The Chicago Blackhawks are rebuilding. Everyone knows this by now.
Tuesday, the franchise released an open letter to fans via their social media account and revealed plans of the rebuild with hopes to ensure a return to “the summit” for an extended period of time in the future.
While Chicago won the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013, and 2015, they haven’t moved beyond the first round of the playoffs since and a return to glory has been fleeting if entirely evasive.
The Blackhawks finished 12th in the Western Conference last season and they did play hockey in the bubble, upsetting the Edmonton Oilers in the Qualifying Round in four games before losing to the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of the post-season.
On the heels of the playoff exit, general manager Stan Bowman oversaw the depatures of goalie Corey Crawford and forward Brandon Saad.
Captain Jonathan Toews revealed to The Athletic earlier this month that he wasn’t told about any rebuild.
“I’ve never been told that we were going through a rebuild,” he said. “That has never been communicated to me, for that matter. A lot of this comes as a shock because it’s a completely different direction than we expected.”
Bowman, along with head coach Jeremy Colliton and senior VP of hockey operations Al MacIsaac, talked to Toews following the comments and smoothed things over – more or less.
But that doesn’t change the notion that Chicago doesn’t see themselves as winning in a sustainable fashion and, according to Bowman, has a “ways to go” before that can happen again.
“We don’t have enough players, top to bottom, to compete with the top teams,” Bowman said on ESPN Monday. “We’ve got a lot of good players, we’ve got a pretty good start on the makings of a good team, but we still have a ways to go yet, and I accept that.”
To hear management’s side of things, it’s about miscommunication. The Blackhawks were always on the path to a rebuild and have been over the past two years, but they weren’t always “forthcoming” about it. The newfound transparency should clear any of that up and recalibrate expectations over the course of the next while.
The team has their nucleus – Toews, Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane – in the fold through 2022-2023 at a minimum. Brent Seabrook is signed through 2023-2024 and, like his teammates, has a no-move clause.
For the time being, the Blackhawks are looking to develop their young players and develop the pieces they have. That means more from Alex DeBrincat, Adam Boqvist, Kirby Dach, Lucas Wallmark, and new hire Nikita Zadorov. The 25-year-old defenceman was acquired from Colorado in the Saad trade.
Together with their young coach Colliton, the Blackhawks hope to transform this group into a maintainable franchise. That may mean more changes are to come, which may mean more significant roster changes are still to come.
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