Colorado Avalanche Want to Beat and BE the Chicago Blackhawks


The Chicago Blackhawks are still the team to beat in the Central Division.  This year the Colorado Avalanche need to emulate the Hawks and learn to play with passion every night.

The Colorado Avalanche should look to their Central Division foes, the Chicago Blackhawks, for a recipe to success.

Last season, the Chicago Blackhawks were eliminated in a spirited seven game first round against the St. Louis Blues.  After three cups in six years, a first round exit is nothing short of disappointing to the Blackhawks.  Not only did the Hawks not make it past the first round, they also finished behind both Dallas and St. Louis in the Western Conference.

For many, these results could indicate a changing of the guard in the powerhouse Central Division.  While the Stars and Blues are certainly poised to defend this notion, it would be unwise to count out the Chicago Blackhawks.

Many commentators argue that last season was an inevitability for the Hawks caused by the fatigue of three cups and two conference finals appearance in seven years, as well as a result of salary-cap roster casualties.   This is likely true, and whether last season is the beginning of a downward trend for the Hawks, or just a blip on the radar as they pursue league dominance once again, rest assured, they will be back in competition with spirit, dedication and swagger.  

Changes in the Offseason

Over the last few summers, the Blackhawks have made a tradition of shipping out key roster players in order to stay beneath the salary cap.  Unfortunately for the Hawks, their years of success came at the cost of constantly being near the cap ceiling, resulting in difficult offseason personnel decisions.  This offseason continued that trend.

The first salary cap casualty this summer was fan favorite, super-pest Andrew Shaw.  Shaw was shipped to Montreal during the NHL entry draft for a pair of second round picks.  Shaw’s never scored more than 39 points in a season but was hoping for a long term contract and raise from the $2.5 million he made last season for the Blackhawks.

After his trade to the Canadiens, Shaw quickly signed a 6 year contract with an average annual value of $3.9 million.  This is a big contract for a player who’s never eclipsed 40 points.  Hawks fans won’t like seeing Shaw in another jersey next season, but they’ll likely be glad in the long run not to be saddled with this contract.  In fact, two second round picks for Shaw should be considered a steal by Stan Bowman.  Of course, Hawks fans will miss this:

After moving Shaw, Bowman made another big move by trading forwards Bryan Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen to the Carolina Hurricanes for a pair of draft picks.  Bickell is famous for his significant contributions in the 2013 playoffs and the inflated and unmovable contract he received the following offseason.  Teravainen also played a key role in the Hawks 2015 Stanley Cup run, putting up 10 points in 19 playoff games as a rookie, including a key goal and assist in game one of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.  

Overall, this trade might be difficult for Hawks fans to swallow.  While moving Bickell’s $4.0 million cap hit will provide the Hawks with cap relief, they paid a price in shipping out Teravainen as well.  In his first full season, Teravainen put up 39 points in 78 games.  While this might not be jaw dropping, for a long time, he has been considered a key piece to the Hawks future.  He will be given the opportunity to shine in Carolina where he could easily become the top six forward he’s projected to be.  

Losing Shaw, Bickell and Teravainen where big moves for the Hawks this summer.  However, perhaps the most impactful for the team this year will be the signing of defenseman Brian Campbell.  Campbell was a big piece during the Hawks rebuild and the 2011 Cup team.  He returns to Chicago this season on a one year, $2.0 million deal.  

Campbell is currently 37 and definitely in the decline of his career.  Having said that, he’s still managed to produce points while providing blueline security.  The Hawks depth on defense has been one of their weak points the last few years and even though Campbell is 37, he could be a transforming force on the blueline that already boasts Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson.  Many will likely question how big of an impact he can make.  Nothing is certainly, but this could end up being the best move the Hawks make all summer.

Additionally, the Hawks signed the following as depth players: Jordin Tootoo, Spencer Abbot, Pierre Cedric-Labrie, Lars Johannson, Martin Lundberg, Michael Kempny and San Carrick.  Former first round pick and top prospect, Nick Schmaltz, signed his entry level contract this summer and will get his first chance in the organization this year.  

How the Colorado Avalanche Stack Up

For the Colorado Avalanche, the Chicago Blackhawks will once again represent a serious challenge, as well as benchmark for success.  In the post-lockout-NHL (the 2005 one) the Blackhawks are the closest team the NHL has had to a dynasty, but more importantly were the first team to truly succeed at rebuilding.  

