The Rink – ANALYSIS: The Blackhawks have a long way to go back to arguing
To his credit, Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has done well with his trade deadline changes. One-year contract players such as Mattias Janmark and Carl Soderberg have been treated, among others, and rarely used and effective Matthew Highmore is now on his way to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Adam Gaudette. Gaudette, along with Brett Connolly, Vinnie Hinostroza and Riley Stillman, who were added from the Florida Panthers in multiple deals days before the deadline, are the new usable NHL players you’ll see in uniform this season. And really, that’s all they are, “usable”. It’s a bunch of pluggers, a bunch of “guys,” if you will, who will get a decent amount of night and night minutes at a mediocre hockey club that just keeps moving. It’s not a blow to them as individuals, but, quite possibly, none of the aforementioned players would add significant value to a contending team.
Where Bowman did well was with the choices he acquired, as well as with the scratch tickets he bought. It could hit the lottery with the acquisition of Henrik Borgstrom, a former Panthers first-round pick in 2016, who has yet to make his mark in the NHL, and current Notre Dame rookie Ryder Rolston, who came into Soderberg’s trade with the Colorado Avalanche , is also an intriguing prospect. These players can succeed, they cannot. Bowman, however, managed to rack up other draft picks ahead of the 2021 NHL Draft this summer. Currently, Chicago has eight draft picks (rounds 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 7). Whether or not the intention is to name names for all of these picks this summer or to sell some of them should be interesting to see unfold.
With all of that in mind, the Hawks are still a team in serious limbo. Their surprising start to the season has provided fans with an unreasonable view of who this team is. Sadly, as the season progressed quickly, we’re learning more about what the Hawks lack in organization, as opposed to what they have. Despite their hot start, since March 1 Chicago has skated on air a record 9–12–1 – mediocrity personified and a sharper look at the team than we thought we would see for the duration of the race. season. Heading into Sunday, the Blackhawks are still in playoff contention, two points behind the fourth-placed Nashville Predators with a game in hand. Even so, the Dallas Stars are just behind Chicago, and the Hawks end April with three straight games against the Preds, a team that has possessed them this season, then a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning and one against the Panthers of the. Florida. May’s brief schedule is just as tough, but regardless, smart money indicates that on May 1 we will know the fate of this team in 2021, and that probably won’t include the playoffs.
The K2 enigma
As you may have heard on the last Rinkcast, an organization only really rebuilds itself if the team’s core assets are moved for leads or selections. According to this logic, Chicago is “retooling” and not “rebuilding”. Call it whatever you like, but it’s not a teardown. There are aspects of this that we ignore. The Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith jerseys are still selling out, and in a year when revenue is lacking, having both players on ticket sales, marketing, etc. may be in the organization’s best fiscal interest. There’s no question that moving either one could have a financial impact on the franchise, regardless of their high salaries.
The two golden smoothies to the left of the original pit, K2 (Kane and Keith), have no-move clauses built into their contracts, and if either of them really wants to stay in Chicago, then either or the other or both will be there for the duration of their contracts. But, if the Hawks were really serious about a “rebuild,” then it would seem logical to ask one or both of them to drop their clauses in order to be transferred to a competitor. And after seeing what Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman was able to get at the deadline for Anthony Mantha (Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2022 second-round pick), the idea of what the K2 might come back to fetch is more and more appetizing. Neither player has shown any signs of slowing down, and while they could eventually fall off that cliff, people have also been saying that about athletes like Zdeno Chara and Tom Brady for over 10 years. After this season, Kane will have two more years on his contract with a cap of $ 10.5 million and Keith has two more years to pay him around $ 5.54 per season. Those offers that at one point seemed endless now have a falling hourglass. So the Hawks will have choices to make with these two, or more, the choices can be up to both players. Are you going into new contract negotiations next season to make sure they’re Hawks for life? And what will their next contracts require? Keith will undoubtedly take a pay cut and maybe Kane too, but if the No.88 is still playing the way he does now in two seasons, which is entirely possible, can you afford to keep him at it? short term from $ 7 to $ 8 million. per year and you are still in conflict with the person you signed at the time? Hard to say. What’s equally hard to say is whether Chicago will even be within striking distance of the competition during the 2022–23 hockey season, and if not, ask K2 for a list of preferable destinations before the deadline. of 2023 exchanges? The only ticket to a real rebuild is to do just that, and while it’s hard to imagine this team without K2, it’s entirely possible that next season will be the last full season where you see them in the red. and black.
Deficiency in the center
The most glaring problem on the ice in Chicago is the lack of depth in the middle. If the Blackhawks brass maintain this sort of “mini-rebuild” in an attempt to be a contender while K2 is still in uniform, then more moves need to be coming to improve the team. Right now, Chicago’s best centerpiece is Kirby Dach, and many still see him as a winger. In terms of natural centers in the organizational depth pool, the West Madison Street stock is downright pathetic. Look at the team’s faceoff percentage alone: 46.8%, “good” for 28th place in the league according to puckbase.com as proof.
It’s quite possible that Jonathan Toews ‘career is over and you hardly hear his name any more when Bowman, the media, or any random blogger discusses the Hawks’ future plans. Soderberg, their best natural center this season, has just been treated. Pius Suter, who could still be a solid two-way player, has more of a lifespan in the NHL as a winger. Ryan Carpenter and David Kampf will never be more than fourth-line staples and Dylan Strome is garbage. In terms of the pivots, it looks really bleak. So if keeping K2 and taking another race is really what the team intends to do, the center ice needs to be tackled. I guess Bowman knows he has a lot of work to do in this area before the draft. He has choices to make some moves and potentially some prospects, like Nicolas Beaudin, who seems to have fallen out of favor with Jeremy Colliton with the emergence of Wyatt Kalynuk, could be on the move to make it happen. Riding in the draft to snag a cross in the top 10 or moving parts to get more experienced help, has to be on Bowman’s radar.
Don’t expect immediate help from Rockford
The highlight of the 2021 season for Chicago’s AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, is acquired by the Blackhawks. The Hawks bought the IceHogs on April 7, which will ensure Rockford’s financial solvency and stability until 2036. Other than that, it’s been tough in Rock-Vegas. Granted, the situation with the NHL’s COVID-19 taxi team hasn’t been easy for them, but there isn’t much to talk about with this year’s Hogs. If you want the CliffsNotes version, after 22 games the IceHogs’ fellow 33-year-old defenseman Cody Franson is their top scorer. I repeat, the IceHogs’ top scorer this season is Cody Franson. Yes, there may be an NHL player or two on their current roster. For example, 20-year-old Alec Regula has had a solid season, as has fellow defender Isaak Phillips. Beaudin and Ian Mitchell went back and forth with the big club and contributed for the Hogs on the blue line. The biggest problem is up front. Evan Barratt could end up being one of the last six players in the NHL one day, and Josiah Slavin could be a diamond in the rough, but again very likely as the last six in the NHL. Other than those two, the phrase “Hey, keep an eye on that kid,” doesn’t exactly come to mind when considering the forward depth of the IceHogs. The majority of this group look like future AHL players rather than the future of the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Hawks are a mid-road team right now, and it will likely be a longer return to the fight than most people think. When Chicago likely misses the playoffs in May, we’ll hear from Bowman about the club’s big breakthroughs this year. Sure, they might be better than anyone thought they would be, but with their many flaws that aren’t easily fixable, don’t expect a meteoric return to relevance in the NHL in the coming seasons.