The Chicago Blackhawks managed to make a statement Tuesday night at the United Center. The fans showed their lack of respect for the Canucks’ brass and the players showed their firepower, beating Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo four times in the 2nd period en route to their 7-2 drubbing.
That being said, do the Hawks have what it takes to make history again? Can they turn this series around and beat the Canucks for the third consecutive year in the playoffs? That would be a truly formidable task. In fact, when I was thinking about this article I was anticipating a sweep in this series, but nevertheless, with the survival of the Hawks the question remains, is the Dynastic Era for NHL clubs gone??
The Dynasty is a contentious topic amongst sports enthusiasts as there is no clear working definition. Does a team have to win consecutive titles to be described with this prestigious status like the New York Islanders did from 1980 to 1984? Or is it just pure domination like the Edmonton Oilers from 1984 to 1990; winning 5 titles in that time span?
In either respect, it could be considered more commendable for a franchise to achieve this feat under the constraints of today’s salary cap. A good recent example is the Detroit Red Wings, arguably one of the most competitive teams over the past two decades who have won Cups in 2002 and 2008. It would be difficult to consider them a Dynasty though because they haven’t necessarily dominated the league, however they have made the playoffs for the last 2 decades straight which warrants some serious consideration.
But back to the Blackhawks, last year’s Stanley Cup winner. From a salary standpoint, Chicago was unable to retain many of their blue chippers like Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Antti Niemi and more. Those four players alone this year hit their respective teams caps to the tune of about $10 Million. The Blackhawks problem doesn’t really start with the commitment of approximately $18 Million to Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith as these are the core players of this franchise and are imperative to the success of the team. Chicago’s difficulties to hold the other important pieces together come into play when considering that another $18 Million price tag was on Marian Hossa, Brian Campbell and Patrick Sharp for their contributions this year. So what does this all mean? Out of the 10 playerss just discussed, roughly $46 Million of approximately $59 Million is consumed by two lines and a goalie.
This is old news that has been mentioned before, but the effects are really showing in this series excepting Tuesday night’s statement game. Chicago filled its roster after the departure of many with the likes of Fernando Pisani, Michael Frolik, Corey Crawford and more. Pisani in 60 games this year scored 7 times and had 9 helpers, Frolik in 80 games had 11 and 27 respectively and Crawford finished with a 33-18 record. Compare these stats to the blue chippers from last year; Byfuglien last year in Chicago played 82 games with 17 G and 17 A, Ladd in 82 games had 17 G and 21 A, and Niemi won 26 games in 18 less opportunities than Crawford had this year. This is a small sample size for comparison, but already the missing pieces are tangible.
So, what’s my point?
The Vancouver Canucks, winners of the President’s Trophy and picked by many to win the cup this year could be in line for the same ‘woes‘ as their current foes. This year’s success of the Vancouver Canucks can be attributed to their ability to keep the puck out of their own net. The defense, along with Mr. Luongo have put up the best goals against per game this year at 2.20. Obviously, Luongo is not going anywhere, but his defensive supporting cast could be dismantled.
It has been speculated that the cap could raise by $3 Million next year, so if that is in fact the case the Canucks will have a total of about $62.4 Million to work with. The unfortunate reality is they already have approximately $50 Million of it committed to the roster. There are 11 players on the current active roster that are UFA’s or RFA’s come this off-season which could spell a number crunch for the Vancouver front office.
Again, these players are role players, but nevertheless significant to the team’s progression through the year and will play important roles throughout the remainder of the playoffs. Some names to consider and their current salary; Kevin Bieksa ($3.5M), Sami Salo ($3.5M), Christian Erhoff ($3.4M), Raffi Torres ($1 M), Chris Higgins ($1.6M) and Max Lapierre ($.9 M). Those names alone total over the speculated cap for next year in addition to the funds already committed. After those reflections, the Canucks will have to consider just how important Tanner Glass, Rick Rypien, Jannik Hansen, Andrew Alberts and others are to the franchise. Sure some of these guys haven’t even made appearances in the playoffs yet, but they did play a role in getting the ‘Nucks there and need to be considered when discussing rosters and cap hits as they do affect the decisions that need to be made.
With that in mind, the Vancouver brass has their long term outlook and perspectives to worry about even more than some heckling at the United Center.
There are obviously other teams that could be considered – a more in depth analysis on the Red Wings, the Penguins and dare I say the Flyers… four consecutive playoff appearances, hey it is a start. The Dynasty in the NHL might now only be seen in our rear view mirrors and this puts winning the cup into a new perspective, a short sighted one that focuses on tasting Champagne from the cup itself, but not for too long as an immediate return to the drawing board is necessary.