Blackhawks: The old core would be officially over with a Keith departure
According to multiple reports, Duncan Keith has requested a trade to the Northwest to be closer to family. Brent Seabrook has announced he will not play again due to wear and tear from his various injuries. Are we seeing the end of the Blackhawks core of players from the Stanley Cup Run of the 2010s?
All good things must come to an end. We have already seen Marian Hossa step away from hockey, and Niklas Hjalmarsson traded to Arizona. Coach Q is plying his trade in Florida, and much of the roster that won three Stanley Cup Championships have moved on from the NHL. But the remaining core: Captain Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook were still here, giving fans a connection to those great teams, and memories that will last forever.
But this past season, not even the immortality of the ‘Hawks dynasty teams could sustain itself. Seabrook’s “leave it all on the ice” mentality took a toll on his body that he could no longer handle and still be a productive player on the ice, and he announced he could no longer play the sport he gave so much to.
And before even that, Jonathan Toews had a mysterious illness that prevented him from playing at all this season. Whether it was COVID-related, or something else, not seeing the Captain on the ice for an entire year (and not even in Chicago or with the team for that matter) was a jarring reminder that these immortals are mortal, and there is a ticking clock on the careers of all of them.
There is a great deal of turmoil surrounding the Blackhawks right now, as they are in the midst of a rebuild, and trying to get back to a competitive level of play that puts them in contention for playoff runs, and ultimately Stanley Cup contention. But can the organization get back to that level while the remaining core is still there?
One could argue that Duncan Keith, perhaps the best Defenseman in team history, doesn’t think so. He has requested a trade (reportedly) to be closer to family, who reside in Western Canada. For a player who set a gold standard on the blue line for this team, his request to depart is jarring, and a harsh reminder of where the team is now, compared to where it was 6 years ago.
Keith is the oldest of the core 4 and will be 38 before the season starts. He has 2 years left on his deal, as do Toews and Kane. Could we be seeing the end of this generation of the Blackhawks, and be starting the transition to players like DeBrincat, Boqvist, Dach, and Kubalik? Seeing Seabrook hang up his skates due to injury is one thing, but a player requesting to leave? That is entirely another.
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I believe this move by Keith is the catalyst that will start the turnover of the roster to the future of the ‘Hawks. With all that is going on with the organization, I don’t think it’s the only turnover that will be happening this season. Kane and Toews are virtually un-tradeable with their contracts (and No-movement clauses to boot), but I also never thought Keith would wear another sweater, so maybe it’s not as impossible as I think.