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Blackhawks owner says GM Bowman core of success

by Brian Hedger

TAMPA -- Don't call the Chicago Blackhawks a dynasty.

Owner Rocky Wirtz has another term for what his organization has become by making its third appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in the past six seasons.

"What I would really like to say is I'm so proud of [general manager Stan Bowman] to keep re-inventing," Wirtz said prior to Game 1 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on Wednesday. "He invented the 2010 [championship] team. He invented the 2013 [championship] team, and I think this team is a re-invention too. So, it's more of a re-invention and being able to have a process in place to be successful."

The 'D' word is starting to get used more often when referring to the Blackhawks because of their extensive success since Wirtz took control of the team after his father's death in 2007. In eight years, a team that was regularly near the bottom is now a perennial contender looking to hoist the Cup for the third time since 2010.

"What our goal is, we know we can't win the Cup every year, but we certainly can be in position to win the Cup every year," Wirtz said. "And if we've done that, I think we earned our paycheck."

Just don't call what they're doing a dynasty. The term doesn't fit, at least not by Wirtz's definition.

"I'm not sure what a dynasty is, but I'll tell you one thing, we have a very good hockey team and the nice thing is we're privileged to be here," Wirtz said. "Years ago, without [the NHL salary cap], you could've afforded to keep the players from 2010 to today, and I think then it would be a dynasty."

However it gets labeled, what the Blackhawks have done under Wirtz's ownership is special. Despite increasing parity, they continue to stay among the NHL's elite despite annually reworking their roster to various degrees because of the salary-cap restrictions.

Asked if this was the best stretch in Blackhawks' history, Wirtz didn't say no. Instead, he pointed out how the golden years of Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull might've been even better had Hull spent his entire career in Chicago. The Blackhawks are again led by two elite players, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, and Wirtz is happy they're locked in place for at least the next eight seasons.

They signed identical contract extensions last summer that will take a large bite out of the Blackhawks' salary cap, but Wirtz feels they're worth every penny.

"I think in years to come, when I finally hang up my loafers, I think we'll say we were very fortunate to lock [those] players in for the majority of their careers, on the upside of their career, not on the downside," Wirtz said. "I think you see a lot of teams that lock in players, but they tend to be on the downside of their careers and we're very fortunate to have Kane and Toews on their upside."

The other part of those massive new contracts kicking in next season is that more roster turnover is on the way this summer. It might not be quite as extensive as the turbulent summer which followed Chicago's 2010 championship, but some significant players will likely be elsewhere.

Wirtz said that's all part of the Blackhawks' plan to stay at the top, which was crafted by Bowman.

"The important thing is you have to tie in your nucleus," Wirtz said. "There's a lot of teams that will spend the same amount of money [we] have, but I think the nucleus of the stars the Blackhawks have is really something special and you can build around it. But again, it's only as good as the process you have to keep bringing younger players up, because there's going to be plenty of players that will want and deserve raises that the [Blackhawks] can't afford."

Wirtz is looking forward to what Bowman's next "inventions" can produce.

"Training camp's going to be exciting next year, so who knows who's going to be here or not, but I promise you that there will be plenty of young players knocking on the door," he said. "And that's the important thing. If you're satisfied with the status quo, then I'll show you a team that's going to be a loser."

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