Blackhawks impress Wayne Gretzky

Updated: January 26, 2012, 4:50 PM ET
By Jesse Rogers | ESPNChicago.com

Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky is impressed by the Chicago Blackhawks' ability to regroup so quickly after decimating their championship team in 2010 due to salary cap constraints.

"They're a very good team," Gretzky said Thursday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "I think they fell under the new rules category so to speak. They had to make some tough decisions after they won the Stanley Cup that would benefit the organization for years to come. With good solid management and a tremendous coach they were able to, in one year, really restructure their organization to fit under the salary cap and yet still have some great, young talent."

After defeating the Philadelphia Flyers for their first Stanley Cup in 49 years, the Blackhawks were forced to jettison nine players from their roster due to salary cap constraints.

Gretzky, who turned 51 on Thursday, acknowledged his Edmonton Oilers teams of the 80's had a better chance at winning multiple championships because the league didn't have a salary cap as it does now. It forces teams to move players more often than in his days as a player.

"It's tough to repeat in this day and age with so much parity in sports with the salary cap rules," he said. "The kind of year they're having this year is outstanding. They're in a tough division with Nashville, St. Louis and Detroit. And they've had a good start. I expect them to be a tough opponent come the Stanley Cup playoffs."

Gretzky said getting Jonathan Toews back after the All-Star break is important for the Hawks, who are 29-15-6. Toews is out with a hand injury which caused him to pull out of Sunday's All-Star Game.

"Once their captain gets healthy and back in the lineup, he means so much to that hockey team, so much to the game in general," Gretzky said. "You just don't replace a guy like that. Maybe a little bit of a break would be great for him."

Jesse Rogers covers the Blackhawks for ESPN 1000 and ESPNChicago.com.

Jesse Rogers | email

Chicago Cubs beat reporter
Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers the Chicago Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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