Most hockey fans remember it clearly: the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks rampaged to a Stanley Cup victory, yet a money crunch decimated their supporting cast. That next season saw the defending champions merely struggle to compete.
Naturally, then, the question is: will the same thing happen to 2013’s reigning title holders? Let’s look at some big reasons why and why not.
Avoiding huge losses
There’s no doubt that the 2013-14 Blackhawks will look a little different than last year’s model, but losing the likes of Michael Frolik, Dave Bolland and Viktor Stalberg pales in comparison to the losses the 2010-11 team coped with.
Whether it be by trade or free agency, Chicago lost the likes of Antti Niemi, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Kris Versteeg that summer.
This time around, the ‘Hawks retained their Cup-winning goalie in Corey Crawford. (At least for next season.)
Ray Emery left of Philly in favor of ancient backup Nikolai Khabibulin, so that change plus tough-to-top numbers from 2013 means that the Blackhawks will probably deal with smaller margins of error.
Seriously, how can Crawford + Khabibulin equal the combined regular season and postseason that Crawford + Emery produced in 2013?
Crawford: 19-5-5, .926 save percentage in regular season, 16-7 with .932 in playoffs.
Emery: 17-1-0 with a .922 save percentage in regular season.
Injuries and bad luck
The Blackhawks rolled with some punches last year, but the wrong set of injuries could keep them from being near the dominant team that made history in 2013.
Sure, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are still surprisingly young, yet that core put on a lot of mileage last season. (We’re looking at you, Marian Hossa.)
On paper, at least, the new Central Division is far more manageable than the old one. The Detroit Red Wings and (possibly rising) Columbus Blue Jackets leave for three teams that failed to make the playoffs (Colorado, Dallas and Winnipeg) plus one that was easily dismissed in the first round by Chicago (Minnesota).
That alone seems like a nice trade for the Blackhawks, even if they’ll miss their rivalry with Detroit.
Even if everything goes right, Chicago might not top last season. Still, the Blackhawks are much better suited to defend their title this time around.
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