When a team is dead last in the league about half-way through the season, it is difficult to find many bright spots on the roster aside from the young talent. This season's Blackhawks' roster is fortunate to have a few veterans making a positive impact and should make sure to keep these players around for awhile longer throughout the rebuild.
Considering how few wins this team can put together, it is important to try and create a strong culture in the locker room. The team already started developing this type of culture by creating a likeable coaching staff that the players want to play under by hiring Luke Richardson and keeping Derek King around. If the team wants to continue developing that type of culture, they can do so by re-signing Max Domi and Alex Stalock, two free agent signings from last summer that have proven to be smart moves.
Domi is currently the most offensively productive player on the team with 12 goals and 16 assists for a team leading 28 points on the season in 39 games played. He is on pace for 25 goals and 59 points on an abysmal Blackhawks offense that currently ranks dead last in the league averaging 2.21 goals per game according to ESPN.
Although Domi has played well, the reason the team needs to re-sign him is more about Domi himself. He is a team player who is well liked by his teammates. Since arriving in Chicago, he has taken on a leadership role for the team. Most recently, we saw an example of his on-ice leadership against the Calgary Flames when Domi attempted to drop the gloves with Dillon Dube after Philipp Kurashev took an elbow to the head. Although, they were broken up by the refs before there could actually be a fight, Domi made sure to let the Flames know they would have to answer to him if they wanted to play that way.
We as fans saw more of Domi's personality as well as the beginning of a culture being built when he originally signed with the team. Because of the likeable coaching staff mentioned above, Domi wanted to sign with the team. He knew the team was just beginning a rebuild, but because of Luke Richardson being the new head coach, he was eager to sign a contract. He did not care about how much winning would be done and he did not seem to take much time to test the market for better offers, he just simply went to where he wanted to play. Now after nearly four months of losing, Domi still wants a contract extension to stay in Chicago.
It is equally as important for the team to bring back Alex Stalock. Through 13 games, Stalock has a winning record of 6-5-1 with an outstanding 2.54 goals against average and a .925 save percentage behind the 26th ranked team defense that allows an average of 3.64 goals against per game according to ESPN. But just like Max Domi, there is more to Stalock than just his strong on-ice play. Stalock is known for being a great teammate, having a lot of character, and making his presence felt on every team that he has been a part of throughout his playing career. So far this season, whether conscious or subconscious, it seems that the team plays better when Alex Stalock is in-between the pipes and it may be because of the friendships that have developed in the locker room since the beginning of the season.
Finding a way to begin building a strong culture should be one of the first objectives when committing to a rebuild. Making the off-ice part of the game as enjoyable as possible will make the losing a bit more tolerable. Maybe making it easier for teammates to build strong connections with each other will even help the team as a whole produce better results through chemistry and playing for each other instead of just with each other. The more of these types of people are added to the roster during these rebuilding years, the easier it will be to get players to want to play for the franchise. If this were to work, there would already be a strong culture in place and veterans to learn from when a new young core of players come in and the team is working it's way back to the top of the standings.