When Jonathan Toews was selected third overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2006, he was joining a team that had just finished the season with a 26-43-13 record.
The Blackhawks had ended the year in fourth place in the Central Division and missed the postseason for the third consecutive year — not including the lockout in 2004-05.
It wasn't the best of times in Chicago, but that all began to change quickly. The Rocky Wirtz era was starting, and the Blackhawks drafted Patrick Kane the following year with the first overall pick. Both rookies were ready to start making their mark.
The climb back up was well under way, but thinking back to that day he was drafted, Toews said he would have been shocked if someone told him his team would already have two Stanley Cups in these years since his professional career began.
"My first reaction would have been, how? I'm not sure how we're gonna do that or what's gonna happen, how we're gonna get there," he said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. "But somehow we did, and when it happened, it didn't feel like a surprise at all. It felt like we really belonged there and like we really deserved it. We did what we had to do to get to that level and I think you just slowly find your way.
"We've had our ups and downs, but mostly better moments with this team. We know that we can continue that success and continue to enjoy it."
But when it comes to looking at the growth of the Blackhawks over the last few years and the success they've had, it's not just about comparing things to the past.
Just the fact that we live in the salary cap era makes it that much harder for any team to see continued success — even the Blackhawks dealt with the ramifications of the cap after they won the Cup in 2010.
Over time, the Blackhawks have developed their core players into stars and built up strong depth not only on their roster, but also with their AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs.
Toews and Kane see all the potential having that type of depth brings, and now they hope that continues to work to their advantage as they make their push for more Stanley Cup victories in the future.
"Looking back as a kid coming into the league, the main thing you dream about is winning the Stanley Cup," Kane said. "When it does happen, it kind of feels surreal, that you're lucky enough to be in that situation to the point where every year you're in the playoffs or close to achieving that goal. You want to make sure you're taking advantage of that situation, especially with where we are now in our careers.
"We know how few of those opportunities can come along. We've been fortunate enough to win two, and I think looking at our team now we made a couple conference finals, almost came back 3-0 against Vancouver who ended up making it to the finals that year; you could sit here and argue that maybe we could have had more. So we have to make sure we're taking advantage of every year."