them to bargain contracts or had traded for their services.
Due to their salary cap problems, Chicago lost the likes of Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Antti Niemi, Dave Bolland, Kris Versteeg, Troy Brouwer, Nick Leddy, Teuvo Teravainen, and Andrew Shaw who made their contributions to their last three Cup teams. In fact, the Blackhawks' cornerstone players, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, still carry cap hits of $10.5 million each. Thanks to a demoralizing first-round playoff sweep by the Predators, Chicago continues to prepare for next season. Let's take a look at the eight best and worst Blackhawks players during the 'Hawks' modern day dynasty era.
16 Best: BRANDON SAAD
Brandon Saad began to emerge as a talented left-winger for the Blackhawks during their 2012-13 season, his first full year as an NHLer. He collected 27 points in 46 games and helped Chicago raise the Cup with six playoff points. Saad continued to show more promise on a star-studded Hawks team by elevating his offensive game. He recorded 47 points in 2013-14, then had 52 points during the 2014-15 season. Saad followed up his career year with eleven playoff points as the Hawks clinched their third Stanley Cup since 2010 on home ice.
Following their third Cup win in six years, the Hawks traded Saad to the Blue Jackets for Artem Anisimov. The two-time Cup champion was poised to become the Hawks' building block for their future. Since Chicago had multiple long-term contracts on the books, they couldn't pay Saad what he wanted and had no choice to trade him elsewhere. The Jackets have benefitted from the June 2015 deal, Saad has a pair of 50-point seasons since his Columbus arrival.
15 Worst: MICHAEL FROLIK
If any Blackhawks fan remembers forward Michael Frolik, they might recall his brief time with the Original Six franchise. Frolik had a very promising start to his career with the Panthers, scoring 42 goals in his first two seasons combined.
But on February 9, 2011, Florida dealt him to the Blackhawks. He struggled following the trade, recording nine points in 28 games during the second half of 2010-11. Frolik then had two more underwhelming seasons offensively, failing to reach 20 or more points in a season. Despite his disappointing regular season numbers, Frolik seemed to slightly fare better in the playoffs, contributing 10 points in 23 playoff games for the 2012-13 Blackhawks who took home a Stanley Cup. The team shipped him to the Winnipeg Jets after their 2013 run to a championship. Frolik would return to form the next four years by reaching the 40-point plateau twice with Winnipeg, then had 17 goals and 27 assists in 2016-17 with the Flames.
14 Best: NIKLAS HJALMARSSON
A rugged defenseman who could block shots, crisp breakout passes, and produce decent offense from the blue line, Niklas Hjalmarsson is the seventh-best Blackhawk player under Quenneville.
A native of Eskjo, Sweden, he's been a pillar of their championship success over the last eight years. Hjalmarsson seems to fill his role quite well as a reliable shutdown defenseman while possessing a calming presence on the back end. He's played his 623-game career with the Hawks, accumulating 143 points in ten seasons. But the man they call "Hammer" in the locker room has been a warrior once the playoffs arrive. The Swede has played a total of 128 postseason games, recording a goal and seven assists in the 2010 edition where the Hawks won their first Cup since 1961. He added two more Cups on his resume in 2013 and '15. Although he's set to turn 30, Hjalmarsson has been a workhorse on the ice by playing 70 to 82 games the last four seasons.
13 Worst: BRYAN BICKELL
Bryan Bickell lands on the list as the seventh-worst Blackhawk on the list for his sudden decline after his outstanding 2013 playoff performance. His nine playoff goals that year, including a game-tying goal during Game 6 of the SCF versus Boston, earned him a four-year contract worth $16 million which began in 2013-14.
The Hawks might have been a little too hasty signing a guy who really couldn't reach his potential as a two-way player. Bickell regressed offensively, collecting 15 points during the first year of the deal, despite recording 23 points in the lockout-shortened 2013 season. He bounced back with seven playoff goals in the 2014 playoffs and had 28 points during 2014-15, but was nowhere to be found on their playoff roster. Bickell developed an eye condition during the Western final against the Ducks, as Chicago demoted him to Rockford for most of 2015-16 and would fail to score a goal last season. The Hawks traded Bickell to the Carolina Hurricanes last June, thus removing his $4 million cap hit.
