The Empire That Wasn’t

In last year’s Stanley Cup commemorative issue of the Indian, I believe in the first paragraph I declared that this was “The Blackhawks Era.” It felt like that at the time. And having a few days to reflect, maybe that’s the pain that won’t subside now. Because at best, the Hawks are going to have to share this era.

Last night didn’t really do anything to dissuade most of us that the Kings will make quick work of the Rangers and collect their second Cup in three years. And once that happens, we’ll have to wait another year before making that claim again, and even then it will sound pretty hollow with another team holding multiple championships, if the Hawks return to the summit.

I fully recognize that this would be the hockey definition of #FirstWorldProblems (a phrase I abhor, by the way). Fans of 28 other teams wish they had this conundrum, and I get that. But being a sports fan means being greedy. One championship is never enough, unless there are extenuating circumstances like a certain Northside baseball team (I don’t know if Sox fans think 2005 is enough or not, but I’m guessing no). Two means you have a chance to go down in history forever. And you don’t want anyone else doing that with you.

And yet, it’s hard to bring yourself to have too much distaste for the Kings. Sure, it hurts to watch them now. But I don’t know that it will next October. They’re just too good. And while Dustin Brown dives a lot and Willie Mitchell is a yappy dipshit, there’s not too many real jerks you can develop a real dislike for. Hell, I used to love Dustin Brown before his legs and hands went into the toilet.

It’s hard to see now, but it would probably be better for hockey in general to have a Two Towers of dominance set-up. It’s highly likely that the Kings and Hawks will play at least once more in the playoff in the next few years. And it’s been a long time since the NHL had a overarching rivalry based not on proximity or hate but on Cups riding on the outcome. Avs-Wings is the last to come to mind. I’m sure Canucks fans would like to argue Canucks-Hawks, but y’know, you have to actually win the thing for that to count.

Before Avs-Wings? Hard to say. 80′s Flames-Oilers I guess, but when Edmonton won five times and Calgary only the once, it’s hard to call that in the same class. The NBA had Lakers-Celtics. To a lesser extent Bulls-Pistons. Baseball had Yankees-Red Sox, even though that eventually drove us all nuts. Football had 49ers-Cowboys in the 90′s. Steelers-Ravens could count if you want.

But that doesn’t seem like much consolation now. I guess what hurts most is that this was probably the Hawks best chance to repeat. They may win again, or even a couple times more. But to repeat? Let’s say there’s a parade in June of ’15. The following season Hossa will be 37. Sharp 34. Keith 33. Seabrook 31. Toews and Kane will be pushing on 30, if you can believe that. And while the system will produce contributors, maybe even a star or two, it’s highly unlikely it can produce too many players of that level.

Maybe they’ll prove me wrong. They’ve made a habit of that the past couple years. Maybe I’m getting too far ahead of myself, because just one more Cup is hardly guaranteed. That’s what also hurts here, because this one was right there and lost on a coin flip (though a coin flip that didn’t have to be). Every chance is sacred. Toews or Keith could blow out a knee next year, and that chance would be lost. Look at the Penguins, who basically lost two prime chances to injuries to Malkin and Crosby. It’s so fragile. Which I guess is what makes them so special.

  • I Remember The Roar!

    “The Empire That Wasn’t”

    • Skags

      I know man. It hurts.

  • Hawkeytalk

    No one or nothing can take away the sheer joy in felt last year or in 2010. Ever.

    • Research Analysis

      Just listen to John weideman’s calls of the final goals in 2010 and 2013 if you want to remind yourself. They can be found on YouTube.

      • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

        I have the CBC broadcast of the seventeen seconds, along with WGN’s radio call. Covers the last two minutes of the game. Absolutely breathtaking.

  • DJ

    And it’s been a long time since the NHL had a overarching rivalry based not on proximity or hate but on Cups riding on the outcome. Avs-Wings is the last to come to mind.

    Oh, there was definite hatred between the Avs and the Wings. Claude Lemieux assured that.

