A big aspect of their 2013 Stanley Cup championship team was the sheer depth of the Chicago Blackhawks. For every superstar they had, there was a role player ready to step in and contribute if the superstar was not playing well or the opponents were stifling them. It was much like 2010, where some guys who most non-Blackhawk fans couldn’t even name became darlings of the City of Broad Shoulders. The Blackhawks’ depth continues to be vital for the team, as they look to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions.
In terms of the Blackhawks’ depth, it’s pretty easy to assume that every single player on the team is a superstar. That’s stretching it a little bit, but a role player isn’t some two-bit who’s stuck on the team just to fill the roster spot. A guy like Ben Smith may not be Patrick Kane, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to perform. There was the time he was thrust into the spotlight against a hot Boston Bruins team and still performed well. And, of course, there was that game against the Dallas Stars where he won the game in the shootout.
The thing about role players is that you never know when they’re going to break out. Bryan Bickell wasn’t even much of a participant in the 2010 team, watching while Dustin Byfuglien became the breakout role player. That changed in the 2013 playoffs, where Bickell became that year’s Byfuglien. It paid off for Bickell with a hefty contract.
The Blackhawks’ depth power will have to step up once the superstars are in trouble. That has most certainly been the case with the injuries to Corey Crawford. Antti Raanta has stepped up and shown why he was the SM-liiga MVP last year. Assuming another superstar gets injured, it could mean that a role player ends up being thrust into an uncomfortable situation like Raanta was.
It’s easy to take a team’s star power for granted, but even they can’t do everything. A team’s depth can mean the difference between a successful season or a losing one. The Blackhawks have the depth and talent to make another Stanley Cup run, and perhaps another role player will become the next breakout player.