Chicago Blackhawks And The Effect Of A Pittsburgh Penguins Dynasty
By Jake Martin
The Chicago Blackhawks’ painfully embarrassing exit from the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs has been supplemented by back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships for the Pittsburgh Penguins. What exactly does this mean for the Blackhawks’ legacy?
June is always an interesting month on Facebook’s “Memories” tab, isn’t it? For myself, every June 9, 15 and 24 my feed is flooded with pictures, videos and other reminders of the moments we’ll remember forever, all relating to the Chicago Blackhawks.
The anniversaries of three NHL championships in six years definitely invokes some serious introspection regarding the team’s apparent “dynasty,” but what exactly is the legacy of this generation of the Chicago Blackhawks?
How has Sidney Crosby’s recent feat with the Pittsburgh Penguins affected it? If we’re being honest and objective (easier said than done), we have to realize that honest comparisons are understandably being made.
I’m going to disclose to you all right now that in this piece I’m going to do my best to step into the shoes of fans around the league, rather than reverting back to the instinctual “THREE IN SIX” chants that can be a knee-jerk reaction to criticism of what the ‘Hawks have accomplished.
Comparing the Blackhawks and Penguins
First of all, what the Penguins have done is remarkable. They, in very convincing fashion, steamrolled through the best that hockey has to offer for two consecutive seasons.
Their signing of Phil Kessel two summers ago has proved to be one of the best decisions in recent memory and they, like the Blackhawks, have had a number of intangible championship qualities that separate a team from the pack. Names like Matt Murray, Nick Bonino, Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary come to mind.
I’ve spent some time the last month or so discussing the legacy of these two teams, and one’s inherent tendency to compare the two. The large consensus, like it or not, has been that while both have done remarkable things in the cap era of hockey, the Penguins’ repeat puts them in a sort of standalone category.
While we all may personally argue that the length of time in which it took the Blackhawks to win three Stanley Cups sets them in a standalone category, we have to be aware of the inevitability of such comparisons.
Room for two dynasties?
I’ve heard a lot of popular local voices insisting over the last month or so that the Penguins’ back-to-back championships do not in any way take away from what the Blackhawks accomplished. And while I’m largely inclined to agree, the difficult comparisons emerging between the two franchises is a direct result of Pittsburgh’s latest accomplishment. What does it mean to no longer be the only dynasty?
If such comparisons are being made more and more, doesn’t that that say something about the concreteness of the Blackhawks’ legacy? I know I don’t speak for just myself when I took particular pride in that “no doubt” sort of feeling that would come with discussing the ’Hawks’ domination of the NHL for the last decade or so.
Now we’ll be getting a “but Pittsburgh went back-to-back” rebuttal constantly. It may not be exactly fair or logical, but then again neither is fandom. It’s an objective, harsh reality.
Do you know that feeling that you get as a Blackhawks fan everywhere you go? In the comments of every post by league social media accounts? In ticket policies in cities like Nashville? I know we all feel it — the Blackhawks’ success has made them Public Enemy No. 1 throughout the league, and that sentiment will leave many fans quick to write them off and discredit what they’ve achieved.
What I’m getting at here is that maybe this can be a reality check that the Blackhawks need more desperately than we know. There’s been plenty of talk about the “country club” atmosphere needing to go in the locker room, and even an adjustment of the coaching staff to solidify it so far this summer.
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Nothing will ever take away what the Blackhawks have accomplished in the last decade or so. Three championships in six years is and forever will be unique to them. They are more than likely still the team of the decade, but the reality is that the “without a doubt” aura that came with discussing the Chicago Blackhawks has been damaged by what the Penguins have done. If we’re denying that, we’re thinking a little too wishfully.