The clearance sale should be off-limits for the Blackhawks
The trade deadline has passed, and this dismal season meant that the Chicago Blackhawks were sellers. At one point, the team looked like it was going to make it back into the playoffs, but like ketchup on a hot dog, it was not meant to be.
Sadly, the Chicago Blackhawks were sellers.
Which players were dealt?
Both Erik Gustafsson and Robin Lehner were shipped out to other teams, and again, Blackhawks fans will watch other teams compete for the Stanley Cup. The only real question to ask about this season is, now what? Is there some grand scheme to get Chicago back on track to being a winning team?
A plan hasn’t been made explicitly clear-more on that below-one thing that is obvious, there is anger aimed at General Manager Stan Bowman.
In just a few years, the Chicago Blackhawks went from Stanley Cup champions to competing for the draft lottery. On some level, he’s culpable for that free fall.
As Mark Lazerus and Scott Powers discussed, the return for Gustafsson and Lehner was reasonable considering the circumstances. Gustafsson doesn’t play defense. Good teams don’t usually trade for #1 goalies because they generally already have one. Lehner wasn’t great at the end.
They brought up all these points, and their analysis was that the return was fair considering the circumstances. I don’t entirely agree, but both these players, unless I’m mistaken, were signed as free agents. Getting anything for them is like finding a fiver in an old pair of jeans, and there was one piece to the deal that I think does look like part of the plan, Malcolm Subban.
This might not be an actual strategy, but Bowman seems to have a thing for talented castaways. A look at some of his recent acquisitions reveals a pattern, if not a trend:
Malcolm Subban (drafted #24 by Boston)
Alex Nylander (drafted #8 by Buffalo)
Dylan Strome (drafted #3 by Arizona)
Brendan Perlini (drafted #12 by Arizona)
Slater Koekkoek (drafted #10 by Tampa Bay)
You get the idea. Bowman appears to be snapping up players that were hyped in the past, but haven’t panned out as impact players.
Nylander is playing on the fourth line. Strome has been playing on the wing, and on the third line after centering Kane and DeBrincat. Perlini was traded to Detroit, and Koekkoek is bouncing around the defense playing mostly with Maatta on the 3rd pairing. And Subban? We’ll just have to wait and see.
As Scott Powers points out, the Blackhawks as they are currently constructed can’t simply be blown up and rebuilt after a couple of years. Toews, Kane, Seabrook, and Keith all have contracts that are unmovable if you’d want to move them at all. Only Seabrook has really been on the decline recently.
So why does Subban matter?
After sending Lehner to Vegas, the Blackhawks traded away the guy that was auditioning to be Chicago’s next number one. However, the Blackhawks don’t need Lehner, but they do need a number one goalie.
Crawford is playing well but probably doesn’t have too much left. With Subban in the line-up, Bowman is likely gambling that P.K.’s little brother can step-up and become the goalie the Bruins used a first-round pick on.
I’m skeptical this will happen.
It’s not clear how this is going to play out, but as Powers noted, “long-term” has been used by both John McDonough and Stan Bowman when describing the team’s road to being a contender again.
Is this a rebuild, and the Blackhawk’s brain trust just won’t say it?
If it is, than hunting in the bargain-bin hasn’t worked out.
While some of these players have become regulars in the line-up, none of them has become the kind impact player Bowman has been looking for. Adding Subban may very well be the same kind of failed experiment. Hopefully, that’s not the case.
The Blackhawks need to find a better way to fill the holes in the roster with talented players, or mediocre seasons like the current one may become the norm.