Over the past few years, Theo Epstein has been rebuilding the Chicago Cubs with the idea they were modeling themselves after the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals. Both are worthy franchises to model yourself after, as both have great farm systems with a lot of depth, who have captured the ultimate goal of having sustained success.
However, there is one other team the Cubs could look at if they want to gain sustained success; one that is not too far away. The Chicago Blackhawks are everything the Cubs were in the past and hope to be in the future.
Eight years ago, few fans cared about the Blackhawks in Chicago. They had a cheap owner who took the games off of television and could barely fill their stadium. The excitement with them was at an all time low.
Enter in a new owner. When William Wirtz passed away, his son Rocky took over. He found a way to turn this perennial laughing stock into a yearly contender. Rocky went out and hired people who knew the business to help bring his team out of mediocrity and into the dynasty discussion.
Like the Cubs the past few years, the Blackhawks have spent a number of years drafting a lot of quality talent who are turning into superstars before our very eyes. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are Hall of Fame bound, they are that good. Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Kyle Schwarber and many others are players the Cubs hope to turn into their own Kane and Toews, so far so good.
The Blackhawks add players in free agency to fill the voids that have not been filled via drafting to complete their championship caliber team. The Cubs dip into free agency to fill the voids as well, with their signing of Jon Lester and likely more quality arms next year and beyond.
The Blackhawks are everything the Cubs want to be. They have sustained success, and are not looking back. Year after year the Blackhawks are contenders for the Stanley Cup, having won three titles in six years, and are one lucky bounce against the Los Angeles Kings from having won four titles in six years.
Success like the Blackhawks are having is not normal, especially not in a salary cap league; but the Blackhawks have become the model franchise in hockey and maybe in all of sports. Build through the draft and add around the players you develop in your system. They built their team the way the Cubs said they wanted to before the Cubs stated how they wanted to build their team.
Modeling after the Red Sox and Cardinals is a great idea. Epstein built the Red Sox contenders, built their farm system and they won. The Cardinals might be the better baseball team to learn from, as they have a great track record of success, and replacing great players with other great players from their farm system.
I am not a Cardinal fan by any means, but I respect their franchise. They lose a once in a lifetime player like Albert Pujols, and they do not miss a step. This year, they lose Adam Wainwright, Matt Adams and Matt Holliday and they continue to win. Their impressive depth in the farm system allows them to keep their heads above water, and actually add to their lead. If you want to be like the Cardinals go ahead. I doubt anyone would complain about having a farm system that deep.
But if you are trying to build a contender, and stay a contender, you do not have to look outside of Chicago to figure out how to build sustained success. The Blackhawks are model franchise to learn from. They are doing everything the Cubs said they wanted to do, and started the process years earlier.
Be like the Blackhawks.