Could Blackhawks surpass Bulls as Chicago’s greatest team?

Written By BY RICK MORRISSEY Posted: 05/08/2014, 10:58am
Array ST. PAUL, MN - MAY 6: Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov #30 and his Minnesota Wild teammate Zach Parise #11 protect their goal against Patrick Sharp #10 and the Chicago Blackhawks during Game Three of the Second Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 6, 2014 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Forget the bump in the ice Tuesday. Indulge me while I traffic in hypotheticals.

What if the Blackhawks cruise through the rest of the playoffs?

What if they win their second consecutive Stanley Cup and their third in five seasons?

What if they don’t stop there?

What if the parades continue for several more years, and the city streets have a permanent layer of confetti?

Would that be the greatest accomplishment in Chicago sports history, given the difficulties and vagaries of hockey?

Am I getting ahead of myself here? I’m so far ahead of myself I need binoculars to see me. Even to address the topic is to risk a very painful, very public execution at the Altar of Michael.

And, yes, I’m aware that the Hawks played poorly in a 4-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild in Game 3 and that the freak-out factor is high among the more ‘‘involved’’ fans.

But as wildly premature as it is, it’s not as crazy a conversation as it sounds. The Hawks are built to compete at a high level for a long time. Jonathan Toews just turned 26. Patrick Kane is 25. Duncan Keith is 30 and possibly on the way to his second Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman.

(But they were embarrassed Tuesday!)

Calm down. The Hawks, up two games to one, have lost the first road game in each of their last nine playoff series. It hasn’t exactly hurt them. Go ahead and sweat the loss if you want, but it’s a waste of good sweat.

The Hawks could have four players make the Hall of Fame — Toews, Kane, Keith and Marian Hossa — and Joel Quenneville should make it as a coach. Pause and think about that for a second. It is no small thing. Three of those players are in the prime of their careers. The fourth, Hossa, is 35, but anybody who suggests he’s near the end hasn’t been paying attention to how strong he is and the way he still can control the puck.

Let’s do some comparison shopping with the best teams in Chicago sports history.

The Bulls had the greatest player of all time in Michael Jordan when they won their six championships in eight seasons. He and Scottie Pippen would go on to make the Hall of Fame, as would Dennis Rodman, who played on three of those teams. Phil Jackson, their coach, would join them.

The 1985 Bears have four players in the Hall of Fame: Walter Payton, Mike Singletary, Dan Hampton and Richard Dent. You might recall that ’85 team. It’s one of the best in NFL history, and it resonates with Chicagoans like Italian beefs do. It also won only one Super Bowl.

The Cubs won back-to-back World Series in 1907 and 1908 during a five-year span that saw them in the Fall Classic four times. Hall of Famers Mordecai Brown, Frank Chance, Johnny Evers and Joe Tinker played on those teams.

These Hawks, a franchise quite possibly in mid-dynasty, take a back seat to nobody except the Bulls. They’re where the Cubs were 106 years ago (jinx!). And they’re gaining on MJ & Co.

Heresy? I don’t think so.

‘‘We know what it takes every series, every game, every shift to win at this level,’’ Hawks winger Bryan Bickell said before Game 3.

(Yes, but that ugly loss Tuesday! Sleepwalking is one thing. Who knew there was such a thing as sleepskating?)

Take a sedative. This was a blip. The Wild aren’t in the way; history is.

For the Hawks, the great spoiler to the dynasty possibilities might end up being the capricious nature of the game. A hockey puck is a disc, and it has been known to roll, flutter and bounce wildly. Despite all the effort, preparation and attention to detail, a lot comes down to chance. Lesser teams routinely beat better teams in best-of-seven series in the NHL. That rarely happens in the NBA.

Then there’s the issue of injuries. The Bulls’ dynasty wasn’t slowed by them; it was slowed by Jordan’s decision to play baseball. At any moment, one or more of the Hawks’ stars could suffer a significant injury that could change everything.

The team just wants to talk about now.

‘‘In 10 years, maybe we can have this discussion,’’ defenseman Johnny Oduya said. ‘‘Then we’ll see what some of these guys in here have done. For the moment, it’s not really our focus.’’

(Thanks to Game 3, the moment is very, very scary.)

Oh, just relax.

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