The 2016-17 season represented the last year of Bickell's 395-game career, announcing to the hockey world that he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He decided to retire following the Hurricanes' last regular season game, where he scored his first career shootout goal against the Flyers. Carolina won it 4-3 in the shootout, as Bickell left the game on a winning note.
12 Best: BRENT SEABROOK
Brent Seabrook is the sixth-best Blackhawks player of the Joel Quenneville era for his checking, shot blocking, clutch postseason play, and the outstanding leadership he provides each night. Seabrook made his NHL debut in 2005-06, playing through some of Chicago's lean years until Quenneville took over as bench boss three seasons later.
The coaching change brought the best out of Seabrook, leading the team with 224 hits and 122 blocked shots during 2008-09. Seabrook contributed to their 2010 championship with 11 playoff points in 22 games, winning the first Stanley Cup of his career. His knack for scoring big goals in the playoffs emerged during the 2013 playoffs. Seabrook scored a Game 7 overtime goal against the Red Wings, then recorded another OT marker in Game 4 of the Cup Final versus the Bruins. Those two goals led to a second Cup victory for Chicago. He's also remembered for calming down captain Jonathan Toews during their second-round series versus Detroit. Toews took three penalties in Game 4, which led to Seabrook visiting the penalty box in an effort to keep his cool.
Then in the opening round of the 2015 playoffs, Seabrook scored another game-winning goal for the Hawks in OT versus the Preds. He won his third Cup with seven playoff goals. As of today, Seabrook has 406 points in over 900 regular season games for the Hawks.
11 Worst: FERNANDO PISANI
Best known for his seven-year tenure with the Edmonton Oilers and the 18 goals he scored in the 2006 playoffs, Fernando Pisani lands on this list as one of the worst Blackhawks players under Quenneville.
The Edmonton-born Pisani signed a one-year deal with the team following their 2010 Stanley Cup win, as the team might have felt the signing of Pisani, who authored two 30-point seasons as an Oiler would make up for the loss of forwards Andrew Ladd and Troy Brouwer. Instead, they got an underperforming depth forward who scored seven goals and nine helpers in 60 games, while sporting a zero rating. The 2010-11 season turned out to be Pisani's last season in the NHL, although the former playoff hero with the Oilers has kept himself busy in recent years. He spent three years as an assistant coach for the University of Alberta's hockey team and was hired as a development coach for the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings last September.
10 Best: PATRICK SHARP
A key member of Chicago's three Stanley Cup teams this decade, Patrick Sharp made numerous contributions to their instant success with his professionalism, timely scoring, and effective play in the Blackhawks' own zone. They acquired the Thunder Bay native from Philadephia on December 5, 2005. Sharp amassed only 15 points during his three seasons with the Flyers, but he would truly emerge as an elite scorer with the Hawks.
Sharp had four 30-goal seasons and five years of 60 points or more, including a career-best 78 in 2013-14. Aside from his impressive regular season numbers, Sharp collected 80 playoff points (42 G, 38 A) for the Hawks, including a 22-point effort in the 2010 playoffs. That accomplishment could've netted him a Conn Smythe, but Jonathan Toews was voted the playoffs' MVP that year. The Blackhawks dealt Sharp to the Dallas Stars for blueliner Trevor Daley and forward Ryan Garbutt in July 2015. He decided to thank Blackhawk fans by taking full-page ads in the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times papers after the trade. Sharp has played a total of 61 games for the Stars, but don't be surprised if he intends to retire as a Blackhawk in the future.
9 Worst: MICHAL ROZSIVAL
The inclusion of veteran defenseman Michal Rosizval as the worst Blackhawk under Quenneville is certainly an interesting one. If you look back on his tenure in Chicago, he couldn't provide the same point production he once had earlier in his career or catch a break with injuries.
Rosizval established himself as an offensive defenseman for six seasons with the New York Rangers, collecting 30 points or more during his tenure. The Rangers shipped Rosizval to the Coyotes during the 2010-11 campaign, where he played just two seasons in the desert. He would join the Blackhawks for the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season but had 12 points in 27 games, yet managed to appear in 23 playoff contests. Rosizval won his first Stanley Cup in 2013 and another two seasons later, he failed to crack the 20-point plateau the next few seasons as a Blackhawk, including a very dismal 2016-17. He notched only two assists in 22 games while suffering facial fractures last month that required surgery. It's safe to say that he's been a huge disappointment.
