Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hawks a darn good role model

Class organization does it up right

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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks are the gold standard in the NHL and the Winnipeg Jets were given a first-hand look at what the elite look like and how they operate on Thursday.

Chicago showed the Jets how things are done on the ice as well as they erased an early 2-0 Winnipeg lead and steamed their way to a 4-3 victory.

The Jets didn't have enough horsepower to stick with the Blackhawks all night and it underlined where Winnipeg is as a team and an organization right now. They've got a plan but it's far from fleshed out. These Jets will need some patience.

Chicago, on the other hand, just two summers removed from a Stanley Cup romp, are a well-oiled machine with the most expensive of parts.

The Hawks have it all from Norris Trophy calibre defenceman in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook to an elite forward group that includes Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharpe, Marian Hossa and Dave Bolland.

Maybe the goaltending is a little shaky at the moment but the Hawks can limp along with the combo of Ray Emery and Corey Crawford, hoping one steps forth and seizes the No. 1 role.

The Jets? They've got a handful of young players with promise, but nowhere near the set of polished pros the Blackhawks boast.

That's where the Jets want to get, but they have a gap to close and it's not insignificant.

The Jets have done things right to this point, there's no question about that, but they don't operate on the same scale as the Hawks. With 21,175 in the United Center on Thursday night, the Blackhawks are a big-market bull looking for someone to stomp.

Getting the Jets back in Winnipeg was the first step -- striving to run with the likes of the Hawks comes next.

Winnipeg will never have the financial wherewithal of the Hawks and will need to find its own identity as an organization, but there's more than one way to climb a mountain. Getting there is what counts and it may take the Jets a more time but that still has to be the goal.

Winnipeg will no doubt be a quieter, less flashy, outfit but there are lessons to be learned from the modern day Blackhawks.

From the banners hanging in the rafters, to the talent-rich bench to the brilliant pre-game videos, the Hawks are a muscular organization and they don't mind flexing. Their standard is excellence and first class.

There's a slight whiff of arrogance that surrounds the Hawks and why not?

Small-market teams can be effective and win in today's NHL.

That's the challenge for the Jets and excuses don't hang banners in the rafters.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 14, 2011 C1

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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