Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chicago has a winner, and it's the team that just lost

Not the Bears, even with The Great Jay Cutler playing all 22 positions, making field goals, punting, returning kicks and refreshing the water jugs. He's gonna do all that, right?

Not the Bulls, with no inside presence, no go-to guy, no defensive stopper ... and a salary-cap situation that will keep things that way.

Not the White Sox, whose best players are getting old and whose young players aren't good enough.

Not the Cubs because ... do we really have to say it? They're the freakin' Cubs!

The Blackhawks, my friends.

If any Chicago team is to win a championship within the next decade, that team will have to be the Blackhawks.

Their season is over, but what a season it was. They finished second in their division to the great Red Wings, won two playoff rounds, stole a series from a team that had home-ice advantage, took the defending champs into OT three times in five games and on Wednesday almost staved off elimination on Detroit ice despite missing their goalie and top scorer.

Along the way, they made a town that once loved hockey start to fall in love all over again.

Unlike the Bears of '01 and '06, there wasn't a smoke-and-mirrors feel to this Blackhawks team. Unlike the Cubs of '07 and '08, the young Hawks quickly figured out how to win in the playoffs. Unlike the Baby Bulls of recent vintage, these Blackhawks aren't faux contenders. 

So can they grow up to be like the White Sox of '05? Well, sure. Why not?

The Blackhawks need to re-sign Nikolai Khabibulin. That Cristobal Huet played well Wednesday might make more teams interested in trading for Huet (and his salary), thus freeing up money to keep the superior goalie in net. They need another defense-first, kick-butt defenseman. They need a faceoff specialist or two.

Mostly, though, the Blackhawks just need more experience. They already have a ton of talent, most of it younger than 25. These kids aren't flukes.

Oh, there is one more thing: 

They need to be a little bigger, a little stronger, a little tougher, a little meaner and, well, a little crazier. Teams need to fear them more. I'm not talking about goons, because fighting is idiotic. I'm talking about intimidation and temperament. Just call it a you-really-don't-want-to- bleep-with-us attitude.

Hey, since we've already re-established that the Cubs are the Cubs and therefore have no chance in this or any century, wouldn't Cra-Z Zambrano and M-Bomb Bradley look good in Indian Head sweaters?

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