-- In a lot of respects, the transformation of the Chicago Blackhawk began on Dec. 5, 2005, when Patrick Sharp
, ironically enough was acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers in a trade.
Since then, Sharp has gone on to become a core member of the Blackhawks, and his place in the lineup has been augmented by quite a few other key acquisitions from the trade and free-agent markets. But it all seems to have started with Sharp as the Blackhawks began to put together the pieces that would form a Stanley Cup championship team in 2010.Marian Hossa
, John Madden, Andrew Ladd, Brian Campbell and Tomas Kopecky also will have their names etched on the Cup after joining the Hawks in the years since Sharp came aboard.
"'Sharpy' has been a big part of our team," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Leadership, consistency in his game. He's been a top scorer for us. He plays in all situations, PP, PK, regular shifts, versatility, playing on the wing. Got him back at center. We felt we needed more depth in that area. He moved back in the middle for us this year. I thought that filled a big need for us and created top scoring line for us as well.
"He's been very successful and consistent in the playoffs. We just like his approach and the options he gives us as a coach as well."
Those assets developed because he was given the chance to play in Chicago.
"When I got traded to Chicago, they were a team that was developing in all areas and they gave me a great opportunity to play in different situations," Sharp said. "And leaving Philadelphia I kind of understood the situation here as well. They were a first-place team. They were pushing for a championship and it was tough to break into that lineup. And I was thankful for the Flyers to trade me to a good place and gave me a chance to play."
Hossa is known as the man who's appeared in three consecutive Stanley Cup Finals with three different teams, but the Blackhawks didn't sign him as a free agent on July 1, 2009, for that designation.
"You can ask a lot of guys and they'll all say getting to the Cup Final, whether you win or not, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity, for the most part," captain Jonathan Toews
said. "But it's not the case with Marian. I think what he can tell us or what he can bring to add an extra kick or desire to go out there and lay it all on the line.
"I think it's tough for him to have lost twice," Toews said prior to Game 6. "I'm sure he has it in his heart and he believes just like the rest of us that this is it. He's been great for us all playoffs and all season. On and off the ice we've been happy to have him. He's again been a big part of our success and the reason we've come this far."
Madden earned his third Stanley Cup in his first season in Chicago, delivering on what the Hawks wanted from him when he was signed as a free agent last July 1.
"Madden has been great," Sharp said. "Right from day one, he's -- I don't know if 'accepted' is the right word, because he stepped into the locker room and guys flock to him right away. He's someone that for a young team, we all kind of look to. He's been through the battle a few times. He's not the type of leader that stands up and barks in the room a whole lot. When he does say something, he's definitely got our attention."
Quenneville said Madden's contributions don't always show up on the scoresheet.
"I think he brings leadership and character," he said of Madden. "At the beginning of the season what we're looking for him to instill, was we wanted some improvement in our penalty killing. And we really enhanced that immediately with his presence. Be it key faceoffs or play in his own end, that leadership, particularly at this time, has really been noticeable."
The Hawks' third signing on July 1, 2009, was Kopecky from the Detroit Red Wings -- and like Hossa and Madden, he has been a contributor.
"I think those are the guys that are making the biggest contributions and the biggest sacrifices," Toews said. "Other guys that are playing low minutes or the guys a like 'Kopey' or Nick Boynton, the guys who all of a sudden have to come into a pressure situation like that.
"They've both played great, the same thing with Tomas, I can't imagine how tough that is. Playing on a line with him and Marian last game, I think we did a lot of good things. Kopey was right in there in a lot of those offensive plays. We're happy for him."
"It's a dream come true to play in the Stanley Cup Final," Kopecky said. "Any other player can tell you it's something you play hockey for when you were growing up, when you were as a kid. That's what you were dreaming of. I had to work hard no matter what and to who much is given, much is expected."
"I liked 'Kopey' all year long," Quenneville said. "I think he was patient to get a better opportunity. I thought his game improved and enhanced the end of the season. Got some more quality ice time in certain rounds of these playoffs. He got quality ice time playing with Sharpy and Hoss.
"And all of a sudden he's -- you got a lot of options with Kopey. I think his patience with the puck, he's got a great shot, he's annoying to play against. He knows where the front of the net is. He's effective in a lot of ways."
Certainly two other players worth mentioning are defenseman Campbell, who signed as a free agent on July 1, 2008, and added the puck-moving defenseman the team needed. Campbell also proved his mettle this spring when he rushed back to the lineup from a broken collarbone to get into the first-round series with the Nashville Predators. That allowed Quenneville to move Dustin Byfuglien back to forward -- and added a valuable offensive component that helped the helped the Hawks to the Cup.
Ladd was picked up from Carolina for Tuomo Ruutu on Feb. 26, 2008. He brought not only a big body, but the experience of winning a Cup with the Hurricanes. Like Campbell, he rushed back to the lineup from injury to assist the Blackhawks in their Stanley Cup triumph.
Author: Phil Coffey | NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director