A look at the Chicago Blackhawks’ All-Decade team for the 1990s
This is part of a series detailing the all-decade team for every NHL franchise for the 1990s. The all-time teams were compiled using a mix of skill, longevity and statistics; it is not necessarily the best, most memorably or most talented players. Instead, this is the list of players by each position who had the best numbers over a prolonged period (i.e. at least three full seasons between 1990-91 and 1999-00) during the regular season.
Team: Chicago Blackhawks (1990-91 to 1999-00)
361-314-111, .530 WIN PCT, 2,362 GF vs. 2,154 GA, +208 Diff, 7//10 Playoff Appearances, 0 Stanley Cups
The Blackhawks were a powerhouse in the early 1990s, but were never quite able to get over the hump. The made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1992, where they lost to Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins. They also made it to the Conference Finals in 1995, where they lost to Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings. But then the team traded its most popular (and arguably best) player in Jeremy Roenick at the end of the ’95-96 season. Ed Belfour was traded during the ’96-97 season, and Chris Chelios was moved late in the ’98-99 season. The loss of those three lynchpins, coupled with trade returns of far less value (Alexei Zhamnov, Chris Terreri, Ulf Dahlen, Anders Eriksson and several spare parts) sent the team into a tailspin. From ’90-91 to ’95-96, the team had a .582 win percentage and a +251 goal differential. From ’96-97 to ’99-00, the team had a .460 win percentage and a -43 goal differential. They also missed the playoffs in the final three seasons of the 90s (1998 to 2000). Overall during the 90s, the Blackhawks had a strong 53.0% win percentage, good for 8th in the league (out of 26 teams that played at least four seasons during the 1990s). The Hawks were without a question a defensive team: they allowed just 2.74 goals per game, second only to New Jersey during the 1990s. But they were weak offensively, ranking 19th during the decade with 3.01 goals for per game. This left them with a healthy +208 goal differential, good for 6th in the league. The loss of their core (combined with major ownership issues) devastated both their roster and their fanbase for more than a decade. They eventually recovered with Stanley Cup victories in 2010 and 2013, but they were entering quite the dark period as the 90s drew to a close.
Left Wing: Eric Daze (366 GP, 129-87-216, -11, 108 PIM, 16 GWG)
Honourable Mention to Michel Goulet
Eric Daze was a big, hulking winger who frustratingly did not have much of a physical presence: in five seasons with the Hawks in the 1990s, he never recorded more than 28 penalty minutes in a season. He did put together a string of five consecutive 22+ goal seasons, including a pair in the 30-31 range. He burst onto the scene with a 30-goal, 53-point rookie season (along with a +16 rating), which put him on the 1996 All-Rookie team. He then had three more seasons of 40+ points, and likely would have had a fourth had he not missed time due to injury in ’99-00 (36 points in 59 games). He was a solid powerplay threat, scoring 35 PPG over a four-year span (’96-97 to ’99-00). He also had a decent amount of game-winning goals (16, good for 12% of his total). He also had 143+ shots on goal in each of his five seasons, including a high of 216 in ’97-98. Unfortunately, back problems would derail his career a few years later: he had a 38-goal, 70-point season in ’01-02, but then suffered a back injury at the start of the ’03-04 season. He only played in 19 games that season, and then had just one final appearance in ’05-06 after the lockout before retiring. One of the few bright spots (offensively) on the Hawks during the back half of the decade. Michel Goulet gets an honourable mention: he had back-to-back 20+ goal, 60+ point seasons in ’90-91 and ’91-92, followed by a 23-goal, 44-point season in ’92-93 and a 16-goal, 30-point effort in ’93-94 before retiring. He was also the lone offensive threat on Chicago’s left wing during the early 1990s. But Daze hit some higher heights goal-wise, and did so during a much lower-scoring period, so Daze gets the nod.
Centre: Jeremy Roenick (426 GP, 232-280-512, +111, 512 PIM, 34 GWG)
JR is justifiably one of the most popular players in Blackhawks’ history. He opened the decade with 41 goals and 94 points. He then scored 103-107 points in each of the next three seasons, scoring 50+ goals twice. He slowed a bit during his final two seasons in Chicago, scoring 42 goals and 101 points in 99 games between ’94-95 and ’95-96. JR WAS Chicago’s offense during the first half of the 1990s. Look at the Blackhawks’ 1992 Playoff team. Roenick had more goals (53) than the next two best goal-scorers combined (Steve Larmer and Michel Goulet combined for 51). During the playoffs, Roenick had 12 goals and 22 points in 18 games, while Chris Chelios had 21 points in 18 games (and he’s a defenseman). No one else had more than 8 goals or 15 points. Rock was a BEAST on the powerplay, posting three straight seasons in the 22-24 PPG range. He was also a major threat on the penalty kill, scoring 19 shorthanded goals in 426 games. And he was clutch, scoring 34 game-winning goals (good for 15% of his total). He was EXCEPTIONAL in ’90-91 and ’91-92: 23 of his 94 goals were game-winners during that time. Which means not only were 24% of his goals game-winners, but he had the deciding goal in 27% of Chicago’s 85 victories during those two seasons. Incredible. He also played in four straight NHL All-Star Games (1991 to 1994). Roenick was traded to Phoenix after the ’95-96 season. While never the same superstar he was during the early 90’s, Roenick was still a force to be reckoned with: he scored 56-78 points per season over the next seven seasons, and continued to be a productive NHL player until his retirement at the end of the ’08-09 season. And did I mention that he had a positive +/- rating in each of his six seasons with Chicago in the 1990s, along with four seasons of at least 194 shots on goal? To say nothing of his immortality as one of the most dominant video game players of all time in NHL ’94. Easily the best forward the Blackhawks had during the 1990s.
