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Chicago Blackhawks Need Kids to Grow Up Quickly

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CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 16: Chicago Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton talks to Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) in third period action during a NHL game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings on November 16, 2018 at the United Center, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 16: Chicago Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton talks to Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) in third period action during a NHL game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings on November 16, 2018 at the United Center, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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Chicago Blackhawks
CHICAGO, IL – NOVEMBER 14: Chicago Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton instructs Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) on the bench in action during a NHL game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues on November 14, 2018 at the United Center, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Middle

Here’s the 25-29 group:

Player                        Pos    Age   Exp      Summary          Salary                   Draft

Brandon Saad          LW     26      7      5 G, 4 A, 9 P     $6,750,000     2011 CHI 2nd (43)
Erik Gustafsson        D       26      2      1 G, 6 A, 7 P     $1,000,000     2012 EDM 4th (93)
Brandon Davidson   D       27      4      0 G, 1 A, 1 P           N/A              2010 EDM 6th (162)
Jan Rutta                    D       28      1      1 G, 4 A, 5 P      $2,250,000
Andreas Martinsen LW    28      3       0 G, 1 A, 1 P         $650,000
Brandon Manning    D      28      6       1 G, 1 A, 2 P      $2,500,000
Marcus Kruger          C       28      8       2 G, 0 A, 2 P     $2,070,000     2009 CHI 5th (149)

Even in the “25-29” group, there is only one core player, Brandon Saad.  He has finally started playing up to his capabilities to re-establish his seat as a core player. This is the group that should have players coming into their own and owning the play, since players typically peak at age 29. At age 26, Erik Gustafsson is starting to emerge as a solid contributor, however he’s still far from being considered a core player with his liabilities in the defensive zone.

More from Blackhawk Up

The rest of the group is a collection of players assembled by Stan Bowman, and they’re getting close to peak age without peaking.

Houston, we have a problem

The original core players all sit in the 30-and-above group, along with support players Cam Ward and Chris Kunitz. If we accept the theory that players enter their decline period in this age group, this older core just can’t carry the load as they’ve done in the past.

This is the problem.

As I mentioned earlier, the core players are consuming the majority of the team’s salary cap, yet they aren’t the same quality core players they were in the cup-winning years. The salary cap forces the team to continue to rely on cheaper support players, and none have boldly emerged or stayed long enough from the younger age groups to replenish the aging core.

A natural reaction is to rue over what a Chicago Blackhawks roster could look like today if some knee-jerk trades had never happened. Also, there’s always room for discussion of possible trades coming in the future.

For fun, consider this “what if” roster:

Offense

  1. Artemi Panarin – Artem Anisimov – Patrick Kane
  2. Alex DeBrincat – Jonathan Toews – Teuvo Teravainen
  3. Nick Schmaltz – Phillip Danault – Vinnie Hinostroza
  4. John Hayden – David Kampf – Ryan Hartman

Defensive

  1. Duncan Keith – Stephen Johns
  2. Niklas Hjalmarsson – Henri Jokiharju
  3. Michal Kempny – Brent Seabrook

Goaltenders

  1. Corey Crawford
  2. Scott Darling

OK, enough of that! Back to reality.

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