8 Best: MARIAN HOSSA
An elite scorer for many years with the Senators, Penguins, and Red Wings, Marian Hossa has accomplished some great things with the Blackhawks since he signed a 12-year contract with Chicago during the 2009 offseason.
Hossa notched 51 points in an injury-shortened 2009-10 campaign but led the Hawks to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final vs. Philly, his third straight trip to the final playoff round. Chicago won Lord Stanley in Game 6 on an overtime goal by Patrick Kane, as Hossa received the Cup from captain Jonathan Toews first and hoisted it over his head. He contributed with 15 playoff points during the 2010 run. Hossa helped the Hawks win two more Cups with 16 points in 2013 and added 17 during the 2015 playoff run.
But his best regular season came in 2011-12 with 77 points. It remains the only time Hossa surpassed 70 over a single season, although he recorded his 1,000th NHL point in October 2014 against Ottawa. Hossa's point production has declined in recent years, but that doesn't take away from the incredible accomplishments he has on a wonderful resume. His 1,134 points and a ridiculous plus-245 rating over a 19-year career makes him a lock for the Hall of Fame.
7 Worst: MARCUS KRUGER
Marcus Kruger might be known to Hawks fans for his strong defensive play, but he isn't viewed as a guy who provides a lot of offense on a very talented Hawks team.
Drafted by the Hawks in the fifth round of the '09 draft, Kruger played seven games in 2010-11, then became a fixture on the team during the 2011-12 season with nine goals and 17 helpers. But his offensive production has been up and down since, recording one 20-point campaign in '13-'14, had 17 points for two seasons, and scored no goals and four assists in 2015-16.
Despite his offensive struggles, Kruger helped the Hawks win two Stanley Cups with his effective play on the third line. His retrieval of the puck in the neutral zone following Bryan Bickell's game-tying goal in the eventual Cup-clinching Game 6 led to Dave Bolland's winning tally against the Bruins. Then in Game 2 of the 2015 WCF, Kruger scored a triple-overtime goal against Anaheim.
6 Best: DUNCAN KEITH
Duncan Keith has made a significant impact on the Blackhawks blue line since Joel Quenneville became the Blackhawks' head coach almost ten years ago. Keith made his NHL debut in 2005-06 as a young defenseman trying to find his way. Twelve seasons later, he's truly elevated his two-way game and has thrived under the leadership of Quenneville. Keith had a whopping 69 points (14 G, 55 A) in 2009-10. His success that season led the franchise to a Stanley Cup win against a resurgent Flyers team. Keith quickly became a key piece of their dynasty with his consistent offensive production after they lifted Lord Stanley in 2010.
But Keith's performance in 2015 postseason turned heads, as he showed the hockey world that he can chew up minutes like no other defenseman before him. He averaged over 30 minutes of ice time that spring, even playing 49:51 of a triple-overtime game in the West final. Keith's astonishing effort earned him the Conn Smythe as the playoffs MVP.
He became one of the NHL's 100 Greatest Players for winning three Stanley Cups with the Hawks and two Norris trophies in 2010 and '14.
5 Worst: BEN EAGER
Ben Eager had a journeyman NHL career, playing for five different teams in nine seasons. The Blackhawks were the second team Eager would join, as he played his first three years for the Flyers until they traded him to Chicago in December 2007. Even though Eager dressed for a career-high 75 games and scored 11 goals in '08-'09, he racked up 161 penalty minutes that season. Eager earned the highest total of PIMs with 233 as a Flyer in '06-'07.
Eager managed to record an underwhelming 16 points in 60 games during Chicago's 2009-10 season, yet recorded a goal and two assists in the playoffs en route to his only Stanley Cup win. The Blackhawks would end up trading Eager with Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel and a prospect to the Thrashers just two weeks after their Cup triumph. Eager played only 34 games as a Thrasher in 2010-11, as they dealt him to San Jose before the trade deadline. He made one more stop in Edmonton but had 16 points in 84 career games with the Oilers. Today, Eager is out of pro hockey and has kept himself busy with a baby daughter and coaching youth hockey in the Chicago area.
