The Chicago Blackhawks finished with the fourth best regular season in the Western Conference with 102 points. Hannah Foslien / Getty Images / AFP
The Chicago Blackhawks finished with the fourth best regular season in the Western Conference with 102 points. Hannah Foslien / Getty Images / AFP

Good times rolling for Blackhawks for now, but ‘Peak Chicago’ may be nearing



It was October 19, 2007, and the Colorado Avalanche were playing in Chicago. The Avalanche were in the early phase of a "down" cycle, coming off a season in which they had missed the NHL play-offs for the first time in more than a decade. But they still had their core of Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote – players who had won two Stanley Cups in Colorado. And if they were a faded power, then the Chicago Blackhawks were no power at all.

The Blackhawks were long-time laughingstocks, fourth-worst team in the league the year before, a team who had missed the play-offs in eight of the prior nine seasons, a team that had not won a play-offs series since 1996. A bad team.

Seven minutes into the Colorado game, no score, and then a bolt from the blue: the Chicago rookie Jonathan Toews stick-handled through three Colorado players and the goalie, too, then pushed the puck home for his second goal as an NHLer (see bottom).

A spectacular goal and he made it look easy.

The Avalanche TV announcers were thunderstruck.

“This is the kind of talent,” said Peter McNab, the colour commentator, “that can bring a franchise back from death.”

Seven-and-a-half years later these Blackhawks are far, far from their deathly days. They have won two Cups and a third is in their sights. But this could be where the “up” cycle ends. We might be at Peak Chicago.

The Hawks within days begin the Western Conference final against the Anaheim Ducks. Win, and Chicago will be favourites in the Cup final no matter which Eastern team they face.

“There’s no satisfaction in this group,” Toews said after the Hawks’ second-round sweep of the Minnesota Wild. “When we get in a good situation we keep pushing for more.”

More wins, and more money, too. Success inflates salaries, and the Hawks’ treasury has been stretched thin. The team have 15 players under contract for next season at an estimated cost of US$65.8 million (Dh241.7m). With the league’s salary cap for next year expected to be around $73m, the Hawks would be left with only $7.2m to pay the other eight men on their roster.

Brandon Saad, the power forward who is Chicago’s rising star, is in line for a big raise, probably to the $3m range from his current $764,000.

Hard decisions must be made if the Hawks want any semblance of roster balance.

Toews, Saad and the defenceman Duncan Keith are untouchable. The club could clear cap space in two ways: by allowing several players with expiring contracts to leave, among them Antoine Vermette, Johnny Oduya, Brad Richards and Michal Rozsival; or by trading away some of their better players, with candidates including Brent Seabrook and Patrick Sharp – and perhaps even the scoring star Patrick Kane or the goalie Corey Crawford.

The other problem is that the Hawks are getting old. Toews might look like a wide-eyed 12-year-old kid but in the autumn he will embark on his ninth NHL season. Same for Kane. For the forward Marian Hossa, it will be his 17th time around. An 11th time for Keith and Seabrook and a 13th for Sharp. With each year they grow a little slower, and injuries not only are a greater risk but may require more time for healing.

For Chicago, the beginning of the end looms. Which could be all the motivation they need to win one more Cup while they still have the chance. Once more to the mountaintop, once more before the avalanche.

rmckenzie@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Equestrian
Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).
Judo
Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Cycling
Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Swimming
Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Athletics
Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

The specs

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo

Power: 201hp at 5,200rpm

Torque: 320Nm at 1,750-4,000rpm

Transmission: 6-speed auto

Fuel consumption: 8.7L/100km

Price: Dh133,900

On sale: now

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

SPEC SHEET

Display: 6.8" edge quad-HD+ dynamic Amoled 2X, Infinity-O, 3088 x 1440, 500ppi, HDR10+, 120Hz

Processor: 4nm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1/Exynos 2200, 8-core

Memory: 8/12GB RAM

Storage: 128/256/512GB/1TB

Platform: Android 12

Main camera: quad 12MP ultra-wide f/2.2, 108MP wide f/1.8, 10MP telephoto f/4.9, 10MP telephoto 2.4; Space Zoom up to 100x, auto HDR, expert RAW

Video: 8K@24fps, 4K@60fps, full-HD@60fps, HD@30fps, super slo-mo@960fps

Front camera: 40MP f/2.2

Battery: 5000mAh, fast wireless charging 2.0 Wireless PowerShare

Connectivity: 5G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC

I/O: USB-C

SIM: single nano, or nano and SIM, nano and nano, eSIM/nano and nano

Colours: burgundy, green, phantom black, phantom white, graphite, sky blue, red

Price: Dh4,699 for 128GB, Dh5,099 for 256GB, Dh5,499 for 512GB; 1TB unavailable in the UAE

