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The Blackhawks Are Actually Trending Upwards. Year-End Mailbag Blog Is Live

The season is ending and as soon as it does I am personally doing nothing but looking forward. Free agents, lottery balls, draft picks, and hopefully winning. I want this decade of disappointment to be in the rearview as soon as the horn sounds in LA on Thursday. 

That makes this a time to reflect. This has been a weird season. Frustrating, but hopeful. Aggravating and exciting. The last home game of the season was a microcosm of the entire year. The team got dominated for virtually the entire game, but we got a spectacular highlight from Frank Nazar that just gives us a little tingle. The speed, skill, and competitiveness of Nazar is something the Blackhawks DESPERATELY need going forward. He has all the tools to make an impact. That is not to say he's a lock to play 82 games in the NHL next year, but when you look at the Blackhawks roster it's hard to argue any of the current forwards being more talented than him outside of Bedard. And I think that has been the hardest part of watching this team. It's just not at the NHL standard. Which we all knew, but it made watching them night in and night out very difficult for even the diehard fan. There were not enough moments of "good" hockey. I also didn't think the effort was anywhere near acceptable on most nights. It's almost like the team just threw their sticks out there sometimes because they knew what the end result was going to be. Every team is guilty of that over the course of a season. The dynasty Hawks laid plenty of eggs, but when you don't have enough talent to coast on a January Tuesday in Columbus it really shows up. The Blackhawks needed to build a culture, if nothing else, this year, and it didn't feel like they accomplished that. Maybe that is coming. Maybe there are seedlings that I can't see from my couch. Maybe that would've happened if the Perry situation played out differently or Hall, AA, Murphy, and Bedard didn't miss significant time. We'll see how they come back next year. Hopefully it is with more talent and more bite. Let's put this year behind us. Everyone starts fresh next year. Aim upwards. 


The only time I thought of Toews this year was when he wasn't at the Chelios-Kane night in February. Seabrook, Hossa, Keith, and Kane were all in the building. They traveled far. They sat together. They were at the post-party. I am not sure what Toews' health situation is like right now or how he feels about the organization, but he was noticeably absent. I hope it was a personal scheduling conflict or bitterness towards the organization rather than a health issue. I would understand the bitterness as he wasn't told about his future with the organization until days before the last home game in 2023. I don't know what happened there and haven't heard anything. Hope he's doing well.

I watched the entire interview Joel did with Andy Strickland. I suggest you watch it as well. I've never been able to square the punishment/suspension/ban of Joel Quenneville with what was actually in the report. The NHL seems to believe what is written in the report. That's all we have to go off of. All witnesses of the meeting where Beach/Aldrich were discussed have the same recollection and say that the nature of the allegations were not discussed in any sort of detail and that upper management said that they were going to handle it. Joel says that he wished he pressed for more details. He should've. He says if he had those details he would've fired Aldrich. 

This just comes down to whether or not you believe that Joel Quenneville is a monster. I don't believe he is. I think if that were the case there would be more skeletons coming out of the closet after he spent 40 years+ in the NHL. I am of the opinion that he should be able to coach in the NHL. Talking about it is the 3rd rail. Nobody is ever going to change their mind. I am not trying to. 


I do wonder if Quenneville and Bowman are at their breaking point with the suspension. I was told they had a gag order historically and that is why neither have done interviews until now. Could they sue the NHL? Is the NHL confident that the "suspensions" are legal? Are they confident about what would come out in discovery? 

This is probably the last time I will ever talk about this. I read that report 4 times when it came out and the NHL acted. My view has been the same. Nobody changes their mind.  Beach definitely needed justice for what he went through, but I don't think the punishment for Quenneville is justified at this point either. I would actually love it if this went to court. Maybe more will come out that makes one side or the other change their mind. 

I hope so, but I highly doubt it. Never should've left. He'd be the perfect RW for Bedard. Imagine those two on a PP. It'd be incredible. If you removed his name and were evaluating UFAs based on performance, experience, and cost…Kane would be at the top of the list for the Blackhawks. 

I am very curious about what the Blackhawks do with the goalie situation this summer. Stauber and Drew Commesso have virtually identical numbers in the AHL this year. 


Numbers, especially with goalies, don't tell the full story. 

Soderblom has had a very difficult year for the Blackhawks as the backup. Mrazek re-signed after another very solid season, but he isn't the future of the position at 34 years old so the Blackhawks need to find something. I believe Soderblom is waiver exempt so he could be sent to Rockford next year. 

If Stauber is the best goalie he should play. Once you're in the organization it shouldn't matter where you were drafter or how you got there. Evaluating young goalies has always been a problem for the Blackhawks and the scouting staff is largely the same as it has been for the last 10-15 years. Crawford was the last goalie they drafted who actually played significant NHL games. Maybe Commesso breaks that streak. Maybe Stauber is the next Scott Darling. I really don't know or have an opinion on the guys in the system besides Soderblom. 

