CHICAGO -- The 2010 Stanley Cup champs have officially reconvened in the Windy City to start the defense of their title, and things already seem back to normal despite a wave of offseason change for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Look no further than the training room on Friday for evidence. There, during physical fitness tests, "Captain Serious" Jonathan Toews was doing what he does best the day before training camp officially opens on Saturday with the Hawks' sold out Training Camp Festival at United Center.
"He's already back in the training room complaining about fitness testing scores right now, so he's back to his usual self," Hawks forward Troy Brouwer said. "He wants to win as bad as anybody in that room."
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Then there was the other young Hawks star, Patrick Kane, who gleefully celebrated the overtime Cup-clinching goal in Philadelphia last spring while the rest of his team, and the world, watched in confusion. In typical Kane fashion, he started his first press conference of the new season with a one-liner.
Asked whether he was "partied out" from a summer of celebration that included parading the Cup through the streets of Chicago, his hometown of Buffalo, Niagara Falls and even a Jimmy Buffet concert, Kane blushed, hunched his shoulders and replied: "Whaddya talkin' about?"
More than any other words spoken during a marathon media session on Friday, those probably sum up best why the Hawks still consider themselves a strong contender to defend the Cup. Yes, there are new faces at some of the locker stalls. Yes, a lot of last year's personality is now in other locker rooms. Yes, it was a short offseason.
Still, at their very core, the Hawks are the same brash, exciting, punkish stars that took the League by storm last season. Also, from a physical standpoint, they're poised to use young, fresh legs to bounce right back to the top.
"Just leaving Buffalo and my buddies and my family, that's pretty much what everyone said to me was, ‘This was the greatest summer of our lives and the greatest time of our lives,' " Kane said. "You start to realize all the emotions and the feelings that you had after a great season like that … it makes you want to do it again."
That's why Toews was back to serious mode so quick, leading by example yet again by showing up in great shape. He looked like he spent most of the short offseason bench-pressing the Cup -- as did Kane, for that matter.
There's also the large chip the Hawks affixed to their shoulders last season, which is right back where it was despite winning it all. Listening to Toews, it sounds like the Hawks will use "us against the world," as their battle cry again.
Toews, Cup take a ride (Courtesy Josh Landau)
"As far as I've heard, no one is picking us to win this year, which is something that will work in our favor," Toews said. "We know the challenges, the obvious ones that are going to be waiting for us. Everybody wants to talk about the short offseason, the changes and on and on. The most important thing is that we're all ready to go, we're all ready to be back here and just have fun playing hockey again. Our No. 1 goal is just to get back to the playoffs. As you see, it doesn't matter where you finish one through eight. As long as you make the playoffs, you've got a chance. That's (all) we're worried about."
Brouwer agreed. He said the term "defending the Cup," probably isn't the best way to describe the Hawks' mission. To him, it's more like wiping the slate clean.
"As soon as the season starts, we raise our banner and then we give the Stanley Cup back to the League," he said. "Every (championship) team has to go through it, where you get your names on the Stanley Cup, you give it back to the League and you spend an entire season trying to work toward winning it again."
Sounds like a good plan to veteran goalie Marty Turco, who took a significant pay cut as a free agent to join the Hawks and is one of the new additions who will replace Antti Niemi in the net. Turco is just getting to meet his new teammates, but likes what he sees already.
"From my perspective it's been awesome," he said. "They're young, they're exciting and they're Stanley Cup champs. Who doesn't want to be around a group of guys like this?"