Much of the recent success of the Chicago Blackhawks should be attributed to good drafting, excellent player development, and smart trades. The other small percentage of the overall recipe for the ’Hawks’ current Golden Age is complementing the home-grown players with a few timely and effective free-agent signings.
A team can’t be built on free agents alone. In fact, a team shouldn’t have a whole lot of free agent signees on it’s roster. Teams with lots of brought in free agents tend to have a hard time developing their own talent and if they are successful at all, it’s in short bursts followed by long stretches of unsuccessful hockey.
The ’Hawks have been doing this the right way for a long time now, and here are five examples of it in action
5. Jamal Mayers
Jamal Mayers joined the ’Hawks before the 2011-12 season. This was the season that followed the disappointing first-round playoff exit at the hands of the eventual 2011 Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks.
The 2010-11 season was a transitional season for the ’Hawks. After winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, contract extensions for Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith were set to kick in, forcing the ’Hawks to shed salary and send players elsewhere, via trades, to get under the salary cap. Sound familiar?
The ’Hawks tried filling the several holes in the roster with several misguided free agent signings, many of which were odd fits. Washed up top-six forwards like Fernando Pisani were brought in to play fourth-line roles, and it wasn’t pretty.
The depth that helped propel the ’Hawks to a Stanley Cup had become a black hole, and they were luckily able to barely sneak into the playoffs, just to be ousted by the Canucks in the first round.
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Enter Jamal Mayers.
Mayers at the time was a veteran bottom-six forward known for playing a tough, responsible defensive game. It was something the ’Hawks sorely lacked on their bottom six in the 2010-11 season. Mayers had a very solid season for the Hawks in ’11-’12, but sadly the ’Hawks fell to the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round of the playoffs.
Following the lockout in the fall of 2012, the 2013 NHL season began with the ’Hawks on fire. Mayers, with his top-notch defensive play, as well as that of his fellow bottom sixers, helped solidify the William Jennings Trophy winner Corey Crawford and Ray Emery.
The ’Hawks went on to win the Stanley Cup in 2013, as we all remember.
Mayers became an analyst for Comcast SportsNet Chicago, covering the ’Hawks while also recently signing with the ’Hawks front office as a community liaison.
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