Blueprint: Blackhawks

No one is more excited about the 'Hawks than this guy.  Photo from sabres.nhl.com

No one is more excited about the ‘Hawks than this guy. Photo from sabres.nhl.com

Last night, I tweeted that no one was happier about the Blackhawks win than Buffalo Sabres GM, Tim Murray. My tweet was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but it had to be true that Murray, watching one of modern hockey’s deepest dynasties, felt a modicum of vindication as the Blackhawks celebrated their Stanley Cup victory.

It’s been a tough year for GMTM. There is perhaps no team in the league that has faced as much derision for tanking a season than the Sabres did this past year, and all of the laser focus of social media was aimed directly at Murray. He

Eichel hit the combine with a vengeance.  Photo from foxsports.com

Eichel hit the combine with a vengeance. Photo from foxsports.com

withstood the pressure with an unchanging façade, as though he was chiseled from marble. He had his own sights set on the ultimate prize – one young superstar named Connor McDavid. When Edmonton drew the first pick in the lottery, Murray was obviously shaken. His unfiltered comments may have damaged a yet-to-be-borne relationship with Boston University standout, Jack Eichel, who is destined to be the Sabres’ pick in the upcoming draft; however, Eichel has hit the offseason with a giant chip on his shoulder. Eichel outperformed his competition at the NHL Combine a few weeks ago, and the cherry on this bitter sundae is that he has yet to commit to the NHL next season. This battle of wills may rage on into training camp.

Lottery fails and bitter battles aside, Murray may just make it out of this with quite a legacy for himself. It wasn’t that long ago that the Chicago Blackhawks were where the Sabres are now – rock bottom. In fact, Chicago won only 20 games in their worst season, which is 3 fewer than Buffalo won this past year. The ‘Hawks would stumble through a lockout year and another bad season or two, all the while, building toward something big. By the time they acquired current captain Jonathan Toews, some of the foundation had been laid. Players who contributed heavily to the Cup win, including Conn Smythe winner, Duncan Keith, were already on the roster, developing chemistry and gaining experience. The remainder of the roster was fairly inconsequential – a few names standout as marginally successful NHL players, such as Dustin Byfuglien and Patrick Sharp, but largely, the team was comprised of placeholders.

Risto could be the key to the next big step.  Photo from buffalohockeybeat.com

Risto could be the key to the next big step. Photo from buffalohockeybeat.com

Sound familiar? The resemblance may be uncanny, as Buffalo heads into the 2015 draft in very similar fashion. While no one is comparing young defensive standout Rasmus Ristolainen to a superstar like Keith, their stat lines for their rookie seasons are similar. Risto was one of a few standouts for the Sabres this season, and seemed to establish himself as a leader on and off of the ice. Ristolainen rarely took a foolish penalty, played nearly top-line minutes, and along with fellow rookie Nikita Zadorov, began to develop into a d-line that could be a number one pair very soon. The Blackhawks’ questionable goaltending was suffering through the end of an era, as Corey Crawford was waiting in the wings to take the job in the Chicago net. While he may not be NHL ready this season, Swedish netminder Linus Ullmark is poised to take on the AHL after a great season for Modo. And then, there’s the draft pick…

According to former ‘Hawks and current Panthers GM, Dale Tallon, Toews was underrated going into the draft. “He plays error free hockey,” Tallon said at the time. “He’s a character kid on and off the ice. He plays both ends of the ice extremely well.” The Eichel story is remarkably similar. Highly touted in both college and national hockey, Eichel is said to be a born leader, with the strength and vision to dominate the ice. Like Toews, Eichel is clutch. Down by one with 45 seconds left, there is perhaps no man a team wants on the ice more than Jonathan Toews. He is simply the guy that scores those goals. Eichel led the NCAA in third period goals this season. He is the go-to guy of the next generation.

If Eichel is anything like this guy, Buffalo is in for a good, long run at the top.  Photo from blackhawks.com

If Eichel is anything like this guy, Buffalo is in for a good, long run at the top. Photo from blackhawks.com

With the season finally at the end, NHL fans now turn their attention to the draft. Buffalo is ready to take that next step in this rebuild – to obtain the men who will lead them out of the deepest, dankest period of Sabres history and onto glory, like those that have gone before them. Buffalo owes Chicago a small debt of gratitude for paving this road – providing the blueprint for a Cup-winning foundation. Today we celebrate with the city of Chicago, and hope that someday soon, it’s our team that is the next NHL dynasty.

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2 Comments on “Blueprint: Blackhawks”

  1. erikwollschlager June 16, 2015 at 10:11 am #

    Reblogged this on ewollschlager and commented:

    Does Buffalo have the tools to follow Chicago’s blueprint?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Chicago's destiny; Tampa's misery; happy 'Alexei Yashin Independence Day' (Puck Headlines) | Wolrd Blogs - June 16, 2015

    […] • To create a Stanley Cup winning monolith, follow the Blackhawks blueprint. [What’s Going On In Buffalo] […]

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