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Current Blackhawks on pace to re-shape team record books

by Brad Boron / Chicago Blackhawks
The names 'Keith' and 'Sharp' could soon join 'Mikita' and 'Hull' in the Blackhawks record books (Photos by Getty Images / Chicago Blackhawks Archives).

The Blackhawks record book is littered with names Chicago fans know by heart: Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Denis Savard and Chris Chelios, among others. While those notable figures have hung up their skates, the Indian Head sweater has been donned by a new generation who are quickly ascending up the ranks among the greatest Blackhawks of all time, both statistically and by what they’ve given to the franchise.

The new class of Blackhawks, led by the likes of Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane, has given the franchise a Stanley Cup championship and one of the winningest spans in the history of the team, while inspiring a renewed love of hockey within the city.

Sooner rather than later, these players will join their predecessors among the team’s all-time best in a number of different categories, demonstrating once and for all that the Blackhawks have entered a new “golden age." Anyone who has watched them play knows they're franchise players, and they will soon have the numbers to verify that status, as well.

Since Stan Mikita's retirement in 1980, it seemed highly unlikely that any player would match his record of 1,394 regular-season games played in a Blackhawks jersey, a mark which took “Stosh” 22 seasons to achieve. To put it in perspective, only three players (Nicklas Lidstrom, Alex Delvecchio and Steve Yzerman) have played more games with a single team, and only six have beaten Mikita’s mark with a combination of two teams (Gordie Howe, Ray Bourque, Johnny Bucyk, Mike Modano, Al Macinnis and Norm Ullman); all are in the Hockey Hall of Fame already, or all but certain to join.

For a player to have even an outside shot at reaching the mark, it would take two important ingredients: good health and longevity, and star defenseman Duncan Keith has had both so far in his impressive career. As the longest-tenured current Blackhawk—560 NHL games and counting—it seems that No. 2 could push to be the Blackhawks’ number one among franchise leaders.

In seven NHL seasons, Keith has never played fewer than 74 games, despite often logging a league-high workload. Were Keith to average 76 games per season through the end of his contract in 2023—difficult but not impossible with a combination of consistent play, good health and luck—Keith would end his career with an all-time high 1,396 games played. Though it would take fewer seasons to reach the mark, Duncs would have done it in a faster, more athletic league, and logging a defenseman’s increased minutes to boot.

It’s a long way away, but it would be a worthy reward for this generation’s Blackhawks iron man.

In range: With 82 appearances in each of the next four seasons, Brent Seabrook would have 880 career games with the Blackhawks, good for ninth on the team’s all-time list.

No current Blackhawk has been a more consistent scorer than Patrick Sharp, who didn’t earn the nickname “Sharp Shooter” for nothing. Though Sharpie started his career in Philadelphia, 183 of his 193 NHL goals were scored while wearing red.

While it would be a far cry for Sharp to rival Bobby Hull’s historic 604-goal mark—“The Golden Jet” did have five 50-plus goal seasons to his credit, after all—it’s quite possible that he will land among the top five in the category. With a career-average 28 goals per season for the duration of his contract, Sharp would reach 333 goals for his Blackhawks career at the end of the 2016-17 season, a mark which would trail only Hull, Mikita, Steve Larmer and Denis Savard in Blackhawks history.

It’s very likely that Sharp will also move higher on the team’s list of game-winning goal scorers—he ranks ninth currently with 32. But that achievement is less notable, since the league only began tracking the stat in 1967. Larmer leads the team’s unofficial list with 49, though players such as Hull and Mikita are unranked.

In range: Jonathan Toews could be well up the franchise leaderboard by the time his current contract ends in 2015. To date, Toews has scored 32 goals for every 82 NHL appearances; if he were to play every game until the end of his current deal, he would have 242 career goals at that pace, good for 10th all-time.

Between Mikita’s longevity and Savard’s high-scoring seasons, no Blackhawk is within range of unseating the top spots in the category, but Patrick Kane is in poll position to move up a few spots.

Already the Blackhawks’ record-holder for assists as a rookie (51), Kane has averaged .65 assists for every NHL game he’s played, about two assists per every three games. Given that pace, he could reach 392 assists by the time his current contract expires in 2015, which would place him seventh all-time, just behind Chris Chelios (395).

In range: Keith is the next-highest active Blackhawk in terms of assists, with 226 in his career. The team’s record for defensemen is held by Doug Wilson (554), which means Duncs would need to average 30 assists per year for the length of his contract to best that mark.

Once again, it is Kane who is closest to climbing the steep hill of the Blackhawks’ all-time points leaders. With Mikita’s 926 career assists and Hull’s 604 goals, the bar is set pretty high for Kaner (or anyone else) to challenge the numbers. Even Savard, who put together some of the most prolific individual campaigns in team history, is nearly 400 points away from Mikita’s team-record 1,467.

Currently at 369 career points, it’s not impossible to imagine Kane jumping a number of former Blackhawks this season; a 60-point campaign in 2012-13 would push No. 88 past John Gottselig, Al Secord, Harold "Mush" March, Bill Hay, Eric Daze, Tom Lysiak and Alex Zhamnov into sole possession of 21st all-time, impressive considering this will only be Kane’s sixth NHL season.

One of the most durable Blackhawks—he’s fallen short of playing 80 games in a season only once—Kane would have 596 points by 2015-16 if he scored at his current rate, tying him with Jeremy Roenick for ninth in Blackhawks history.

In range: With 370 points as a Blackhawk, Patrick Sharp actually leads Kane by a single point. Sharp could well move up the ranks by the time his contract expires, but at age 30, Sharp likely has fewer seasons left in his career.

Toews (324) trails Kane, but the captain has missed significant time in two different seasons. Given the pace with which he started the 2011-12 season prior to his injury, it’s easy to imagine him making up lost ground quickly.

More than anything, the 2010 Stanley Cup run helped several Blackhawks climb up the all-time playoff rankings.

With 52 points, Kane is currently tied for 12th in Blackhawks playoff history with Cliff Koroll. Just behind him are Toews (50) in 14th place, Sharp (40) and Dave Bolland (37). Stan Mikita leads the list with 150 all-time points, tallied in a Blackhawks-best 155 postseason contests.

In fact, the Blackhawk with the best chance at approaching a record may be the one behind the bench: Head Coach Joel Quenneville is just two wins shy of tying Mike Keenan for second-most playoff victories with Chicago. Coach Q ranks third with 28 playoff wins, trailing Kennan’s 30 and Billy Reay’s 57.

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