The mantra for the past year has been, the Chicago Blackhawks are in a rebuild.
Fans just need to be patient; the Hawks won three cups and all good things must come to an end. While that is partially true, the fact that this team can’t be competitive because the Hawks are rebuilding is nonsense.
Rather than completely rebuilding, perhaps the Blackhawks should be restructuring. If the Blackhawks continue relying on a team filled with 19 to 22 year-olds, they could be stuck in a perpetual state of rebuild.
Yes, the idea is that these young kids will blossom one day and the two to three years of development in the league will pay off. But what if it doesn’t? Odds are that many of your draft picks will never turn out to be the players you hoped they would be.
Are Hawks fans willing to have two to three abysmal seasons hoping that Philipp Kurashev, Wyatt Kalynuk, Ian Mitchell, Nicolas Beaudin, Adam Gaudette, and MacKenzie Entwistle actually turn into tomorrow’s superstars?
Stan Bowman can’t simply sit back and use previous success as an excuse to coast and hope things work out over the next few years.
So just where are the Blackhawks? Watching the playoffs this year once again proves that teams who aren’t physical will have no chance in winning the Stanley Cup. The old adage that defense wins championships also holds true. Finally, lack of balanced scoring the puck equals a quick exit from the playoffs. Look no further than the Maple Leafs’ struggles- their captain was out and the top line was shut down; no other line picked up the slack.
For the Blackhawks, the defense struggled. Kevin Lankinen faced more shots than any other goalie in the league. Right now, Bowman seems content to develop kids into the roles, similar to how they did with Duncan Keith. The defensive woes have been chronicled all year on Blackhawkup.com so I won’t address that here.
To be a playoff contender, the Chicago Blackhawks need to have more balance scoring. Most of the scoring this year came from Patrick Kane and Alex Debrincat, who played together a lot. Beyond those two, only one other player averaged .5 points or more per game- Dominik Kubalik. Pius Suter was next with 27 points, just under .5 points per game, and many of those came with playing alongside Kane and Debrincat which further crowded the top line with all the scoring.
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Looking at the strong cup contenders this year for comparison, the New York Islanders still had seven players over .5 points per game without their captain. The Montreal Canadiens are built on defense and goaltending, so they had the same number of players above .5 points per game as the Hawks.
However, they had ten players with at least 20 points, while the Hawks only had five. Tampa Bay Lightning had eight players above .5 points per game and 11 players with at least 20 points. The Vegas Golden Knights had eight players above .5 points per game and ten players with at least 20 points. All four teams competing for the Cup have good defense and balanced scoring.
Obviously, comparing the Blackhawks to Tampa Bay isn’t really fair since Tampa is at the top of their game while the Blackhawks are rebuilding. However, if one remembers not so long ago, prior to moving Janmark and Soderberg, the Blackhawks were tenuously hanging on to a playoff spot. If Jonathan Toews were to return, adding a few veterans throughout the lineup could really pay off for the Blackhawks. Obviously, the Cup is not in reach, but making the playoffs is.
If Stan Bowman really wants to develop youngsters, let them play alongside a strong veteran presence. Don’t throw them in deep water and yell “SWIM!” If the Blackhawks don’t add some support, these youngsters won’t develop properly and the fanbase will begin to lose interest.
Hoping that this new crop of youngsters will be the next Toews, Kane, Keith, Seabrook, etc is just that- hope. That group, too, would not have hoisted Lord Stanley without the addition of Marian Hossa. It’s time to make a timely addition or two now while Kane is still a star and the kids need some help.
Stan Bowman, turn this rebuild into a restructure so the Blackhawks aren’t rebuilding for the next ten years.