CHICAGO – Five years ago on Monday night, a great team became a dynasty in front of their adoring fans.
June 15, 2015 was a monumental moment for the Chicago Blackhawks as a 2-0 win over the Lightning gave them a third Stanley Cup championship in six seasons. After winning the first two titles on the road, the team finally got to capture a championship at home for the first time since 1938.
One might argue it was the highest the franchise has ever been since being established, having won a trio of cups in under a decade. Considering where the team was just a decade earlier, it was quite an accomplishment.
Five years later, things are a bit different.
The architect of the team’s rebuild as a whole, John McDonough, is out, and so is head coach Joel Quenneville. Two playoff-less seasons followed the Blackhawks’ surprise quick elimination from the 2017 postseason and a third was almost certainly coming before the COVID-19 pandemic paused the 2019-2020 season.
But the NHL’s restart plan has breathed new life into the Blackhawks’ campaign, as they qualified for the 24-team tournament to be played sometime late this summer. A five-game series with Edmonton awaits Jeremy Colliton’s team once things start up, and if the 12th-seeded Blackhawks win that, they’ll head to the traditional 16-team Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In some ways, the delay and subsequent rethinking of the postseason could prove to save this team that was headed toward another disappointing finish. On a conference call with reporters last week, Colliton offered up one reason why this Blackhawks team could have an edge thanks to the long gap between games.
“With the layoff, I think this benefits us. We have some older guys, but I would say overall we’re a young team. That’s something that gets lost in the shuffle sometimes,” said Colliton. “We had eight guys on entry-level play 20-plus games, seven guys who played 35-plus. Five of our Top Ten scorers were on entry-level deals.
“We’re a young group, and a lot of guys got a lot of opportunities this year and they developed as the season went on. They’re going to be a few months older now and they had a chance to kinda settle into their year and reflect on it, they’re going to come back with even more motivation.”
Of course, it still has to happen, and veteran Patrick Kane understands a lot is left to be done. Only individual training is happening at team facilities at the moment, which the forward participated in last week. While a training camp date has been set, host venues for the tournament have yet to be decided along with the dates of play.
While eager to get going again, Kane is being cautiously optimistic.
“Nothing has been agreed to yet, and I think there’s a long way to go before we reach a certain agreement where we would want to come back and play and feel safe enough for it to feel like it’s the right deal for us to come back, and get back to some sort of normalcy here,” said Kane.
Should it all come together, perhaps something memorable can come from this unusual finish to the season for the Blackhawks. Maybe it won’t be as big of an accomplishment as five years ago Monday night, but it could restart the momentum the team had back then.