The Chicago Blackhawks Used to Play a Hybrid System to Find Success

Connor Murphy #5, Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo by Ben Nelms/Getty Images)
Connor Murphy #5, Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo by Ben Nelms/Getty Images) /

The Stanley Cup-winning teams for the Chicago Blackhawks were all big and could play a skilled or a physical style. Why not follow that same blueprint?

The Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks teams were skilled, yet full of big, strong guys who kept the opposition in check: Bryan Bickell, Brent Seabrook, Brandon Bollig, Ben Eager, Dan Carcillo, the list goes on. This team only began to get pushed around when the front office decided to go down a smaller, skilled path.

Jeremy Colliton has been disappointing and frustrating but, to me at least, not infuriating. On Saturday afternoon, though, he infuriated me. With Alex Debrincat picked on, Patrick Kane cross-checked into the boards, Adam Boqvist elbowed in the face, AND Connor Murphy targeted every time he’s on the ice, I expected Zadorov or Reese Johnson to come out and give the Lightning a taste of their own medicine. That didn’t happen, and the Lightning continued their bullying ways for the entire game. Colliton then came out and told the media that he didn’t want his team to retaliate.

So, your star players get bullied, your top defender is attacked, and your young defenseman gets a cheap shot to the face. Yet, you don’t think your team should do anything about it?

A skilled team doesn’t mean you just roll over and get beat up. Let’s take a look back at the Stanley Cup-winning teams. These teams were at the top of the league, but still had the size and physicality to keep the opposition in line.

2010 – Ben Eager, Brent Seabrook, Dustin Byfuglien, Adam Burish, Colin Fraser, Andrew Ladd, Troy Brower (the list goes on)

These guys were staples in the lineup, making sure that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were protected. They jumped the Canucks when they attempted to do anything against their team, and didn’t back down from a fight. This team as a whole did play as a team and didn’t allow one of their guys to get bullied for even a minute. If someone even touched Kane, Eager, Brower, even skilled guys like Andrew Ladd would chase them down.

2013 – Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw, Daniel Carcillo, Brandon Bollig, Sheldon Brookbank, Jamal Mayers, etc.

Just like the 2010 team, the Blackhawks possessed strong, physical guys who would go after anyone on the ice. The Boston Bruins series was something to take into account, where the Blackhawks were labeled as a skilled team. Instead, the Blackhawks came out and showed the Bruins that they were not going to be pushed around. It’s the finals, so no one would drop their gloves, but there were a few scrums when the Blackhawks wouldn’t back down.

2015 – Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw, Antoine Vermette, Andrew Desjardins, Michal Rosival, Brent Seabrook, etc.

This team was also skill-heavy, so much so that they were the favorites for the Cup before the season began. This team was still full of guys with size and physicality, making sure that no one would mess with their guys. Jonathan Toews never had to drop the gloves unless he wanted to because someone else would have gone out and done it first. The Anaheim Ducks attempted to push the Blackhawks around, but the Blackhawks didn’t let them and outhit them on some occasions.

This year is a different story.

The Chicago Blackhawks became a small, “skilled” team with no one in their lineup who would do something if the opposition picked on them. The Blackhawks have the guys they need to stand up for their team, such as Nikita Zadorov, Brandon Hagel, Reese Johnson, and Ryan Carpenter. But that list of guys are either small or can’t fight to save their life (I’ll let you figure out who this is).

Stan Bowman needs to acquire some more size and grit to the team, and if he really is going down the “taking advantage of cap space” route, I expect him to take on contracts of guys who are able to stand up for the team. The Blackhawks are taking them on anyway, so do something for the team. A few names I saw on that list were Leo Komarov, Andrew Ladd (again), and John Moore. Each of these guys are big and physical, but I’d prefer to add the size and physicality at forward than at defense.

The NHL is going back to a physical style, and fighting is coming back. I’m not against this at all, but the Blackhawks are going to get eaten alive when they play teams like the Boston Bruins and the Washington Capitals next year. If you want Patrick Kane to be like Tom Brady and play at a high level into his forties, get guys who will protect him. His body won’t last in the league for much longer if he continues to get beat up. The same goes for Alex Debrincat and Adam Boqvist.

By naming small guys as members of the “Next Era of Blackhawks Hockey” along with Kirby Dach, then you have to acquire or draft guys such as Trent Frederic and Pat Maroon, and keep guys like Brandon Hagel and Reese Johnson to protect them. These four players mentioned are physical, but they still contribute to the team in positive ways to win games. Every team needs players like them to win, and the Blackhawks need to acquire or draft those guys who can stand up for the team, and a coach who will let them do so.