It could be time for the Chicago Blackhawks to execute a true mass teardown.
There were seismic waves sent through the hockey world during the offseason when Chicago Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman announced that he was pulling the trigger on a rebuild, officially bringing to end a golden era of Hawks hockey that yielded three Stanley Cups in five years.
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Franchise goaltender Corey Crawford was allowed to hit the open market, while forward Brandon Saad was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche. To make matters worse, Captain Jonathan Toews was ruled out for the foreseeable future with an undisclosed health issue, while high-end center Kirby Dach was sidelined for the entire 2020-21 season after injuring his wrist at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton.
With average goaltending and very few legit weapons around Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks have started the year 0-3-1 and rank 25th in Goals For Per Game (2.25) and 30th in Goals Against Per Game (5.00). It has been a tough start to the season and it probably isn’t going to get better anytime soon.
Look, rebuilds are a fact of life for every team in the NHL and the LA Kings, who won championships in 2012 and 2014, are going through one of their own as are the New York Rangers with both teams depleting their farm systems and prospects pool in order to win now.
The Blackhawks are in the same boat and, with the 24th ranked farm system according to The Athletic, there isn’t exactly legitimate help on the way through the form of a generational game-changer or a high-end stud. Therefore, do the Chicago Blackhawks need to consider the unthinkable and actually blow this whole thing up properly?
Should the Chicago Blackhawks execute a proper mass teardown?
Let’s rewind back to the offseason when it was first announced that the Chicago Blackhawks would be officially waving goodbye to the glory days, and instead ushering in a new uncertain era of Hawks hockey, one the front office hope will be full of bright and better days.
However, at the time, Mark Lazerus of The Athletic reported that Jonathan Toews and the rest of the “Core Four” – Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook – were not happy at the new direction taken by the front office with all four at the stage of their careers where they want to win, rather than go through a long and gruelling rebuild.
Granted, Lazerus has since reported that clear the air talks have taken place and it seems for now, at least, that Toews, Kane, Keith and Seabrook are all committed to helping the Blackhawks rebuild on the fly and help to develop and mentor the young players on this roster.
While that is all good and well, there’s two problems at play here. Firstly, and as we’ve already mentioned, Chicago does not have a good farm system and the list of high-end prospects behind Kirby Dach is incredibly short so rebuilding on the fly isn’t really going to work because there isn’t a steady conveyor belt of talent. Secondly, Kane, Toews, Keith and Seabrook are born winners, that’s all they’ve been used to and, all in the back nines of their careers, it isn’t likely that they are going to want to finish their careers playing for a losing team.
Therefore, the best bet for the front office could be to just pull the trigger and tear everything down and start from scratch, as painful as that may be. Of course, the one main caveat at play here is the fact that all four players have a No-Move Clause in their contracts, and each player would have to waive that clause in order to be moved.
There is also the small fact of the matter that those contracts won’t be easy to move, particularly Seabrook’s who has four years remaining with a hefty $6,875,000 cap hit, although there will be teams out there interested in acquiring a player in the ilk of Toews or Kane given that they still have plenty left in the tank.
The upside for moving the core four for Chicago is that they would create a boatload of cap space, even if they had to retain some salary, while they would also get some high-end assets back in the form of prospects and draft picks and, boy, do they need plenty of both right now.
It won’t be easy to do and it isn’t exactly straightforward or without complications, but the Chicago Blackhawks may need to do something drastic like completely blowing this roster up and waving goodbye to their franchise icons in order to have the means to be able to rebuild this team and, indeed, this organization properly in order to ensure that the right building blocks are put in place for the next dynasty.