At the moment, Blackhawks fans are understandably upset at the state of the team, but how will Chicago turn things around after four very mediocre years from a once-great team?
It wasn’t long ago that the Chicago Blackhawks were the gold standard of the NHL, and every other team was judged against them. Then the inevitable decline set in, and fans are left wondering, “now what?”
Many would prefer to just see Chicago tank on purpose, and build things back up from zero. This would be faster than letting things drag on, right? Didn’t the Blackhawks lose out on a potential superstar in Alexis Lafreniere this year by beating Edmonton?
What might have been if the Blackhawks had been a just a little bit worse will be discussed at length, but it won’t change the team right now.
Why? Money, but not because of the big ugly contracts that Chicago is plagued with, although those don’t help.
No, the real problem is that the team can’t afford to run out of town the very players it needs to help it succeed-Chicago’s core group, both on the ice and financially.
There has been a lot of talk over the years about Chicago’s “core”. Some players have been the heart and soul of the team, but it was never entirely clear who that was.
Marian Hossa? Patrick Sharp? Dave Bolland? Niklas Hjalmarsson?
These seem like great candidates, and others could be named. At this point, it seems pretty obvious that the so-called core is comprised of five players.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Corey Crawford.
Over the years, these are the players this team was built around, and they are the only ones left from that first cup run in 2009-2010.
These are the untouchables, and they aren’t going anywhere. Anything that might involve saying goodbye to one of these players though is likely off-limits. The caveat here is that Corey Crawford is likely done with Chicago after this season. He’s a UFA, so if he chooses not to come back, then that’s his choice.
That handful of players are worth too much money to the team to run them out of town.
Send these guys packing fora draft pick?
You’d have to go back to the Jordan-era Bulls to come up with players that are as iconic, and bankable, as the Blackhawks’ core.
John Mcdonough relentlessly marketed the team he was responsible for over the years and did so on the backs of the players that were most central to the team’s success.
It worked but to a fault.
The player that Dach might become, is nothing to Chicago compared to what Toews has already been.
You can’t sell someone’s potential like you can sell their success, and because of that, the core players are needed. Doing anything that might upset these players is the line Stan Bowman cannot cross.
Excluding Crawford, if the other four think that Chicago’s brass isn’t committed to pushing for another cup, then that may cause problems. Bowman likely is in a situation where he must, at least on paper, be doing what he can to improve the team and keep the core believing the organization.
If Bowman did anything to cause these players to leave, even if it were in the long-term interests of the team, he’d be done. They’re just worth too much money to the organization, for better or worse.
Having the core in the line-up sells tickets, jerseys, and gets fans watching.
Sports is a business, owner Rocky Wirtz needs these players to keep his team profitable. Now more than ever because of the truckloads of money that disappeared because of the pandemic.
It’s also worth pointing out that replacing Bowman won’t change the fact that Chicago’s core can’t be moved. Pretty much any GM would find themselves stuck with the same dilemma.
Until younger players become the faces of the organization, Bowman will need to make sure the team is working towards playoff hockey.
There will be no tanking. Despite what some say might make the most sense, for the foreseeable future Chicago will continue to push for the postseason, no matter what.