Right Wing: Tony Amonte (463 GP, 206-205-411, +78, 347 PIM, 27 GWG)
Tony Amonte had the misfortune of leaving the New York Rangers JUST before they were won the Stanley Cup in 1994, and joining the Blackhawks JUST as they were beginning their decline into mediocrity. But he was still a solid offensive talent in an era where goals were increasingly tough to come by. He started a little slowly with Chicago, scoring 15 goals and 35 points in 48 games during the lockout-shortened ’94-95 season. But then he definitely hit his stride. He scored 31+ goals in each of the next five seasons, including three in the 41-44 range. He scored 63 points in ’95-96, and then registered 73-84 points in each of the next four. He managed to have a positive rating in five of his six full seasons, and an even +/- rating in the other (’98-99). He contributed on the powerplay (53 PPG) and on the penalty kill (18 SHG). He also chipped in 27 game-winning goals (13% of his total). He had 216+ shots on goal for five straight seasons, including a high of 296 in ’97-98. He was a solid offensive talent, and pretty much the only reason the Hawks even scored goals post-Roenick: Eric Daze is the only other Hawk to register 30 goals from ’96-97 to ’99-00 (he did it once), while Alexei Zhamnov (three times) and Steve Sullivan (once) were the only others to record 60 points in a season. With a better supporting cast, Amonte might have been able to gain more recognition during his prime. He still played in five consecutive All-Star games from 1997 to 2001, but never made had any individual accolades, and played in just six playoff games during that span. Still, he was one of the premier offensive wingers in the league during the last half of the 1990s, and he did it in Chicago.
Defense: Chris Chelios (664 GP, 92-395-487, +120, 1,495 PIM, 13 GWG)
Chelios played in Chicago for nearly the entire decade: he was traded to Detroit at the 199 trade deadline. He had four seasons of 60+ points, including two in the 72-73 range. He only twice recorded less than 40 points: once in ’94-95 (38 points in 48 games during the lockout-shortened ’94-95 season), and his final season (34 points in 65 games before the trade). So it is safe to say he would have had 40+ in each of his 10 seasons were it not for outside factors. He was also durable, playing in at least 72 games in each of his eight uninterrupted seasons in Chicago. He was a physical player, recording 192+ PIM four times (with three others in the 112-151 range). He was a powerplay threat, although more so in the first half of the decade 32 PPG from ’90-91 to ’96-97, followed by 5 from ’96-97 to ’98-99). He also chipped in 13 game-winning goals, which represented 14% of his total goals for Chicago during the 1990s. He played in eight consecutive All-Star Games from 1990 to 1998 (there wasn’t one in 1995). He was a First-Team All-Star in 1993, 1995 and 1996, and a Second-Team All-Star in 1991 and 1997. Simply put, he was one of the most dominant defenders in the NHL during the 1990s.
Defense: Gary Suter (301 GP, 53-126-179, +5, 284 PIM, 4 GWG)
Honourable Mention to Eric Weinrich and Keith Carney
Being a defensively-oriented team, it is no surprise the Blackhawks had a wealth of strong defensemen to choose from. Eric Weinrich spent parts of six seasons with Chicago. He scored 20+ points three times, with a high of 32 in ’96-97, and he had a positive +/- five straight seasons. Keith Carney was also solid. After two partial seasons, he had two outstanding years: 19 points and +31 in ’95-96 and +18 with 26 points in ’96-97. Both played with a physical edge, but were disciplined. However, Gary Suter was simply a cut above each of them. Suter joined the Blackhawks late in ’93-94. He scored 37 points in 48 games with a +14 rating in the abbreviated’94-95 season, then followed that up with a spectacular 20-goal, 67-point ’95-96 season. Suter then scored 28 and 42 points respectively in his final two seasons. His +/- was up and down (in the -4 to +1 range in his three full seasons), but his offensive skills were impressive. He also had an edge, averaging just shy of 1 PIM per game during his time in Chicago. He added 27 goals on the powerplay, with 12 coming in ’95-96. He also posted 199+ shots on goal for three straight seasons. And the fact that the Blackhawks nabbed Suter and Randy Cunneyworth for Jocelyn Lemieux and Frantisek Kucera qualifies his tenure in Chicago as an unquestionable success.
Goalie: Ed Belfour (392 GP, 197-126-53, 30 SO, 2.59 GAA, 0.905 PCT)
One of the best goaltenders in the NHL during the 1990s, full stop. Belfour played 70+ games three times for Chicago, with win totals in the 37-43 range in those seasons. In his three other full seasons, he played 42-52 games and won 21-22 games (always with a .500 or better record). The only mark on his record was his final season in Chicago, where he went 11-15-6 in 33 games before being traded to the San Jose Sharks. Belfour was a beast in net; he had 4-7 shutouts per season from ’90-91 to ’94-95. 28 of his 164 wins during that time saw him blank the other team, meaning he was almost single-handedly responsible for 17% of his team’s wins over a five-year span. His goals-against average was never higher than 2.75, and was as low as 2.28 in ’94-95. His save percentage was always strong, only once dipping below .902 (.894 in ’91-92). He was remarkably consistent in nearly all his stats. Further evidence of how good Belfour was with Chicago: He won the Calder as Rookie of the Year in 1991, he was a First-Team All-Star in ’91 and ’93 (and Second-Team in ’95), and he won the Vezina as the league’s best goaltender in 1991 and 1993. He also played in the ’92, ’93 and ’96 All-Star games. He also went 12-4 with a 2.47 GAA during the Blackhawks’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1992. Belfour is arguably the greatest goaltender in the modern history of the Blackhawks (with only Tony Esposito as potential competition).