What’s Next For the Chicago Blackhawks?
In the summer of 2021, the Blackhawks still believed their window was alive and well. They acquired Seth Jones and signed Marc-Andre Fleury while still having Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in competitive form. But their aspirations were never realized. The Chicago Blackhawks currently sit 31st in the league standings with a record of 15-29-4 in 48 games played. From being the 2015 Stanley Cup champions and winning three championships in six years to being one of the worst teams in the NHL, the Blackhawks have come a long way.
What was once years of sustained success and a competitive franchise has suddenly withered. The Blackhawks haven’t made it past the first round in their last three trips to the playoffs. They have also missed the playoffs in four of their last seven seasons. A franchise that continued to grasp at straws to try and continue what was once so great. Outside of Kane and Toews, the Hawks just don’t have the roster or depth to compete for playoff spots. Former general manager Stan Bowman just couldn’t build the right roster to try and give Toews and Kane a chance to compete. That’s where she’s taken now. A much-needed rebuild they have avoided since their playoff loss in 2017 when they made history by being the only 1st seed to be overtaken by the 8th seed. Now they are an old, aging and expensive shell of their mastery. They have work to do to get back to their winning streak of the early 2010s.
The real question is what’s next for the Blackhawks? The grim reality for Chicago is that they must hollow out their franchise to get where they want in the future. That means moving Kane and Jonathan Toews. It’s the sad truth. Both have done so much for the franchise in terms of their excellence on the ice that they have resulted in three Stanley Cups. But that age is over, and while they’re still healthy and productive players, Chicago needs to move them. The picks and pieces they could get from trading could advance them much faster, especially if both players are still producing. Their veteran presence and expertise could go a long way for a playoff contender in need of an extra jerk. And with the name value these two guys have, the team will surely be willing to pay a pretty penny to have that kind of pedigree.
But this would only be the beginning for Chicago. Moving these two would be a more short-term fix for a long-term commitment. The root of the problem for Chicago as they keep getting better at is designing and developing their young talent. They have some talented young players to rely on, especially after drafting Kevin Korchinski in last year’s draft. With youngsters like Frank Nazar, Lukas Reichel and Kevin Korchinski, the Hawks can slowly build a talented group. The really big prize would be landing Connor Bedard in this draft to take her further forward in her remodel. Bedard would be a franchise changer, he’s one of the few talents emerging that could become a generational talent. But since other teams like Columbus, Anaheim and Arizona are doing just as badly, they might not land him.
Even without Bedard, the task remains the same, designing and developing. Remodeling is difficult, and it’s been a long time since Chicago has really seen one. You must follow in the footsteps of Buffalo, Detroit and New Jersey to build a real competitor over the long term. The NHL has seen what teams like Colorado and Tampa Bay have built with the patience to build a contender over time. If the Blackhawks want to get back to the promised land, the Chicago faithful will have to strap themselves in for a long ride.