The overused cliché of “it’s tough to repeat” is the safest way to answer that question especially considering we are about 2 months away from the start of the 2013-2014 regular season campaign. However, I’m not paid to answer questions of this sort by not sticking my neck out.
Find out what Swinging Johnson has to say about the Blackhawks 2013-14 Future Odds
The current NHL future odds I am looking at show Chicago at 6/1 to win the 2013-2014 Stanley Cup. The only team with lower odds as we speak are the star studded Pittsburgh Penguins at 5:1. With all considered I believe that to be a very accurate number. Although I think the Penguins are overvalued at NHL odds of 5/1 considering their problems in goal that aren’t looking like they will be resolved anytime soon.
I firmly believe of all the major professional team sports the NHL is far and away the toughest to repeat as champion. When you consider the fact that since the 1988-1989 season there have been only 2 repeat champions in the NHL. The last of which was the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-1998. Then you have to go all the way back to the 1991-1992 year when the Pittsburgh Penguins led by Mario Lemieux accomplished the task. Gone are the days of dynasties such as the Al Arbour coached New York Islanders teams along with the Edmonton Oiler clubs of the 1980’s led by Wayne Gretzky. In this day and age of free agency it’s a major feat to repeat let alone to win 3 or even 4 Stanley Cups in a row.
With all that being said the Chicago Blackhawks are equipped to give it one heck of a shot in the upcoming season. The Hawks General Manager Stan Bowman has done a terrific job of not only assembling this club but also retaining its core group of players. Chicago will return its top 6 regular season scorers, 10 of their top 11, and 14 of the top 16 from a year ago. In addition goaltender Cory Crawford returns as well. Crawford played in all 23 playoff games a year ago and was huge in the final 3 games of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Bowman was able to resign his own free agents Brian Bickell, Michael Handzus, Marcus Kruger, and Michael Rosival. Dave Bolland was traded to Toronto in this offseason. Bolland was a valuable two way performer for the organization over the last several years but arguably is coming off his worst season. Ray Emery also made a lot of headlines last year by posting a 17-1 record as the Hawks backup goalie. Emery was an unrestricted free agent this summer and signed a lucrative deal with the Philadelphia Flyers. Bowman wasted no time by signing free agent Nikolai Khabibulin for the backup role. Even though the veteran backstop is now 40 years old he is a more than an adequate insurance policy.
When speaking of the Chicago Blackhawks organization it’s hard to ignore their head coach. Joel Quennville has done a terrific job in winning 2 Stanley Cups and advancing to a Conference final in his 5 seasons in charge. Quennville has a remarkable 222-106-44 regular season record as the head man in the “Windy City”. He’s well proven to be a combination of master motivator in addition to a superb game planning tactician.
When I put things into proper perspective upon review this wasn’t a team that had a magical run to winning the Stanley Cup. This was a team that accumulated 77 regular season points in just a 48-game schedule a year ago. They were 11 points better than the Anaheim Ducks who finished second in the Western Conference. They were 5 points better than the Pittsburgh Penguins who finished second in the President’s Trophy race. This was far from the plight of the Los Angeles Kings who won the Stanley Cup in the prior year by shocking everyone as a #8 conference seed. This was a club that was favored to win heading into the playoffs and didn’t disappoint.In closing with the heart and soul of this team returning from a year ago, the coaching staff firmly entrenched, and a rock solid managerial organizational structure from top to bottom, it wouldn’t shock me whatsoever to see the Chicago Blackhawks repeat as Stanley Cup champions this upcoming season. Yes, it’s never easy to repeat, but it becomes a bit more probable when you don’t try to fix what isn’t broke.