4 Best: PATRICK KANE
No surprise, Buffalo native Patrick Kane deserves to be on this list as one of the best Hawks under Joel Quenneville. The NHL recently named him one of their 100 Greatest Players this past January, and Kane has been prolific since Chicago drafted him first overall in 2007. He's won the Calder, the Hart Trophy, a scoring title, the Conn Smythe and three Stanley Cups before the age of 30! You look at the point totals Kane amassed over a stellar NHL career, he's never recorded less than 55 points because of his ability to consistently produce offense.
As a rookie, Kane scored 21 goals and 51 assists in 2007-08 which led to him winning the Calder Trophy. A year later, Coach Q took over behind the Blackhawks bench and Kane tore up opponents with 70 points that season and 88 in 2009-10. He scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in Game 6 of the 2010 Finals. After winning his first championship, Kane picked up five straight 20-goal seasons, helped the Hawks win another Cup in 2013 with 23 playoff points and earned the Conn Smythe Trophy. In 2015, Kane led Chicago to their third Cup win since 2010, but his 2015-16 campaign proved to be his finest. He won the Art Ross Trophy, compiling 106 points while playing all 82 games, along with the Hart and Ted Lindsay awards last year. Kane continues to be in his prime with 752 points in 740 NHL games, it would be hard to expect anything less from number 88.
3 Worst: ANDREW DESJARDINS
Born in Lively, Ontario, Andrew Desjardins came into the league as an undrafted winger. Desjardins had a fine AHL career, which led to him being signed by San Jose in June 2010. He played his first game for the Sharks on January 3, 2011, then finished the year with a goal and two assists. Desjardins provided modest offense while taking over 40 penalty minutes the next four seasons until San Jose traded him to Chicago two seasons ago. His offensive production was dismal, collecting two assists in his first 13 games for the Hawks.
Desjardins picked four playoff points in the spring of 2015, helping the Blackhawks win their third Cup in six years over Tampa Bay. Desjardins decided to sign a two-year extension worth $1.6 million with the Hawks. Despite being a good bottom six forward on a loaded Blackhawks team and scoring a career-best eight goals in 2015-16, he picked up a rating of -8 last year and went on to record one assist for the 2016-17 Hawks. It appears they won't re-sign Desjardins for next season, and it's easy to see why.
2 Best: JONATHAN TOEWS
Hawks fans affectionately call him Captain Serious. Jonathan Toews has been the heart and soul of the Blackhawks since they gave him an opportunity to captain the team with a drive to win a Stanley Cup, which he has done three times.
Named as one of the NHL's 100 Greatest Players this year along with a decorated international career for Canada at the Olympics with two Gold medals, Toews has put up incredible offensive numbers for the Hawks that should place him in the Hall of Fame. The Winnipeg native has 272 goals and 350 assists in his entire NHL career. He's earned the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2010 for a 22-point effort in 29 playoff games, the Selke three years later, and the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2015.
Quite frankly, Toews had become a modern-day version of Messier with the winning attitude he's carried and how he lifted Chicago from the dark days to a modern dynasty he helped create in the salary cap era, as the Blackhawks won three Cups since 2010.
1 Worst: JOHN SCOTT
John Scott might go down as one of the worst players to ever take an NHL ice surface. Best known for his ability to drop the gloves and his unlikely appearance at the 2016 All-Star Game where he scored two goals and took home the game's MVP, Scott began his career in 2008-09 as an undrafted left winger with the Minnesota Wild, where he played his first two seasons.
He joined the Blackhawks for the 2010-11 campaign, but his tenure didn't last long. Scott hardly made an impact on Chicago's high-flying offense, mustering two points in 69 games and took over 100 PIMs as a Blackhawk. Chicago traded him to the Rangers during the 2011-12 season. Scott played just six games for the Blueshirts, then finished his career with the Sabres, Sharks, Coyotes and Habs. He announced his retirement last December in an article he wrote for The Players Tribune, finishing with 11 points in 286 NHL games and zero Cups. He also published his own memoir titled A Guy Like Me during his post-playing career.
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