Very satisfying in the end though and not just because Chicago ended their long drought or because of my past ties to them although I have to admit I cannot remember a Stanley Cup result more pleasing to me. Watching Wednesday night and Jenn and a couple of friends were here, having just polished off a couple of bottles of red and Kane shot and suddenly his arms were in the air and as soon as I saw that I shouted "Its in! Its in! They've won! They've won!" and then watched the celebration afterwards which I always really enjoy. Actually my wife joined me and pointed out that Sopel's wife was wearing sweat pants and heels and then we both laughed at Keith and his hobospeak. Right down to the slurring lisp. And then because I had it PVR'd we had drunken couch sex while Keith was interviewed in the background. When it was over I remarked that this was the Canadian dream, Stanley Cup celebrations, wine and beer, sex. She said it wasn't her dream and I said that I wasn't talking about her. And then I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning drinking and basically killed the rest of my week. Seriously though I will remember that night forever. Great great night.
The Hawks were the best team in the league this year by my eye and yet their path to the Cup proved that regardless of how good you are or how deep you are its a long and perilous road. Against Nashville they looked nervous to me and Keith really looked off. Kane was Kane. Kid gives back a lot but in terms of offence he has a flair for the dramatic and that shortie against Nashville to tie it with only seconds left was probably what got them rolling. That and the return of Campbell. Campbell is one of those guys who is a good player who will forever be overshadowed by that contract. His return to form allowed them to move Byfuglien up and gave them a top four Dman basically. Big addition. After that they didn't seem in danger to me against the Preds and they deserved to beat the Canucks. Superior depth again.
The Sharks' series was closer than a sweep but then again so was the Sharks' sweep of the Wings. Niemi was the difference, he and the superior depth of the Hawks again. Put it this way, no other club would have scratched a twenty two goal scorer or shunted him to the fourth line as the Hawks did with Brouwer. Pretty crazy shit. And a guy like Colin Fraser who I rate pretty well based on admittedly limited viewing didn't even get on the ice.
Philadelphia did better than I thought and really they could have been up four games in (although a Hawks' win in OT in game three would have finished it early). Pronger did what Pronger does. Buddy is one of the alltime greats. He's vicious and he's a prick and so have been so many of the greats through the years - from Eddie Shore through Howe and Lindsay and Mikita in his younger days and all the way through Bobby Clarke and Messier and Anderson and Chelios and all the rest. We had him on our side and we saw what he could do and he did it again this year until Quenneville came up with his stroke of genius and split up his top line.
And that is where the Hawks had it won. The Flyers could shuffle their lines to try and get guys going but when you have Asham in your top nine and a kid like Giroux who showed well at home but disappeared in Chicago and Carter playing on a broken foot well your options are limited. If Leino and Hartnell had not caught fire this sucker probably would have never have been close. Hawks were five deep on the back end and then threw Boynton out there who proved to be reliable when called upon.
And up front they were just too much. Hossa and Toews could drag Kopecky around just as Smyth and Horcoff drug around Winchester and Harvey whilst playing the toughs four years ago (and seriously based on that should Lowe not have signed Smyth, the dummy, Lowe that is) and when they were out there the puck was in Philly's end pretty well steady and while they got scored on by the Briere line a couple of times they made them play defence and when they were playing D they couldn't get close to Niemi. And that left Sharp and Kane to do some damage and Bolland and Byfuglien and Vertseeg to do some more and in the end that killed the Flyers. Line after line over the boards, chipping it past the Flyer D, making them turn and work and Pronger and Timmonen and Carle and Coburn all had tough games those last two outings. Same as everyone else Chicago faced though.
Of course the shitty goaltending didn't help. Niemi was no hell games one through four either but Leighton was out and out bad a number of times and in game six Niemi was stellar in the third. He was very good those first three rounds and I figured that if he could have one very good game that would do it for Chicago once they won game five and he came back next game and did it for them.
And so now Chicago celebrates and its a wonderful thing to see and then Stan Bowman will have to do something (seriously did he make a single move after Tallon got canned?). Well he will have to do a lot of things. With the bonuses that Kane and Toews earned this club is even in deeper shit than before.
Still the favourite though. Lidstrom is a year older and the Sharks have some choices to make themselves and the Hawks themselves are likely to be better next year, the ones who remain. You would think so anyhow, they're still mostly a bunch of kids. What is going to happen to them is what happened to Detroit more than what happened to the Pens. The Pens lost some pretty good players and ended up with a couple of superstars and a lot of average players. The Wings meanwhile have had their depth eaten at for years, slowly but surely, and this is what is about to happen to the Hawks. If they stay healthy next spring they will be the team to beat again but they won't have a guy with twenty two goals on the fourth line or a handy veteran like Madden to PK and act as the insurance guy on draws.
They'll bury Huet and they'll move heaven and earth to move Campbell and if they succeed there then they'll be set. If they can't move Campbell well then it will be Sopel and either Versteeg or Byfuglien who get the gate, probably Ladd too. I'd move Byfuglein myself but my guess is it will be Versteeg.
So they will be thinner up front but running out a forward group of Toews, Hossa, Sharp, Kane, Bolland, Versteeg, Brouwer, Kopecky in their top nine plus the role players they have, well they could throw a kid out there and then bring in cheap help at the deadline if need be.
Nice looking club still I think. And if they can move Campbell well then they'll be set for a few years.
The guy they HAVE to sign is Niklas Hjalmarsson. If Smid could turn into that guy that would be a start.
And of course if you're a Hawks fan it doesn't matter anyhow. I talked to my Dad last night and I could hear him beaming through the phone. They were due he kept saying, they were due.
I actually made a mistake before, I thought my folks had gotten married in April of '61 but it was actually '62. Consider though for my Dad what happened since Mikita and Hull and the rest won back in 1961. He was twenty eight, not yet married. His son was six years away from being born.
Now he's been married forty eight years. He worked over thirty years for a company in between those Cups, started, worked his way up, retired. His son is forty two and has three children of his own. His parents passed on as did his brother and some very good friends. He bought a house and a camp and he travelled across Canada and a good part of the United States. Like anyone, like you, like me, he has a million stories. A rich rich life full of them.
Could you imagine? That's crazy. No wonder Chicago has been partying like its Nineteen Ninety Nine.
Check out those fuckers!! Whoo, gotta love the 80s. Headbands and doctors' shirts and eyeshadow and purple sparkly shit everywhere. Whoo whoo whoo!!! Whoo!
Okay so I'm a little overtired. I'll leave you with this though. This is from just before the last Hawks' win. And its apropos because Hawks fans also had not seen the sunshine in oh so long.
And finally this cool little interview from SI with two of the all time greats.