UAE ILT20

Marquee players:
Moeen Ali, Andre Russell, Dawid Malan, Wanindu Hasiranga, Sunil Narine, Evin Lewis, Colin Munro, Fabien Allen, Sam Billings, Tom Curran, Alex Hales, Dushmantha Chameera, Shimron Hetmyer, Akeal Hosein, Chris Jordan, Tom Banton, Sandeep Lamichhane, Chris Lynn, Rovman Powell, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Mujeeb Ul Rahman
International players:
Lahiru Kumara, Seekugge Prassanna, Charith Asalanka, Colin Ingram, Paul Stirling, Kennar Lewis, Ali Khan, Brandon Glover, Ravi Rampaul, Raymon Reifer, Isuru Udana, Blessing Muzarabani, Niroshan Dickwella, Hazaratullah Zazai, Frederick Klassen, Sikandar Raja, George Munsey, Dan Lawrence, Dominic Drakes, Jamie Overton, Liam Dawson, David Wiese, Qais Ahmed, Richard Gleeson, James Vince, Noor Ahmed, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Navin Ul Haq, Sherfane Rutherford, Saqib Mahmood, Ben Duckett, Benny Howell, Ruben Trumpelman

Explainer: Tanween Design Programme

Non-profit arts studio Tashkeel launched this annual initiative with the intention of supporting budding designers in the UAE. This year, three talents were chosen from hundreds of applicants to be a part of the sixth creative development programme. These are architect Abdulla Al Mulla, interior designer Lana El Samman and graphic designer Yara Habib.

The trio have been guided by experts from the industry over the course of nine months, as they developed their own products that merge their unique styles with traditional elements of Emirati design. This includes laboratory sessions, experimental and collaborative practice, investigation of new business models and evaluation.

It is led by British contemporary design project specialist Helen Voce and mentor Kevin Badni, and offers participants access to experts from across the world, including the likes of UK designer Gareth Neal and multidisciplinary designer and entrepreneur, Sheikh Salem Al Qassimi.

The final pieces are being revealed in a worldwide limited-edition release on the first day of Downtown Designs at Dubai Design Week 2019. Tashkeel will be at stand E31 at the exhibition.

Lisa Ball-Lechgar, deputy director of Tashkeel, said: “The diversity and calibre of the applicants this year … is reflective of the dynamic change that the UAE art and design industry is witnessing, with young creators resolute in making their bold design ideas a reality.”

WHAT IS A BLACK HOLE?

1. Black holes are objects whose gravity is so strong not even light can escape their pull

2. They can be created when massive stars collapse under their own weight

3. Large black holes can also be formed when smaller ones collide and merge

4. The biggest black holes lurk at the centre of many galaxies, including our own

5. Astronomers believe that when the universe was very young, black holes affected how galaxies formed

Picture of Joumblatt and Hariri breaking bread sets Twitter alight

Mr Joumblatt’s pessimism regarding the Lebanese political situation didn’t stop him from enjoying a cheerful dinner on Tuesday with several politicians including Mr Hariri.

Caretaker Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury tweeted a picture of the group sitting around a table at a discrete fish restaurant in Beirut’s upscale Sodeco area.

Mr Joumblatt told The National that the fish served at Kelly’s Fish lounge had been very good.

“They really enjoyed their time”, remembers the restaurant owner. “Mr Hariri was taking selfies with everybody”.

Mr Hariri and Mr Joumblatt often have dinner together to discuss recent political developments.

Mr Joumblatt was a close ally of Mr Hariri’s assassinated father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri. The pair were leading figures in the political grouping against the 15-year Syrian occupation of Lebanon that ended after mass protests in 2005 in the wake of Rafik Hariri’s murder. After the younger Hariri took over his father’s mantle in 2004, the relationship with Mr Joumblatt endured.

However, the pair have not always been so close. In the run-up to the election last year, Messrs Hariri and Joumblatt went months without speaking over an argument regarding the new proportional electoral law to be used for the first time. Mr Joumblatt worried that a proportional system, which Mr Hariri backed, would see the influence of his small sect diminished.

With so much of Lebanese politics agreed in late-night meetings behind closed doors, the media and pundits put significant weight on how regularly, where and with who senior politicians meet.

In the picture, alongside Messrs Khoury and Hariri were Mr Joumbatt and his wife Nora, PSP politician Wael Abou Faour and Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon Nazih el Nagari.

The picture of the dinner led to a flurry of excitement on Twitter that it signified an imminent government formation. “God willing, white smoke will rise soon and Walid Beik [a nickname for Walid Joumblatt] will accept to give up the minister of industry”, one user replied to the tweet. “Blessings to you…We would like you to form a cabinet”, wrote another.  

The next few days will be crucial in determining whether these wishes come true.

MO

Creators: Mohammed Amer, Ramy Youssef

Stars: Mohammed Amer, Teresa Ruiz, Omar Elba

Rating: 4/5


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