Blackhawks: Were Tony Amonte’s talents wasted in Chicago?

Tony Amonte, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images/NHLI)
Tony Amonte, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images/NHLI) /

As an original six franchise, the Chicago Blackhawks have a storied past and had elite level rosters along the way. Unfortunately, star players don’t always enjoy successful seasons.

Recency bias, with three Stanley Cup wins last decade alone, would suggest that the Chicago Blackhawks teams of the 2010s stand well above the rest. But the Blackhawks of the 1990s were packed with stars, too.

Throughout those years, Chicago had players like Jeremy Roenick, Ed Belfour, Steve Larmer, Denis Savard, Steve Thomas, Chirs Chelios, and Bernie Nicholls all producing at all-star levels. But one of their most exciting, let alone successful, player throughout that span was Tony Amonte.

Amonte joined the organization late in the 1993-94 season, after being traded from the New York Rangers, playing his first full season with the team throughout 1994-95. He would go on to play nine years with the Blackhawks, including 627 games, while accumulating 268 goals and 273 assists for a total of 541 points. He was even named captain for the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons, respectively.

During his time with the organization, the team’s best results came early in his tenure. They made it through to the 1995 Western Conference Finals but never reached as far as that again while he was in their lineup. In fact, they missed the playoffs in four out of the eight full seasons he wore a Blackhawks jersey.

Of course, as a team sport, wins and losses are a collective effort. But that doesn’t mean individual success and stats can be (or should be) ignored. Amonte’s play in those years was the best throughout his career – this is not up for debate. Statistically speaking, four of his five most accomplished seasons came while playing for Chicago. He even made it on to four All-Star teams while he was with the Blackhawks.

Having played high school hockey together and then ending up on the same Blackhawks roster for three seasons, Amonte and Roenick often had a lot of comparisons and analysis projected onto them. Roenick is undoubtedly the more recognizable name, given that he made it into the 500 goal club and had five additional years playing in the NHL.

Amonte actually accumulated a greater number of games in Chicago and even scored 1 more goal than Roenick (who had 267) in a Blackhawks uniform. There is no denying that Roenick achieved a more accomplished career, but the illustration here is that Amonte was amongst the most valuable Blackhawks of his time and his numbers indicate that. It could be argued that Amonte was the more important teammate.

Amonte was a skill first type of skater, with speed and agility that was perfect for his playmaking prowess. He also had a versatile shot and was able to snap one-off and into the net before the goalie even knew it was coming. There are definite parallels that one can draw between him and a more recent, and current, Blackhawks superstar – Patrick Kane.

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With that level of talent lacing them up in their locker room throughout the 90s, why couldn’t this team do more? There are many factors that play into an organization’s success, even despite any individual member of it having career years throughout the team’s struggles.

It’s unfortunate to reflect back on what Chicago had in Amonte, with what he was accomplishing, while concluding that the player and team were never able to achieve the same level of results collectively. The timing just wasn’t right.

Throughout his career, Tony Amonte also played for the New York Rangers, Phoenix Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers, and Calgary Flames. But he never reached the same peaks of personal achievement with any other team, as he did with the Chicago Blackhawks.