By: Luke Johns, KCOU Sports
In my last column I stupidly picked the Blues to win the Stanley Cup, and pissed off a lot of Blackhawks fans in the process. Well, this time it’s the other way around. It’ll be a lot of Blues (and Red Wings) fans angry and Blackhawks fans reading with a grin going, “yup.”
Why you may ask? The reason being is that in my opinion the Chicago Blackhawks are turning into the NHL’s model franchise before our very eyes. First, let me explain my definition of a “model franchise.”
They make the playoffs just about every year, they go deep in the playoffs just about every year, they go further “than they should” in the playoffs every so often and they’re that team that nobody wants to face in the playoffs because they’re that dangerous team. Also it helps their case if their core group of players is homegrown. For example, in my opinion the other model franchises are the Spurs, the Patriots and the Cardinals in their respective sports. More or less they do just about everything right.
I understand the Red Wings are only five seasons shy of breaking the all-time consecutive playoff appearances streak, and they’ve been that model franchise for so long. But since 2010 they’ve only advanced in the playoffs twice. You read that correctly. In the last six years the Detroit Red Wings have gotten out of the first round only in 2011 and 2013. Aside from those two seasons, they’ve been one and done each year since 2010. Meanwhile the Blackhawks have won two Stanley Cups in that time span and have a chance at a remarkable third championship in six years. I’m not completely knocking what Detroit has accomplished, I’m just saying what Chicago has done this decade is far more impressive and I see it staying that way for a long time.
And even when the Blackhawks aren’t winning the cup, they aren’t losing to lousy teams. In 2011 they were knocked out by the Western Conference Champion, 2012 they ran into the Coyotes who had a red hot Mike Smith in net (who eventually lost to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions themselves) and of course last year the eventual Stanley Cup champions knocked them out in a game 7 that went to overtime off a shot that was deflected in.
The Kings are the only other team to win two cups this decade. There are reports of their locker room being toxic so it’s reasonable to think they could be on a downward swing if they don’t make some changes. On top of that, you can’t call a team a model franchise because of their sudden success in a five-year span.
It’s almost scary how great of a position the Blackhawks are in to succeed for a long time. Chicago has a nucleus of talent entering their prime in Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith to name a few. That shows that their scouting and development knows what they’re doing. The Rockford IceHogs (Chicago’s AHL affiliate) made the playoffs and is still competing for the Calder Cup. That means the Blackhawks are in good shape for the future. Head Coach Joel Quenneville was a nominee for the Jack Adams award in 2013. It’s not a coincidence that Chicago has never missed the playoffs under his leadership, so it’s safe to say their coaching staff does a good job.
All of that is a formula for sustained success, making it inevitable for a team to get the reputation of the model franchise.