    • MySpoonIsTooBig

      Yes, but in that instance the hatred was the result of the rivalry as opposed to vice versa

      • DJ

        My point is that hatred turned it into a rivalry. Remember also that the Avs were the Nordiques, and played Detroit twice a year. The rivalry didn’t start merely when they moved to Denver.

        • MySpoonIsTooBig

          I disagree that hatred turned it into a rivalry. I think that it was a rivalry first that evolved into hatred thanks to players like Claude Lemieux. It’s all semantics though, chicken or egg etc.

  • I Remember The Roar!

    After letting Fels’s thoughts sink in, I have to say that I think I prefer it this way (or can rationalize it). In the eras of single-team dominance, there’s always the question of the quality of competition. In the NBA, if the Spurs never existed, wouldn’t you put a small asterisk by the Heat ‘ titles? (Or vice-versa?)

    While nothing is guaranteed, I’d rather win 3 Cups in 6 years, than 6 in a row if it means that there’s actually a fight every year, that we’re beating elite teams, and not walking over injury-plagued teams of fourth liners.

  • TitanTransistor

    Have you ever seen the movie Rush?

    Well you should, cause it’s awesome. But related to this post, one of the themes of the movie is the idea that it’s actually a gift to have a real rival or enemy. It pushes you. It makes you better.

    Having a legitimate obstacle standing in your way beyond time or injury will make the ascent to the top of the mountain again all the more satisfying. Just listen to the post-game interviews from the Kings, no shortage of comments suggesting they wanted this series BAAAAAD because of how the Hawks dismantled them in 2013. That emotion isn’t measurable, but I’m confident in saying it played a part in how that series played out.

    It does hurt that the Hawks blew what looked to be a gift-wrapped opportunity to repeat. It especially hurts when you remember they had 3 leads in Game 7, not to mention a blown lead in the meltdown in Game 2.

    I don’t hate the Kings. But I do want the Hawks to beat them. And I want the Hawks to WANT to beat them.

    • teuvosimple

      Have you seen the movie “Rushmore”? If you look hard enough, quirkiness exists in everything. The Kings won with a healthy dose of puck luck. Somehow I don’t think the Kings would have been as disappointed as the Sharks were, or even the Bruins. Winning by luck usually causes one to thank their stars instead of trumpeting their superiority.

  • bigtreina

    The core of this group is so good they almost went back to the SCF with no 2nd Line Center, playing Kruger on a scoring line, and skating Bollig in 82 games. I’m hopeful that despite roster mismanagement of the support cast, this team will seriously compete for at least several more years. I’m hopeful.

  • pepe_silvia

    I still think the Rangers are going to take this series.

    • YoAdrienne

      Yeah, I’m not convinced this is going to be a cakewalk for the Kings, either. It took OT to win their first one–on home ice. And, the Rangers had some pretty good stretches of their own.

      • MySpoonIsTooBig

        The only reason game 1 went to OT was Lundqvist’s brilliance. It’s not entirely out of the question, especially not with him, but the only way the Rangers win this series is with 4 goalie wins.

    • HossasPierogi

      Lundquist is the only thing in the way of a Kings sweep I think.

  • To Saad be the glory

    Every time I see replays of Messier hoisting the cup for the Rangers,the 6th cup of his career,I think of Toews. Toews is the Messier of his generation.The whole world knows it,we all know it. Hell,even Sid knows it. Championships follow players like that around,and I find consolation in the fact that I have a hard time believing that the Captain has hoisted his last cup for this team. This is what keeps me going for now,Bolligs be damned! =)

  • birdhead

    You’re obviously correct when you talk about the ephemerality of the window BUT as someone a year older than Toews and Kane, pushing 30 in 2015-16 is a real fucking stretch. Kane will be 26 at the start of that season, for crying out loud. They won’t both be 30 until 2018-2019. LEAVE EIGHTIES BABIES ALONE WE HAVE ENOUGH PROBLEMS.

  • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

    NBC, despite their east coast bias, must be licking their chops at the prospect of introducing next year’s nationally televised Hawks Kings game as a clash between winners of four of the five last championships.

  • HossasPierogi

    Devils/Wings?

    • HossasPierogi

      No – contended during same era but only played each other in playoffs once.

  • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

    Just looked at Cap Geek. LA is also set to contend for years to come. This is going to be a thing, going forward.

    • http://www.lotsofbutterplease.com/ I am not Chico Maki

      They have some seriously big questions to answer at d after next season, though.

      • DJ

        And they haven’t been inoculated against injuries, either. Whatever triumph they have is as ephemeral as ours.

        • teuvosimple

          Last year they were injured and the Hawks made quick work of them. This year, Q was slightly slow in making the necessary adjustments and the NHL got the best series in recent memory. As it turns out, the Hawks D emerged as the most vulnerable aspect of the club in the playoffs and they were pretty beaten up. I like the chances of a healthy Hawks team, especially if they get a 2C.

          • Marian Nation

            What is a 2C?

          • DJ

            Center for the second line.

          • krome

            Slow to make adjustments?
            Yes…like 90 games slow….

  • To Saad be the glory

    NHL.com has announced that Pat Foley has received the Foster Hewitt Memorial award for broadcasting, a.k.a. he’s in the HoF. Congrats!

    • To Saad be the glory

      (Wait!, Stop it right here!! How did the great Pat Foley get in before me?!) lol

    • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

      How many broadcasters get to any sports HOF while they are still active?

      • Bannerman

        Probably more than you’d think. In baseball Scully, Harwell, Jack Buck and Caray come to mind. There are lots of announcers that have been around forever but, outside of their fanbases, most people don’t really notice when they get inducted into the HOF

    • Jim

      Not a huge fan of Foley yukking it up with Eddie. Normally, I turn off the sound for games. I switch to sound back on to hear Chelsea Dagger.

  • wanker751

    OT…but this is cool… not sure if it’s been up somewhere on here or not..

    http://extramustard.si.com/2014/06/04/these-simpsonized-nhl-logos-are-fantastic/

    • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

      Should be Homer for the Indianhead.

  • BrandonPirri

    I think the Hawks are going to be a lot like the Spurs. They’re not going to win every single year, but they’re going to win 5 or 6 over the decade.

    • merkinmuffy

      And wouldn’t you like 15 years of dominance more than 2 Cups and it’s over???

    • Jim

      I like this way of thinking about it.

  • teuvosimple

    Maybe the kings deserve to be anointed a “dynasty” and maybe they don’t. As much as the loss smarts, a team that constantly gives up 2 goal leads only to rally and win in OT smacks of a fair amount of luck to me. Not sure how that compares to a team that has gone down 3 games to 1 in the playoffs in 3 different years and come back to force the issue in OT of Game 7, but if that’s also “lucky”, I’m going with that one.

    • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

      They have to actually win a second cup. Could well happen, but hasn’t yet…

  • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

    I sincerely hope we are not going to become the sort of fandom that considers any season that doesn’t end in a parade to be a failure. Two cups in four years is incredible.

    • merkinmuffy

      Only the neophytes believe that, Sparky, and that’s who we seem to be hearing from!

    • DJ

      If you don’t want a Cup-less season to be considered a failure, you’d beat get rid of that “One Goal” slogan.

      • Hawkeytalk

        It’s ok to have the goal, but also ok not to always win the cup. It’s about striving to be the best the team can be.

        • DJ

          That’s where you look at how the effort was. Did they “leave it all on the ice?” Damn right, they did, and deserve nothing but praise. Did they maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses? Most of us would say no, which makes defeat harder to accept.

      • Joe Banks

        Didn’t the NHL steal that?

    • HawkIPA

      This. Repeating in the NHL is damn-near impossible in the cap era, and the Hawks got really close. They will be back in contention next year, and likely for the next few years. We’re very lucky.

    • wihawkfan

      totally agree sparky.

