I have a confession to make: around the time that the Hawks made their Cup run in 2010, I spent a lot of time on Second City Hockey. I was fascinated by the Hawks - their burgeoning dynasty, their talent, the way that they made everything look so easy.
And one of the things that I admire about the Chicago Blackhawks is their ability to build around a core of elite (and elite adjacent) players. Though they seem to be in perpetual cap trouble, their front office has managed (thus far) to hold on to a core of elite players while bringing in a rotating cast of very competent supporting players. Without further adieu, here's a handshake for the Windy City's elite:
Patrick Kane: When I was really getting in to hockey in the spring of 2010, your play in the Olympic tournament really stood out to me. And despite some questionable life choices (which appear to be totally behind you), you are still my favorite player who does not wear a Ducks uniform. With your elegance and creativity on the ice - your soft hands, your vision, your ability to create space where there is none - you epitomize everything that I like about hockey. (Also, I used to get called out for tempting magumbo when I would mention your name in any Ducks-Hawks preview. I regret nothing).
Jonathan Toews: Though Kane is widely regarded as the more naturally gifted "twin," your work ethic and leadership are unparalleled. You put the Hawks on your back and generated offense seemingly through sheer force of will when your team needed to win Game 6 of the conference final. And in an analytics-driven world where faceoffs don't matter, you show that they still do.
Duncan Keith: As others have mentioned, you are some superhuman man-cyborg hybrid who can log insane minutes without getting tired. You are also the type of bonafide #1 defenseman who we need in Anaheim.
Marian Hossa: You wily old man, you...
Patrick Sharp: Though you are not quite the player that the previous four guys are, you would probably be a top line forward on basically any other NHL team. The fact that the Hawks can play you on the third line is a testament to the team's depth, and also really disgusting (and I mean that I the best way). If only the Ducks had that luxury.
Brandon Saad also deserves an honorable mention for his quicksilver speed and scoring touch.
Though Tampa currently leads the Final series 2-1, I have a feeling that the Hawks will still take it all. Great teams - and this is certainly a great team - have the ability to come from behind to win a series (we Ducks fans know all too well about that) and also finish their opponent off while they have the upper hand (for example, Game 6 of the 2013 Cup Final against Boston). Though I will root for Tampa as a matter of principle, I wish the Hawks the best of luck going forward.