The NHL is almost back in action, and the Chicago Blackhawks have recorded their first game. It was a pre-season match that Chicago lost 4-1 in regulation against the St. Louis Blues. This isn't a recap though. What appears all but certain, is that Chicago is, in the near term, going to be a hot spot for players looking to rejuvenate their careers.
While I was watching the game last night, one of the things that stuck out to me is the amount of time the announcers spent talking about players that "had something to prove". They were not speaking about the prospects, such as Kevin Korchinski, or Sam Savoie, both of whom played last night. Instead, the discussion focused on veterans that had, for a variety of reasons, slipped through the cracks at their previous teams.
Alex Stalock, Petr Mrazek, Andreas Athanasiou, and last but not least, Max Domi. All four of these players were brought in to fill apparent needs in Chicago's lineup, but all of them are seasoned veterans that were somewhat cast aside by other teams. It's doubtful that any of these guys are looking to hang around long-term in Chicago.
Stalock is 35-years-old, and probably won't be in the league much longer. He had to sit out with a heart condition and is now back in the fold. He'd probably like one last shot at the cup, and he won't get it with the Blackhawks. Mrazek, despite having been a starter at one point has had declining play for the last few seasons. He would probably like to show he can help a team make a deep playoff run. Athanasiou and Domi also haven't been very productive in recent years, but likely want to chase the cup as well as useful players on a quality team. As of this moment, not one of these players would be on the radar for a contending team because their recent performances don't merit that kind of attention.
If they can do this, and prove that they are still consistently producing on the ice at a high level, then Kyle Davidson will almost certainly ship them out for picks. The irony is that, if this handful of players maintains their mediocre stats, it won't matter because Chicago will be better off finishing the season at the bottom of the league. It's a win-win for Chicago, even if it doesn't translate into immediate success.
Last night wasn't enough to base anyone's abilities on, but it was a theme the broadcasters kept coming back to. All of this will tie into the rebuild, and the first preseason game was a glimpse for fans of what things might look like this season. It wasn't pretty, and I think it's fair to say that not many players are looking to help Chicago win the cup this year. In fact, that's obvious if the journalists calling the game acknowledge that some players want to prove that they're still elite talent so that they can be dealt somewhere else. Trades are inevitable at this point. It will ultimately boil down to, who is traded, and what is the return.
It'll be interesting to see what kind of effort the players can put in during a bad season. No one expects Chicago to be particularly competitive as a team, not even the veterans. There are going to be players driving play as much as they possibly can, at the very least, because their professional futures depend on it. That is a story in and of itself, beyond Chicago's prospects, that will be worth following this year.