Key 3: Become a leader
It’s not clear what Chicago’s long-term plans are for Kubalik, but if he’s going to stick around he’ll need to do more than score goals. Ideally, he’ll need to become a leader on the team, especially to help guide younger players that will be joining the organization and have little to no professional experience. That doesn’t mean that Kubalik will be around forever, but there’s a part for him to play beyond scoring.
During Stan Bowman’s media tour, he explained in an article with the Chicago Sun-Times why he traded Saad and described the deal as being “asset management“. That’s certainly a way to look at it, and if Bowman was concerned about what Saad would ask for when he became a UFA, then trading him was good to move, especially since he might risk losing Saad for nothing to free agency. Now, where that leaves Kubalik is anyone’s guess since it could be a very similar situation.
If 28-year-old Brandon Saad wasn’t going to be part of Chicago’s long-term plans, what about 25-year-old Kubalik? It isn’t like Chicago is going to be a competitor in just 2 or three years. At the same time, the pandemic cap will likely be revisited in a few years and Kubalik will only be 28 when that happens. What will Kubalik be worth to the team then? Will he simply be a tradeable asset like Brandon Saad or an indispensable leader like Brent Seabrook? That decision will stay with Kubalik if he wants to stick with the Blackhawks.
Chicago will probably (cross your fingers!) be on the ascent ina few years, and Kubalik should still have prime hockey years ahead of him. By then he should be able to have established himself as a more integral player in the locker room if Chicago doesn’t trade him before then. He’s not exactly a prospect, and so this is a risk for a team like Chicago that is rebuilding. Regardless, Kubalik was a pleasant surprise, and his progression with the team will give fans something to look forward to.