      2 cups in 4 years is incredible!! before 2010 all i had was the sweep at the hands of the mario pens. i was in college at the time and my roommate was on our school’s hockey team and a pens fan.

      all season long we talked pens while i kept an eye on the hawks hoping against hope that they could meet in the finals and my guys would show up his.

      when they qualified to meet the pens i got cocky and we put a case of beer on it. old style for him (anyone remember when it was “our great beer and they can’t have it”?) and iron city for me (if you get to pittsburg try this, then don’t blame me if you hate it…..for pennsylvania beer i’m a yuengling guy now, but i digress…..often it seems).

      then the 4 game sweep and no cup appearances until 2010.

      in 2010 i had to work closing the bar in madison, wi on the day of the parade. but i told my girlfriend at the time, “we’re going to this parade because we may never see one again.” we went and i just got back to madison to work that night until 5am the next morning. tired but soooooo worth it.

      2013 was gravy for me.

      and yeah, this was a blown opportunity. but i ain’t mad yet.

      the 80′s bear was a blown dynasty.

      if martin from the pack doesn’t wreck jimmy mac’s rotator cuff the bears are your team of the 80′s instead of the niners. yes, i do believe the niners wouldn’t have been able to get thru the bears in the nfc. the bear’s d was still awesome for many years and would’ve shut down any niners team, but they never had that offense again.

    • MySpoonIsTooBig

      Anyone who believes that any season that doesn’t end in a parade is a failure is delusional. That doesn’t make losing sting any less though.

      • merkinmuffy

        You want sting, TooBig? Try 1971 versus Montreal!

        • MySpoonIsTooBig

          Thankfully before my time

          • merkinmuffy

            Tony Esposito lost a slap shot in the fog of a steamy Chicago Stadium. I’ll tell ya, Spoon, I’m still in therapy over it!

        • Joe Banks

          I’ll never forget Macho Grande…

          • merkinmuffy

            Only the greatest film comedy of all time, Joe!

    • Richard

      Was on the other side of pens=hawks final in 92, the next year Stevens breaks his face in the islander series, pens lose in OT in game 7. Mario’s medical sagas begin and the Pens dynasty talk vaporizes. The planets have to be aligned to win the cup..talent, desire, chemistry, health, and luck. Yes, this was a missed opportunity that hurts more because of the series winning goal. But you have to embrace how lucky we are: 2 cups in 4 years and the great run this year. Can’t wait for next year, but nothing is guaranteed.

    • TitanTransistor

      Not failure.

      Just stings that we were so close to something really special, and we lost it to the team who’s seemingly inevitable victory will make what we’ve already accomplished less special by virtue of sharing it.

  • merkinmuffy

    Get over it!!! Last year, we knocked the Kings out in 5. This year, it took 7 games plus an overtime to knock us out! Can the Hawks help it that a puck rolled up Nick Leddy’s sweater and down the other side? Who do you trade to stop that from happening again??? You want failure? Try the 1971 Blackhawks! The Hawks are one of the best teams in hockey to come along in years! Enjoy the ride!

    • http://www.lotsofbutterplease.com/ I am not Chico Maki

      My thoughts on it exactly. There are things to tweak, but this is good shit right here.

  • Bannerman

    I keep coming back to the NBA during the Magic Johnson/ Larry Bird years. Weren’t both of those teams dynasties? Or the NFL when the 49ers and the Cowboys used to play every year for the right to blow out the AFC in the superbowl.
    First team to 3 is the dynasty? To be honest, that term means nothing to me.

  • jordyhawk

    If we had gone back to LA for game 6 and Kings had played lights out and shut us out 3-0 I would have been happy with our season. However, as it turned out, it was there for the taking in game 7 and we let it slip away which which leaves a quite different feeling. It’s not so much about winning as about making the most of the opportunities. I very much agree that “every chance is sacred.”

    The run over the last 6 years has been great and we should be a good team for years to come, but what that translates to in terms of opportunities to win is uncertain. For me, this was the biggest loss since ’71. I’m not going to get too hung up on it, but it is what it is and you can’t just rationalize it away.

    • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

      Same problem we had all year, not taking care of the puck when we had the lead. By my eye we only had one breakdown in the third, and that’s when the Kings tied it. Yes, the Kings are that good this year. No shame in losing to them.

      But I hear what your saying, one more clear, one more backcheck, and maybe we’d be playing for back to back parades.

      Hopefully this fact leaves all our players and coaches doing a slow burn, waiting for October.

      • TitanTransistor

        Ideally, they’d gather all the players in a room and force them to watch videos of the team playing in 2013, pointing out all the things they did better away from the puck that year that brought them so much success.

        It’s not a coincidence the Hawks won the cup the year they were the best defensive team in hockey, and it’s not a coincidence that the likely cup winner this year was the best defensive team in hockey.

  • guest

    Here at the end of the year, I would like to humbly submit in a request here that I think would take this from one of the best hockey blogs I’ve ever read to The Best.

    I started as a standard bandwagon Never Played The Game (TM) fan, and this site has introduced me to so much in terms of both hawks history and new ways of understanding the game. One avenue, though, that would be really helpful for me would be a kind of a “systems corner.”

    I get the impression that Q is a systems coach. It’s possible that the reason Pirri left wasn’t his numbers (an interpretation which left us scratching our heads) or a lack of ability to play defense in general, but rather simply not buying into/putting into practice Q’s system in particular. I feel like this distinction could be the key to a lot of inexplicable Q decisions–might he rather have someone do what they’re supposed to be doing poorly (bollig) than drive possession by freewheeling around (Morin (maybe))? When we say “anything would be better than a guy playing four minutes a night,” we say so assuming he’d play Mo more than that. That might not be true. I can’t really make this decision on my own, though, since I just don’t know enough about systems in general or what Q’s trying to do in particular.

    The wraps and previews do often focus on systems (including the ever-controversial stretch pass), but I think it would be awesome if there was one of those weekly dealies (like mad at number or the sugar pile) really breaking them down, with pictures or video (or both in a gif) to help dingbats like me really understand what Q’s getting at.

    Just a suggestion though, it was a great year for both the Hawks and the blog! Hopefully next year will be even better.

    • Sparky_The_Bard-barian

      Been a fan since 1972 (yeah, I’m old), and I, too, have learned more about hockey reading this blog for six years than I learned in the previous 36 watching NBC and reading SI.

    • Andrew Heitman

      As someone who was coached by a member of the Century Line (http://video.penguins.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=237910) I can say that this blog has provided a very good and in depth instruction on how the game is played. A great example is one of Lowell MacDonalds favorite axioms “If you can’t skate, you cant play the game” which translates loosely into modern times of “WHY THE FUCK IS HANDZUS OUT THERE?!?!?”

  • Jim

    I consider this year a huge wasted opportunity for generational success.
    The margin was so thin that Q skating Handzus with Kane for 4 games might have been the difference.

    • Bannerman

      Of course Shaw was hurt for 2 of those games. Perhaps if Q had thought to make that change during Shaw’s first game back it could have made a difference. It might also have given Sutter more time to adjust to what that line was doing which he did in game 7.
      The point is, you can drive yourself crazy looking at the “what ifs.”

  • Pilotefan

    As a kid living in Montreal, I remember thinking the Hawks would cruise to a Cup win every year after ’61. Youthful optimism.
    Then ’71 happened.
    Wirtz Sr continued to happen.
    Two Cups in four years. Nirvana.
    This year was merely a return to the emotional evisceration that sorts the wheat from the chaff. Enjoyable, not so much at the end. Memorable, oh yeh. That was some of the best hockey I have ever seen.
    Now, if we could just find a 2c……

  • duncans peace pipe

    “I don’t know if Sox fans think 2005 is enough or not, but I’m guessing no” – most def. would love to get 2 up on the flubs.

  • GoldenJet

    I knew I shouldn’t have come here. Now I just want to throw up again…