Thursday, August 1, 2013
Summer wonder: Can the Hawks repeat?
By Paul Grant
Will Captain Serious (aka Jonathan Toews) raise ol' Stanley's Cup once again?
Few teams have dominated a season like the Chicago Blackhawks did in 2013. Their 24-game point streak was thrilling to watch, enough to make most hockey fans forget yet another soul-crushing and stupid lockout. And the best part of their season was how they did it, with a compelling mix of flash, dash and substance. It was just flat-out fun to see, especially when compared with the seasons and seasons we had to endure of neutral-zone trapping and defense-first snore sessions employed by countless successful teams of the past. Hockey was alive and thriving again.
It was no coincidence that the pieces came together in 2013 for the Blackhawks, Bruins, Penguins and Kings, all of whom returned the majority of their 2012 lineup. Those teams were able to get up to speed quickly even without the benefit of a training camp as they did not have to familiarize themselves with a truckload of new teammates or a new system.
But enough of the puff-pastry talk. While the Stanley Cup makes its rounds with the Blackhawks this summer, one nagging question floats out there, unanswered.
Tell me straight, I can take it, doctor: Can the Blackhawks repeat?
The short answer: Doubt it. It's friggin' hard to repeat these days, man.
The longer answer: The Blackhawks have all the tools at their disposal to keep the momentum rolling: the core is healthy and will be back for another season, the the coach is getting results, the building will be sold out every night and management is happy. So why the doubt? It's friggin' hard to repeat these days, man. And that's no slight against the Blackhawks, who will again be really good. The Kings were a talented and deep team in 2013 and came as close to repeating as anyone has in recent memory, but still burned out. And that was with the benefit of more rest because of the lockout. (They just ran into the hotter Blackhawks.)
Plus, there are those little extra matters in 2013-14 of a full season -- a schedule that will no longer include relatively quick jaunts to Detroit and Columbus, but instead will have more trips to Dallas and Colorado -- and the many players on the roster who will play in the Olympics and will have to go all the way over to Russia to play a bunch of high-pressure games in a short amount of time, before coming all the way back from Russia right before the stretch drive.