I'd like to win. I know that. I don't think they have a goalie in the system who is a lock to help them win at this point. I'd like to see the Blackhawks try to get a real #1 this summer. Linus Ullmark was on the trade block at the deadline, but he killed a midseason deal to the Kings because he didn't want to move his family across the country and he has a 15 team no-trade list. Boston needs to give Jeremy Swayman a new contract and freeing up Ullmark's $5M will help them. I'd love to see Davidson pursue a trade for Ullmark this summer. 

Depends on what you mean by "contender". They're too far away from being an actual contender at this point, but there is a path to the playoffs if Davidson is aggressive this summer with short-term deals. This will NOT happen, but allow me to dream to answer the question…two year deals for the following free agents: Stamkos, Kane, Tanev, Bertuzzi. Trade for Ullmark. 







Tanev-Del Mastro/Kaiser/Phillips/Crevier/Allen


In theory…the Blackhawks have the money for all of those guys with the exception of probably Bertuzzi. They have the money for Bertuzzi, but I doubt he does anything short-term again after this sort of failed experiment in Toronto on a one-year. It won't happen, but that roster would absolutely make the playoffs. 


I think this depends on how the Blackhawks view the development of their current prospects. Are they confident that they have top 6 forwards with Nazar and Oliver Moore? If they think they are then maybe you don't take Demidov who is the same sort of speed/skill type. Maybe they opt for more size with a guy like Lindstrom who is 6'3+ 210lbs. They also may not want to take a Russian and wait. 

Same thing applies to the defense. There's a ton of defensemen projected to go in the top 10. Do the Blackhawks feel good about the core group they have now of Vlasic, Jones, Korchinski, and Rinzel, etc? 

They're going to get a good player no matter what they do. 

I don't think there's any chance the Blackhawks are as bad next year as they were this year. Hall is coming back. A full season of Anthanasiou. Further development of Bedard, Korchinski, Vlasic. Hopefully Nazar added to the mix. Maybe they can still get something productive out of Reichel. Even if they don't have the summer that they SHOULD have in free agency, those things listed above should push the Blackhawks towards like 10th worst instead of a bottom three team. 

I think everyone realizes that Korchinski wasn't quite ready for the NHL this year. Just a weird spot for him and the organization. Too good for junior, not good enough for the NHL, not eligible for the AHL. I wouldn't be opposed to the idea of him starting in Rockford, but I also have a hard time believing that after a good summer and a deep breath after a tough rookie year that Korchinski won't be one of the 6 best defensemen in the organization. I do wish that they gave him PP mins with the 1st unit this year. The org said they didn't want to overwhelm him with added responsibility, but offense is also the strongest part of his game. Maybe let him get some confidence and build around his strengths. I really like this talent. I expect a jump forward in his game next year. 


My gut says no. Starting to feel like maybe Richardson is Ricky Renteria or Dennis Savard. I think the staff and this team leaves you wanting/expecting more. Who knows though. First time NHL head coach with a BAD team. I hope he's the next Jared Bednard but we haven't seen enough yet. 

This is why the top of the draft is so interesting to me. Eventually you need roster/pipeline balance. How many defensemen do the Blackhawks have that are legitimate NHL talents?

NHL players: Jones, Vlasic, Murphy, Korchinski, Rinzel

Murphy isn't signed beyond 2026 and Rinzel probably doesn't arrive until 2026 as a full-time player, but that is 5 guys right there. 

Possible NHL Dmen: Del Mastro, Kaiser, Phillips, Allan, Crevier

Del Mastro was an AHL all-star this year. Kaiser has good tools and skating. Crevier is a monster. Phillips has some traits that make him look like a guy you're fine with as your 7th D. 

Not everyone is going to play. Not everyone is going to make that leap to being an every day NHL defenseman. Having said that…it's starting to take shape. I REALLY believe in Rinzel. Looked great for Minnesota the 2nd half of this year with the exception of his last game of the season. Vlasic is already one of the best defensive defensemen in the league. This defense core is going to be BIG and mobile. If Davidson and his team is sitting there at 2-4 and take a defenseman that guy better be a legitimate top pair type guy. 

Defense of the future

Vlasic-Rinzel (good luck on entries against them)


Del Mastro-Murphy/someone else if he doesn't re-sign

It's a great position to be in. You can always find depth defenseman if these guys aren't up to the level, but I think they have a top 4. The Blackhawks STILL have a ton of draft picks coming in the next 3 years


With all the defensemen, a ton of highly skilled forwards who fit the same profile, and all of these picks the Blackhawks have a TON of ammo to make a splashy trade if the right guy becomes available. 

A tough season with moments of brilliance sprinkled in. I think we have been patient enough. I hope the Blackhawks give us something to talk about this summer and a good product come Fall. Regardless, the teardown part of this era is effectively over. It's time to start building and climbing. It's time to start winning.