May 27, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) and right wing Patrick Kane (88) bring the puck up ice against the Anaheim Ducks in the first period in game six of the Western Conference Final of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Blackhawks are playing in Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals for the second straight year. This has been one of the best series during the Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews era. Both teams have played at extremely high level in an evenly matched series. If the Blackhawks win, this will be their third appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals since 2009-10. During the Kane and Toews era, the Blackhawks have accomplished a lot. They have appeared in five Western Conference Finals, won the President’s Trophy, and Won two Stanley Cups. They also set the record for the longest streak in NHL history without a regulation loss and they have produced a two-time Norris trophy Winner in Duncan Keith, and two Conn Symthe winners in Kane and Toews.
A lot of writers have been willing to anoint the Blackhawks with a modern day dynasty label. The two Stanley Cups and five conference finals in the last seven years would constitute as a dynasty in the Salary cap era. No team during this era has been to that many conference finals. No team has one back to back Stanley Cup championship. The three other Stanley Cup winners during this era did not advance to the Conference final round this season. The Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings did not make the playoffs this season. The Pittsburg Penguins were ousted by the New York Rangers in first round of the playoffs. That is what makes the Blackhawks success so much more impressive. It is hard to win consistently in the salary cap era. Now it is likely that there will never be another Edmonton Oilers’ type dynasty in the NHL due to player movement and salary cap situations.
Tonight’s Blackhawks game against Anaheim Ducks could be one of the last rides for this version of the team. The salary cap crunch will mean members of the Blackhawks “core” will most likely be traded away. This will be the second time during the Kane and Toews era the Blackhawks have to purge their roster. The first time was after the 2009-10 season. One of the “core” players during the Kane and Toews era has been Patrick Sharp. Sharp will most likely be traded away to get farther under the cap. Sharp will make close to 6 million dollars next season. Sharp has been a member of the Blackhawks since 2005-06.
In order for the Blackhawks to solidify their legacy and truly hold dynasty status, they must win tonight. They have to win Game Seven and then go to the Stanley Cup and win. That would make it three Stanley Cups in eight seasons. If they don’t win tonight, the Blackhawks legacy could suffer. They still should be viewed as one of the best teams of the salary cap era, but might be comparable to the Los Angeles Kings. If the Blackhawks win this game and the Stanley Cup in the next round there is no comparison.
The Blackhawks will have defined the term “dynasty of the salary cap era” and cemented their legacy in hockey.