This week on Redline Radio we did a pretty deep dive talk about the Blackhawks, the Town Hall fiasco, and the GM search. There isn't a lot of good going on right now for the Blackhawks. Everything is in flux. Nobody knows about the plan or direction or anything going on with the team.
The Snake Draft has taught me that even though I am usually right in the long, I seldom agree with the masses. That is fine. "Believe in something or fall for anything"--internet meme. That realization led me to put out a poll about what fans want for the immediate future of the Blackhawks
As you might've guessed...I am FIRMLY with the minority. I want Toews and Kane to stay here and finish their careers and then whenever they are done you can officially start the rebuild. This line of thinking from me isn't about respecting them, or my own mushy heart, or anything besides what I want to see as a fan and what is realistic.
Assuming a few things here before I begin to explain myself. 1) Toews and Kane want to be here. If they say they wanted to be traded then trade them in the summer along with just about anyone else under contract over the age of 24 (which includes #12) and 2) they agree to 2 year extension where they both make a combined $10M. That is probably under fair market value for each guy, but that is difficult to project at this point.
The Blackhawks future is about as bright as Fairbanks, Alaska in December. At this moment they don't have a single player in the organization that projects as a guy good enough to be the best player on a Stanley Cup team. They don't have a 1st round pick in this coming draft, hopefully that will change after the deadline, but even if it does that pick will be in the 20s and the likelihood that pick ends up being a franchise altering guy is very slim.
With the money committed to veteran players right now, lack of prospects, and lack of draft capital the Blackhawks "rebuild" will NOT be a quick one. Not only do they need to rebuild the on-ice product, but they also need to rebuild the entire hockey ops department. This "rebuild" process on the optimistic side will probably take 5 years minimum. I am not sure trading Toews and Kane in their age 34 seasons where they make $10.5M returns all that much. Not enough in return to significant speed up the rebuild timeline.
So if your rebuild is going to take a LONG time no matter which path you take, why not try to be competitive in the meantime? Keep Toews and Kane. Keep Murphy, McCabe, and Jones as the core of your blueline. Try to keep Debrincat if the money makes sense. Don't trade away futures under any circumstances. Add Reichel to the mix. Sign Dach to an extension that reflects his production and hope he becomes that top 6 center we all hoped he would be. They can buy out Tyler Johnson and Brett Connolly if they need additional cap flexibility the next two years.
I said before the season that I thought this current group would be a wild card team. The Blackhawks are currently 14 points out of a playoff spot, but if they hadn't started the year with Colliton they'd be right there in the mix for a wild card. I would be thrilled if the Blackhawks played important games all year long and then gave us 6-14 more playoff games this year. If they could tweak this roster a bit, assume some improvement from Dach, Reichel, etc, I think we'd get that next year.
Some people might be unsatisfied with that projection or goal and believe that the best and only way to get back up to the top is to hit rock bottom. I think that those people, the 75%, are spoiled by this generation that we just went through. They think they'll just find the next Toews and Kane at the top of a future draft and start a new dynasty. It doesn't work that way. I mean just look around the NHL. Edmonton had a zillion first overall picks flop before they got McDavid and Draisailt who are arguably the two best forwards in the league and they still suck. The Leafs got Matthews and Marner and still haven't won a playoff series. Buffalo and Arizona have been bad for literally forever. New Jersey...same thing. The Avalanche have seemingly everything and they haven't been to the Finals with this group.
The point is that the Blackhawks could get rid of everyone, tank for 5 years, and then end up right back where they are now...a wild card team. These next few years need to be about building hockey ops and rebuilding the prospect pool. They need to start acquiring the supplemental pieces of the future. Go find the next Sharp, Versteeg, Byfuglien, Hjalmarsson, Seabrook, etc in the draft these next few years. You don't need to trade Toews and Kane and tank to do that. The only quick turnaround here is lottery luck that turns into Shane Wright. Given how the Blackhawks have embarrassed themselves and the league over the last 12 months I don't think Bettman would allow that.
Stay the course. Ride it out. Re-establish a winning culture. Bring young guys along. Join or die.