Despite the fact that there's still over half the season to go, there's been a lot to reflect on for the Blackhawks for 2021-22. Most significantly, the state of the team now, as well as how things project over the next several years. A current issue for Chicago is that it's almost impossible to imagine a scenario how they can scrap their way back into the playoffs, which makes all those offseason deals by Stan Bowman look very suspect. Moving forward the rebuild still needs to be the focus of the organization. The main problem, how to proceed?
No one should want to see the Chicago Blackhawks tank. Besides, it would only benefit the Columbus Blue Jackets if they did. Going into Saturday night's game against Vegas, Chicago boasted a measly 27 points and a record of 11-18-5. That stinks! It's true that the team isn't out of playoff contention, but it's hard to see Chicago as anything but a longshot for a wildcard spot.
It's a rare thing, but Chicago has nothing to lose and everything to gain from a postseason berth. The addition of taxi squads means younger players will be travelling with veteran NHLers, and maybe even get some ice time. This is a good thing because those younger players are the probable future of the Blackhawks. Normally, a bad team would be aiming for the bottom of the standings as aggressively as possible, but Chicago isn't in a position to do that. Nor should they. It's not fun to see a team stink it up on purpose.
The best thing Chicago can do now is to start looking to deal roster players as rentals for assets. There are players that could be traded for picks. Dylan Strome's name has been tossed around all season, but there are others. Chicago has quite a few players that are due a new contract after this season, but might be interesting for a team looking for a talented player in their lineups.
Dominik Kubalik, Calvin de Haan, Ryan Carpenter, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Collin Delia are all players Chicago could trade and expect a return for parting with. What their actual value might be is obviously up in the air, but Chicago needs to focus on icing a team that will be a contender. Bowman didn't manage to do that when the team announced a rebuild, then went all-in on chasing the Stanley Cup. It wasn't a good plan, it was highly unlikely to work, and we're all seeing the culmination of Bowman's about-face this year.
Kubalik's name has come up a lot as a rumoured trade, but there hasn't been anything substantial there. He's only one player, and more needs to happen. I'll add my voice to the growing chorus of people who thinks that it's time for Chicago to blow it up. For example, Slavko Bekovic tweeted out this very idea a couple of days ago.
I'm on board with this. There's no reason for the Blackhawks to be tied to the "glory days" from ten years ago. That's over and it's time to move on.
The only way to really make the team competitive again is to rebuild the organizational depth. Bowman damaged that pretty significantly when he traded for Seth Jones. Changes have already started with the overdue departure of Alex Nylander. There need to be more changes like this. Dealing away current players for prospects is the only way out of the mess Chicago has become.