This is how you make a contender like the 2008-2009 Chicago Blackhawks. Carefully. You build it on the backs of broken seasons, hardships gone but not forgotten, and state wide liver damage of your fans. 3 years ago no one would have mentioned the Chicago Blackhawks and the Playoffs in the same breath unless it was the punchline to a joke or just some wishful thinking. Now the team is not only a contender for the Playoffs but the question is "How far will they go?" So I thought I'd break it down where this team came from.
The Draft is the best place to refill the cupboards efficiently without the risk of signing a big money bust on the free agency market. But drafting excellently takes not just good, but great scouting. This is where Dale Tallon's insistence on doubling the budget for scouting on his first day of being a General Manager comes into play. It's easy to see where the scouts came in towards how, when, and who they drafted. Patrick Kane at 1st overall is a no-brainer so was Johnny Toews at 3rd overall, assuming he's still left out there. But the true genius comes in snagging a guy like Dustin Byfuglien in the 8th round or super pest/grinder Adam Burrish in the 9th and then watching them crack the NHL line up legitimately.
Dave Bolland- DRAFTED 2nd round draft pick (32nd overall) in the 2004 draft
Troy Brower- DRAFTED 7th round draft pick (214th overall) in the 2004 draft
Adam Burrish- DRAFTED 9th round draft pick (282nd overall) in the 2002 draft
Dustin Byfuglien- DRAFTED 8th round draft pick (245th overall) in the 2003 draft
Patrick Kane- DRAFTED 1st round pick (1st overall) in the 2007 Draft
Johnny Toews DRAFTED 1st round pick (3rd overall) in the 2006 draft
Cam Barker DRAFTED 1st round (3rd overall) in the 2004 draft
Duncan Kieth DRAFTED 2nd round pick (54th overall) in the 2002 draft
Brent Seabrook DRAFTED 1st round (14th overall) in the 2003 draft
James Wisniewski DRAFTED 5th round pick (156th overall) in the 2002 draft
So you drafted a dud and signed a bust, huh? Well chances are someone deeply and thoroughly believes that that bust or dud simply needs a change of scenery or a different system and will be willing to make a deal unless you're trying to shop Sean Avery around. Trading wisely can build a core of players to play the 3rd and 4th lines and occassionally you get lucky and put a Patrick Sharp in your line up for next to nothing. I would like to take a minute here to deeply thank Bobby Clarke for his contributions to the Chicago Blackhawks, and for taking some of the deadest weight we've ever had.
Craig Adams- Acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes for a conditional Draft pick last season.
Ben Eager- Acquired from the Philedelphia Flyers for defenseman Jim Vandermeer (now in Calgary)
Colin Fraser- Acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers with Jim Vandermeer and a 2nd round pick for Alexi Zhamnov and a 4th round pick.
Martin Havlat- Acquired from the Ottawa Senators with Bryan Smolinski for Micheal Barinka, Mark Bell, Tom Preissing and Josh Hennessy and a 2008 2nd round draft pick through San Jose
Andrew Ladd Acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes for Tuomo Ruutu (Chicago's 2001 1st round [9th overall] draft pick).
Patrick Sharp Acquired from the Philadephia Flyers with Eric Meloche for Matt Ellison and a 3rd round draft pick in the 2006 draft
Kris Versteeg Acquired from the Boston Bruins for Brandon Bochenski
So you drafted some youth, traded for some energy, but you need some much missing veteran depth to replace your duds and losers that got traded away, huh? Free Agency is the place for you to go assuming you can stomach a big contract, attract the right kind of attention from the player you want, and have a viable destination for him to go. The free agent market is a dangerous and surprising place. You have everything from the small dollar surprise such as Walker and Johnson to the mid-level contributor such as a Brent Sopel all the way to the "Holy Grail" acquisition of a Brian Campbell.
Free Agent Signings
Brian Campbell Free Agent signing before the 08-09 campaign
Aaron Johnson Free Agent signing before the 08-09 campaign
Brent Sopel Free Agent signing before the 07-08 campaign
Matt Walker Free Agent signing before the 08-09 campaign
Chrisotbel Huet Free Agent signing before the 08-09 campaign
Nikolai Khabibulin Free Agent signing before the 05-06 campaign
I hope you all have learned something about building a team of players that will compete at a high level. But more importantly I hope my little exercise leaves you with a better understanding of how the Chicago Blackhawks went from the bottom to the middle and now onward towards the top.
*Thanks to NHL.com and ChicagoBlackhawks.com for all acquisitions and transactions information.