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What Is Stopping The Blackhawks From Blowing It All Up?

Chicago Blackhawks

It has been talking point for a few seasons now, but what will it take for the Blackhawks to truly rebuild? We saw a small glimpse of it in the 2020-21 season, but that quickly changed this past offseason when then-GM Stan Bowman decided to throw the long-term plans out the window and try to win this season. Now he’s gone, Jeremy Colliton is gone, and the Blackhawks are at the bottom of the NHL.

The tipping point this season was Thursday night’s loss to the Arizona Coyotes, the team literally at the bottom of the NHL standings. Chicago has lost six-straight games, accentuated by the 6-4 loss to the Coyotes. Of Chicago’s next 13 games leading into the NHL All-Star break, only two are against teams below them in the standings and eight of them are against teams currently in a playoff position. I got a feeling we are going to be talking about many more losses over those next 13 games, and things will just be worse than they are now for the Blackhawks.

So what is stopping them from blowing up the organization at this point and truly starting a rebuild from the bottom-up?

They are not contenders.
They are not selling tickets.
They are in need of a complete culture change following the lawsuits against the team this year.
Stan Bowman and Jeremy Colliton are gone.
Their future is not populated with top-tier prospects.

What are they holding on to?

The easy answer is Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The two remaining pillars of the modern era of Blackhawks hockey, Toews and Kane are under contract through next season and are both making $10.5M per season. While Kane still looks like he is worth his deal, Toews is no longer the player he was when he signed his current contract. Moving on from them would be the ultimate signal of a rebuild in Chicago. It’s also easier said than done.

Realistically, the Blackhawks must move both of those players to have the cap space to make real changes, but they will likely have to retain salary on both deals in trades. The haul for Toews would be much less than it would be for Kane, that much is obvious, and you’re likely not going to “win” that kind of trade. Chicago might need to take on a bad contract in one or both of those kinds of deals, but they need to focus on gaining draft capital and top-end young players. The investment needs to be made in the next group of players that should make-up the next wave of talent in Chicago.

That current list is not long.

Outside of Alex DeBrincat and Seth Jones, there’s no one the Blackhawks shouldn’t consider moving. That includes Kirby Dach. And Jones is only mentioned because his massive deal would be nearly impossible to move and he might actually still serve purpose for a younger Blackhawks roster. They need someone to be a No. 1 defenseman. It has already started this season with the trade of Alex Nylander and there are plenty more players who are clear trade pieces Chicago should be moving prior to the March 21 Trade Deadline.

Probably the biggest caveat to this idea of tearing down and rebuilding from near-scratch, is that the Blackhawks need the right people in the front office and on the coaching staff to oversee the process. They currently have Kyle Davidson as interim GM, and while he is operating as if he’s going to be the long-term person in the position, do Rocky and Danny Wirtz trust him enough to make wholesale changes right now? Also currently operating in the interim is head coach Derek King. While he is a likable guy, he is not the long-term solution behind the Blackhawks’ bench.

The Blackhawks also need someone to oversee the Hockey Operations department. If I had my way, I’d offer the job to Kevin Weekes. His blend of old-school and new-school thinking fits well into what can be a winning hockey culture, he is well-versed and well-respected across the league, and most importantly he is an outside hire. Chicago needs fresh eyes on the organization and someone who is not going to be afraid to make the difficult moves, like trading Toews and Kane.

Without the guarantee of their 2022 first round draft pick this year, the Blackhawks need to start thinking about the future now. Unless they land the first or second-overall selection, they will not have their first-round pick this year. If they do land the first or second pick, they won’t have their 2023 first-round pick. So getting a first-round pick in 2022 as a buffer is a necessity. Getting another 2023 first-round buffer pick would also be ideal. Outside of Lukas Reichel, the future prospects in the Blackhawks organization are thin on top-end talent. They need young pieces to move forward with to put around guys like DeBrincat and Jones, and if we are being honest, likely Brandon Hagel and Kirby Dach, too.

Lastly, the Blackhawks would need to take their time with this process. Rebuilds that are successful need patience, like in Detroit, Los Angeles, and Anaheim. It also requires proper talent evaluation and development, something that hasn’t been Chicago’s strength over the past decade+ under Stan Bowman and company.

Patience also will be needed from fans. Fans who have been accustomed to winning in the last decade, but have been sold losing hockey for the past few seasons under the guise of “what-if?” and hopefulness.

At the end of the day, what is worse? Being bad when you want to be good, staying stuck in NHL hell, or being bad when you are supposed to be bad, and having an eye on the future?



Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.