The concept of rebuild is a defining aspect the modern NHL.  Because the salary cap prevents teams from buying success, non-competitive teams realize they need to rebuild through the draft and patience, rather than free agency.   After drafting Jonathan Toews 3rd overall in 2006 and Patrick Kane 1st overall in 2007, the Blackhawks were the first team to utilize the rebuild strategy to create a championship hockey team.  

The Hawks successful rebuild has been a template and inspiration for the Colorado Avalanche, who transitioned into their own rebuild with the drafting of Matt Duchene in 3rd overall in 2009.  Several unsuccessful seasons led to a full-on rebuild period highlighted by selecting Gabriel Landeskog 2nd overall in 2011 and Nathan MacKinnon 1st overall in 2013.  As the Colorado Avalanche seek to emulate the Hawks and their rebuilding success, the Blackhawks consistently serve as both an inspiration and benchmark for a Colorado Avalanche team desperately seeking to mature and leave the rebuild phase behind.

Interestingly enough, since 2010, the Avs have gone 16-13 against the Hawks.  In that same period, the Hawks have won an average of 65.6% of their regular season games, while only winning 44.8% against the Avalanche.  Although the Avs have yet to become stable competitors, for some reason, they usually bring it against the Blackhawks.  Most memorably, they were the team to end the Hawks 24 game point streak in 2013; and NHL record for the most consecutive games with a point to begin a season.  

It can be baffling to watch the Avs bring out their best games against the Blackhawks, while phoning in other games to lesser opponents.  I believe strongly that they revere the Hawks as a promise of what they could become, that they bring their best games in order to prove themselves to themselves.  The Blackhawks are like and older brother to the Colorado Avalanche, and the Avs desperately want to prove themselves worthy.

Either way, the Blackhawks represent a difficult and significant opponent for the Colorado Avalanche.  As the Avs seek to mature into cup contenders, the Hawks will serve as a measuring stick for their efforts.  If the Avs want to be like the Hawks, not only does their core have to step up, but the whole team needs to bring the same spark and enthusiasm that they do to Hawks games to every single game this season.  

More from Central Division Preview:

Schedule Against the Blackhawks and Predictions

This season the Avs and Hawks will square off five times.  Despite the Avs having the better overall in the last five years, the Hawks won three of four meetings last season.  Although there was a 6-3 blowout, their other two wins were only by one goal, including an overtime game.  In the Avs only win of the season, they won 3-0, with Semyon Varlamov posting a shutout.  

If the Avs want to be competitive this season, winning the season series against the Hawks will not only be a measure of their ability, but a statement to the rest of the league.  As I mentioned before, games against the Hawks can serve as a proving ground for the young Avs core trying to replicate the success, consistency and leadership of the once-young Hawks core.  

The Hawks might not be the toughest team in the division anymore, though they very well could be, if the Avs can find ways to consistently beat the Hawks then they can also find ways to beat the Blues, Stars, Predators and Wild.  Either way, use the Hawks as a measuring stick for the Avs maturity and development this year.  

November 3rd, at Chicago 6:30 PM

December 23, at Chicago 6:30 PM

January 17, at Colorado 7:00 PM

March 19, at Chicago 5:00 PM

April 4, at Colorado 7:00 PM


I spent the years of 2008-2013 living in Chicago.  In those years, I followed the Hawks closely (always second to the Avs, of course). After watching hundreds of Hawks games,I can attest to, more than anything, that the Chicago Blackhawks and their core are fueled by a fierce pride and will to win.

Related Story: Colorado Avalanche: Preparing for the foes, St. Louis Blues

Watching this team for five years, I learned that you can never count out their leaders, especially Jonathan Toews.  Toews is the gold standard for captains in the NHL, and more important than skill and leadership, possess the exceptionally rare ability to find ways to make things happen. In short, this is the missing ingredient in the Colorado Avalanche, who have talent, but can’t make things work at key moments.

Toews and the Hawks find ways to win no matter their situation.  As the Avs face off against the Hawks this season, not only do they need to push themselves to match the Hawks in maturity, teamwork and leadership, but most importantly, they need to learn from the Hawks.