Coach Joel Quenneville knows the feeling of winning and hoisting that Stanley Cup. He knows the feeling of watching the Chicago Blackhawks players do the same. And he knows the inevitable question that follows in the ensuing offseason.
“Coming off winning the Cup, the question’s going to be, ‘How’s that Stanley Cup hangover?’” he said on Friday afternoon.
Yes, if that question isn’t asked right at this moment, it will be soon enough. It’s a genuine concern for any team winning the Cup. Repeating is difficult: the Detroit Red Wings were the last to do so, and that was in the late 1990s. It’s even tougher in the salary cap era; the Blackhawks were the first team to win twice since the cap was installed. Factor in a very late finish, a very short offseason, a full 82-game regular season and the Winter Olympics, and the chances of repeating are even more difficult.
Or are they? According to some Blackhawks, as tough as repeating is, they still feel they have a good chance of doing so for several reasons.
“You could look at it that way,” Patrick Sharp said of it being difficult. “But – easier’s the wrong word, but it might be more comfortable with the number of returning players and Joel (Quenneville’s status) being locked up. There’s going to be that familiarity. Hopefully we pick up where we left off last season.”
The Blackhawks lost that familiarity, along with half of their roster, following their 2010 Cup triumph. They spent most of 2010-11 getting familiar with new teammates and fought to get into the postseason – with a little help from the Dallas Stars. But they were very familiar with each other entering 2013, so much so that, despite a five-day “training camp” with the lockout-abbreviated season, they came charging out of the gates.
They’ll have that again this coming season. There were roster changes, the biggest ones being Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik and Viktor Stalberg departing. But the chemistry, core and supporting cast remain largely intact.
Corey Crawford said if the Blackhawks keep the 2013 mindset they should be OK, too.
“The way we approached this last year is how we have to do it again this year: literally game-by-game,” he said of the team that got off to a 21-0-3 start. “You can’t take it any other way, you can’t get ahead of yourself. That’s the way this team plays its best.”
Duncan Keith said it’s also about looking to the past. There are enough guys here who won it in 2013 who also won it in 2010, and they can take lessons from that following summer.
“Winning the first time, you learn a lot about what to do in the offseason the next year,” Keith said. “Obviously we’ll see. There can only be one winner at the end of the day. But I still think we have to make sure we’re prepared and make sure we know it’s important to get off to a good start and use the experiences of last time.”
The Blackhawks still have some summer remaining to enjoy before the can-you-repeat questions really rev up. They’re feeling good about their roster, they’re feeling good about their chemistry and they’re feeling good about their chances.
“It always helps when you’ve been there before,” Sharp said. “The year after we won in 2010 was tough for a lot of different reasons. Half the team was gone. But we have a lot returning, and Joel mentioned today that part of our success was right off the start, with same team from last year. Let’s hope everyone comes back in shape and ready to go.”