Shortly after my debut as a writer here at Blackhawk Up last fall, I posted an article speculating that with the departure of the Detroit Red Wings to the Eastern Conference and in the wake of their Stanley Cup wins over the past four years, our beloved Chicago Blackhawks were poised to assume the role of Stanley Cup Finals gatekeepers in the Western Conference that the Wings had held during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s; any team in the Western Conference that wanted to reach the promised land of the Stanley Cup Finals would have to go through Chicago.
This year certainly lent solid evidence to that speculation, but given the results of this season, another dynamic has arisen to more complexly color this predication, and it’s ironically, even eerily similar to what the Red Wings encountered in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
After combining to win four Stanley Cup championships over the course of five years, the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings have entered into speculative discussions in their various circles about the start of respective franchise dynasties. The fact that has been lost on most people is that this occurrence smacks of Western Conference history repeating itself.
During the late 1990’s and early 2000’s despite their success, the Detroit Red Wings were not uncontested as the toughest kids on the block in the Western Conference; they had a then newly-relocated rival: the Colorado Avalanche. From 1996-2002, the Avalanche and Red Wings met in five playoff series, and three times in the Western Conference Finals. Over the course of seven years, the Wings would hoist the Stanley Cup three times and the Avs twice, with both franchises earning a pair of Presidents Trophies as well.
Needless to say, the regular and post season sparring matches between the Avs and Wings were far from gentlemanly. During the late 1990’s, several contests between the two rivals would bloody the ice (literally) with all-out brawls, the most infamous being Fight Night at the Joe, which had a culmination point of goalies Patrick Roy and Mike Vernon coming to blows at center ice.
While only time will tell, with two Stanley Cup rings on their respective hands in the past five years, the Blackhawks and Kings certainly have all the makings to enter into a heated relationship comparable to the one between the Avalanche and Red Wings over a decade ago. Both teams have great depth with vital cogs in place that won’t be going anywhere any time soon, and will likely be in the post season for the foreseeable future.
Furthermore, while the Hawks and Kings have only met each other in the playoffs twice in recent history, the nature of these contests couldn’t have been more epic with both squads consecutively dethroning each other’s Stanley Cup title defense in the Western Conference Finals. The groundwork has certainly been laid statistically speaking for a full-fledged dynasty rivalry to break out, and the smart money says it’ll only take a hard/cheap/injury-causing hit to a key player of either player franchise for the rivalry to explode to Avalanche-Red Wings levels.
Making enemies along the way is inevitable fallout from the Blackhawks remaining viable Cup contenders each year, be it the Kings, St. Louis Blues, etc. As far as we fans are concerned, we need to make sure the Hawks know we have their back in all hostile territories to help them keep chasing a dynasty.
FOR THE DAGGER!