To say that the 2013-14 season was an up-and-down year for the Chicago Blackhawks would be an understatement. From the rollicking party at the United Center as they raised their championship banner in October to the throes of losing Jonathan Toews to injury and dropping three straight games in late March, the team has run the gamut of emotions as the year has gone on.
Now, the team is expecting to have all hands on deck as they prepare to take on the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs. Before they get started with their "second season" however, it seems appropriate that we reflect a bit on the season that was, and hand out some postseason awards to several of the team’s most important players.
The Stan Mikita Sportsmanship Award: Ben Smith
When Mikita came into the league, he was one of the angriest and most aggressive players on the ice. He racked up penalty minutes like they were going out of style, and he developed a reputation as a player on the edge. According to his autobiography “I Play to Win,” Mikita had a change of heart about his play after his young daughter, watching him sit in the penalty box, said “Mommy, why does Daddy spend so much time sitting down?” After that, Mikita won the Lady Byng trophy, given to the “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability,” in two consecutive seasons.
In honor of Mikita’s legacy of playing hard without racking up the penalty minutes, we decided to award Smith with our Mikita Award. He turned into one of the Hawks’ best two-way players this season, scoring 14 goals and adding 12 assists while only picking up one minor penalty in 75 games this season.
The Bobby Hull Offensive Player of the Year Award: Patrick Sharp
Hull is one of the greatest offensive players in NHL history, and while Sharp is likely never going to get to the goal-scoring marks that the Golden Jet did in his career, he did have an excellent season in 2013-14, earning him the Hull Award.
Sharp racked up 34 goals this season, marking the fourth time that he’s eclipsed the 30-goal plateau. His 44 assists were also a career high, as were his 78 points, and he also fired a remarkable 313 shots on goal this season to set a career high in that regard as well. He had 10 power play markers and 15 assists on the man-advantage as well.
The Pierre Pilote Defensive Player of the Year Award: Niklas Hjalmarsson
Before Bobby Orr came into the league and revolutionized the defenseman position, it was guys like Pilote that manned blue lines and grabbed a lot of attention in the NHL. The Hall of Famer was one of the most defensively responsible players to ever man the blue line, and he also could pitch in on offense too, scoring 80 goals and adding 418 assists in his NHL career.
Despite Duncan Keith’s excellent season offensively this year, we opted to give Hjalmarsson the Pilote Award because of his outstanding play this season. The Swedish defenseman has allowed head coach Joel Quenneville to give Keith and Brent Seabrook a lot more rest in recent seasons, and his four goals and 22 assists also mean that he isn’t a slouch on the offensive side of things either.
Now, we’d hand the award to Hjalmarsson, but he’s a little too busy holding something much more precious:
The Al Secord “Underrated Performer” Award: Andrew Shaw
During the Blackhawks Renaissance in recent seasons, the team has been celebrating all of the legends that turned it into the storied franchise that it is today. One of the players who deserves to get more attention than he gets is Secord, who eclipsed the 40-goal plateau three times with the Blackhawks while also racking up 2093 penalty minutes in his career.
While we aren’t foolish enough to argue that Shaw is on his way to being the next Secord, he certainly had a big impact on the Hawks in multiple areas. He picked up 20 goals this season for the team (one of five guys on the team to do so), and his constant presence in front of the net helped the Hawks’ power play out considerably.
The Jeremy Roenick Most Exciting Player Award: Jonathan Toews
When Roenick burst onto the scene for the Blackhawks in the late 80’s and early 90’s, he took the team and the league by storm with his penchant for scoring tons of goals and delivering a slew of bone-crushing hits. Roenick eventually was traded by the Blackhawks over contract demands, but while he was in the Windy City, he was unquestionably the star attraction for the team.
That same thing can be said of Toews. While guys like Patrick Kane definitely have a ton of flash to their games, Toews still brings plenty of magic to the ice, as he did on this goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stadium Series game at Soldier Field:
The Jamal Mayers Press Box Award: Sheldon Brookbank
During the Hawks’ 2013 Stanley Cup run, Mayers would only hit the ice during practices while other veterans were taking rest days. He didn’t get to play much for the team, but he did get his name engraved on the Cup, and was one of the first guys to hoist the trophy after the team won it in Boston.
This season, it was a neck and neck race to see which Hawk could rack up the most healthy scratches, but in the ned it was Brookbank who narrowly prevailed. He was scratched from the lineup 34 times this season, with Michal Rozsival (28) and Mike Kostka (25) not far behind. In total, 20 Blackhawks ended up as healthy scratches at one point or another, while only four players (Sharp, Seabrook, Nick Leddy, and Brandon Bollig) played all 82 games for the Hawks.