Full disclaimer right off the bat: I am NOT saying that the Chicago Blackhawks’ success is unwanted, undeserved or unappreciated.
I couldn’t be happier as a fan of the Blackhawks. But as I was watching local news Monday and listening to local sports radio, I noticed something that I thought was a bit odd: The Chicago Bulls, White Sox and Cubs were all discussed in detail, but the Blackhawks coverage seemed as though it was forced. It was like, “Well, I guess we have to talk about the Blackhawks for a few moments.” Not a normal way to approach talking about a team that has won three Stanley Cups in the last six years.
It made me wonder if the Blackhawks have become so good, if their expectations and results have turned them into a boring team because the winning and stability of the organization over the last eight or nine years isn’t buzz-worthy.
Stability of the Blackhawks organization
Since the 2008-09 season, the Chicago Blackhawks have been one of the most consistent teams in the NHL when it comes to winning and being a playoff contender. Other than the strike-shortened season in 2012-13, the Blackhawks have won 44 games or more per season and look like a lock to do that this season as well. In total, from opening night of 2008 through Saturday’s game in Dallas, the Blackhawks won 369 of their 619 games. That is a .596 winning percentage. In that same span, the Blackhakws have made the playoffs every season, with five appearances in the Conference finals, three Stanley Cup Final appearances and three Stanley Cups.
How have they been able to sustain that type of success? Building through drafts, managing salary cap space and being able to keep core pieces together through the long haul have been keys. When was the last time the Blackhawks made a splash at the NHL trade deadline for a player that stayed longer than one season? Michal Handzus? Andrew Ladd? Even then, those names at the time were not a big splash. For the past seven or eight years, the Blackhawks’ fan base have had little to look to at the deadline, other than the exception of the Antoine Vermette and Kimmo Timonen loans last season, beyond trading mid-round draft picks or prospects for mid-level players. Is it a bad thing? No. But it doesn’t breed excitement or talking points at the water-cooler, or in the media.
Expectations of winning and contending
Since bringing in Joel Quenneville as head coach early in the 2008-09 season, the expectations of the organization have skyrocketed. It was pleasant surprise that the Blackhawks made the trip to Western Conference finals in the spring of 2009. Few thought a team that had been irrelevant in the city of Chicago and out of the playoffs for nine of the previous 10 seasons would make a deep run in the playoffs.
It set up high expectations for the 2009-10 season that ultimately ended the 49-year Stanley Cup drought for the franchise. Quenneville and his distinctive mustache have since become icons in the city with two other Stanley Cup championships, as have guys like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and the like.
And as I write all this out, I can hear you saying, ‘We get it. They’re good.”
This season is more of the same for Chicago as it has sat near the top of the NHL this regular season, had multiple players reach the NHL All-Star Game, and has multiple players being considered for postseason awards. Oh, and yes, it is among the Stanley Cup favorites.
No lack of support
With the Blackhawks continuing to win, continuing to be near the top of the league and continuing to have the Stanley Cup make its way through the streets of Chicago over the last few summers, the fan base has been one of, if not the absolute, best in the NHL. In each season since 2007-08, the Blackhawks have averaged more than 21,000 in attendance per game and have led the NHL in attendance in each season from the 2008–09 season to the present. Chicago also holds a consecutive sellout streak for home games that has reached well over 300 games. It’s incredible.
The city of Chicago leads ratings for Stanley Cup viewership consistently, whether the Blackhawks are in the Final or not, and have become one of the most recognizable fan bases across the NHL when the team is on the road, comparable to the Montreal Canadiens.
The winning will continue for some time. The Stanley Cup will be in Chicago again soon (hopefully *knocking on every piece of wood around me*), and talking about a team that consistently is a bore to talk about because it is not surprising anyone, anymore, will continue to be the most boring joy in my life and hopefully in yours.
What do you think? Have the Blackhawks become so good that they are now boring? Let us know in the comments section.