Chicago, IL — As we put a bow on the final game of the 2011/2012 season, I thought I would take a look back at the road the Chicago Blackhawks took to get to their fourth Stanley Cup playoffs in four years. The most common element throughout the year was it was a season of surprises both good and bad. Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks for making another post season and run for the Cup.
Starting with the pre-season, we saw the emergence of a young prospect Brandon Saad who will be a force in the NHL when he wears an Indianhead jersey. He along with prospects Marcus McNeill and Phillip Danault all had solid years with their junior clubs or AHL/ECHL/WHL affiliates. However the biggest surprise among Hawks prospects has been Andrew Shaw who has no fear of the NHL or anyone who plays in it. His stats are pretty even between his AHL time in Rockford and his NHL time with the Blackhawks now that is saying a lot as the skill levels in the NHL are quite a bit different from the AHL. Call Shaw a very nice surprise indeed.
Lesson learned — always check your pockets for money. You could have everything you need under your own nose.
The Blackhawks learned from the prior year and got off to a fast start which in retrospect was a very good thing because it enabled them too survive a debacle in Alberta and a nine game losing streak. The Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames gave the Hawks fits this year along with a heavy heaping of embarrassment. If the Hawks were embarrassed by their massacre in Alberta they must have felt like the emperor with new cloths when they were riding so high and the wheels on their season came off and could have derailed the entire season. The Hawks literally had to go back to square one and change their game. The team struggled with their defensive play and consistency in games.
Lesson learned – don’t believe your own hype. Stay grounded and always remember the fundamentals; talent only gets you so far. Every team in the NHL can beat you.
Injuries and suspensions are part of the game but I cannot remember a season when so many injuries occurred and to key players. Toews, Montador, Hjalmarsson, Kruger & Lepisto all missed time at crucial points of the season. Toews is still out and is in question if he will even be back for the playoffs where the team will surely miss him. With the new tightening enforcement of head shots and boarding major game suspensions were handed out to Hawks. Daniel Carcillo got both a suspension and an injury when he boarded Tom Gilbert of Edmonton maybe not too surprising. Duncan Keith’s elbowing to the head of Daniel Sedin very surprising.
Lesson learned – there is a time and a place for everything. Discipline & restraint are sometimes the best reactions. You have to think of your team first.
With all of the injuries and suspensions good did come out of it. We saw new leadership from Patrick Kane along with stalwarts Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa & Brent Seabrook. The team came together and found a new way to win games despite all of the obstacles. They found a defensive game and a belief in one another to turn around a sinking ship at just the point in time during the season. Despite media and fan scrutiny this team never once turned on each other or threw each other under the bus.
Lesson learned – the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts. If you play as a team and support one another only good things will come. If you all work towards one goal together anything can be accomplished. Believe in yourselves and never listen to outsiders.
The trade deadline came and Scotty Bowman picked up Johnny Oduya from the Winnipeg Jets when the Blackhawks defense was in desperate need of some help. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were playing some heavy minutes and needed some relief if the Hawks were going to push forward and make a play off run. I don’t think anyone thought Johnny Oduya would make a big impact for the Hawks but he sure has. He provided stability to a very shaky defensive unit.
Lesson learned – one man can make a difference. Always give your best because you may be the difference between success and failure of a team.
With a season filled with ups and downs, defensive woes and offensive spectacles the one thing that has been consistent was the inconsistencies of this team. This team has looked downright dreadful to brilliant from one night to the next. When push comes to shove though it seems they always somehow find a way no matter who is leading the charges.
Lesson learned – the heart of a champion never dies!