The Chicago Blackhawks will enter the 2020-2021 season in full rebuild mode, which at this point can mean any number of things.
For fans, it likely means that making the playoffs will be a significant overachievement. Patience is in order, notably after the organization put out a letter in October about a focus on younger players. That followed the departure of goalie Corey Crawford, now with New Jersey, and Brandon Saad. Both players were part of previous championship squads in the Windy City.
For the veterans remaining, it means taking on some mentorship responsibilities. That means the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook will have to herd this group into something resembling a qualifying hockey team.
“We’re trying to give as many guys opportunities as possible because it’s not all going to work out,” head coach Jeremy Colliton said. “Not every one of them is going to turn into NHL regulars or turn into NHL difference-makers. But the more we invest in and spend time with and have a plan for them and just work with them daily, the better our chances that they’re going to turn into contributors.”
That investment will home in on skaters like Kirby Dach, Matthew Highmore, Adam Boqvist, Ian Mitchell, and Philipp Kurashev.
Count Dominik Kubalik among those with high expectations for this season. The 25-year-old winger scored 30 goals in 68 games in his rookie campaign, finishing third in Calder Trophy voting. He registered a solid 19.1 shooting percentage and signed a two-year extension worth $7.4 million in October.
Despite boasting a lot of talented youth, the Blackhawks have a lot of questions. Goaltending will be an issue in the post-Crawford era, particularly as the team’s not known for playing the strongest possession game. And the Central Division is incredibly competitive, with all seven teams making a play for success in last season’s bubble.
Still, rebuilds are intended to provide new opportunities and stir the proverbial pot for a franchise. Done well, the Blackhawks could return to some semblance of former glory – at least for a little while. And that would make this admittedly uncomfortable process worth it.