A day after Joel Quenneville was named the NHL’s coach of the decade, NHL.com has named the Chicago Blackhawks the franchise of the 2010s. Eight playoff appearances. Three Stanley Cups. It was one hell of a decade for Chicago’s hockey team.
The Blackhawks were downright dominant in the first half of the decade. They entered the decade hot by ending a 49-year championship drought when they won the Stanley Cup in 2010.
After back-to-back first-round exits in 2011 and 2012 at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes, the Blackhawks hit the ground running in 2013.
The 2013 NHL season was shortened to 48 games due to a lockout. Games were jammed together and the Blackhawks faced an uphill battle, as the condensed schedule had the Blackhawks playing ten of their first 12 games on the road.
It didn’t phase them. The Blackhawks went on to at least get one point in each of their first 24 games. They officially began the season 21-0-3. That is an NHL record point streak. No team has ever come close to that feat, especially anywhere near the circumstances the Blackhawks were dealing with.
They won the President’s Trophy and entered the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the NHL’s top seed. You’d think they’d cakewalk through the playoffs all the way to Lord Stanley’s Cup. Not so fast.
The hated rival Detroit Red Wings were the Hawks’ opponent in the second round. After winning game one convincingly, the Hawks dropped the next three games to Detroit and were one loss away from an early exit.
Adversity is something the Blackhawks of this past decade were no strangers to. They came back to beat the Red Wings. They overcame an egregious call in game seven that sent the game to overtime. Enter Mr. Overtime.
A team with their backs against the wall had risen to the occasion. As you know, they went on to beat the Los Angeles Kings in five games and then the Boston Bruins in six to win the Stanley Cup.
We witnessed the greatest 17 seconds in not only Blackhawks history, but NHL history. It was a remarkable year with a never-ending share of moments. That is symbiotic of the Blackhawks of this decade.
In 2014, the Blackhawks had a great team once again, perhaps as good as any of the championship teams. This team finished one goal short of winning another Stanley Cup when Alec Martinez and the Kings sent the Blackhawks home in overtime of game seven of the Western Conference Final.
Redemption was the theme of 2015. The Blackhawks came back to not finish short in 2015. They won their third championship of the decade and sixth in franchise history. It didn’t come without adversity though.
The team’s equipment manager, Clint Reif, passed away. This was one of the first and only times we saw Joel Quenneville get emotional. Reif meant that much to the team. They rode that adversity all the way to the league’s mountain top. At the top of the mountain, Duncan Keith stated that this championship was for Clint Reif.
Just getting to the Stanley Cup Final was tough enough for the Hawks. The 2015 Western Conference Final was arguably the greatest series in NHL history. That Ducks team was mean, nasty, and skilled. The Hawks overcame them.
That is what the Blackhawks of the 2010s did. When it mattered most, they showed up. Joel Quenneville pushed all the right buttons. Patrick Kane scored the big goals. Jonathan Toews never let the boys get too high or too low. They overcame any adversity they faced.
The Blackhawks won 67 playoff games during the 2010s. SIXTY-SEVEN. You’ll never see another run like this for the Blackhawks. This decade was the pinnacle of success for this franchise.
A team made up of future Hall-of-Famers Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Marian Hossa were the NHL’s golden boy. They were routinely chosen to showcase the league in outdoor games. They did it all, and that is how they became the NHL’s franchise of the decade.