For the first time in a decade, the Chicago Blackhawks are bad.
They’re not “worst team in the league” bad, but for their standards, they’re really, really bad.
After dominating the NHL for a decade, winning three Stanley Cups and making nine straight playoff appearances, the 2017-18 season has been a disappointment for the Blackhawks. They’re 10 points out of a playoff spot at the time of this being written, losers of five straight and having zero momentum going their way. It’s a lost season on the west side, and fans are having a hard time grasping that concept.
TRADE TOEWS! TRADE SEABROOK! TRADE KEITH! FIRE QUENNEVILLE!
While those thoughts are easy to say in this moment, that doesn’t mean they should happen. Will there be change this offseason? Absolutely. There’s no way the Blackhawks standby after its worst season since 2008. But there needs to be more rationale used when figuring out how to revamp the Hawks.
Jonathan Toews isn’t getting traded, nor will they take the “C” off him. The man has meant too much to this franchise and city, and to overreact like that after one bad season would be silly. I hope Scotty Bowman and John McDonough don’t have a knee-jerk reaction to this season and get rid of the face of the franchise. It would have to be the best deal in the world for me to trade Toews, and I don’t know how many teams are willing to take on his contract.
Brent Seabrook is a shell of himself, there’s no doubt about that. But the Hakws are stuck with his contract as well. If they could trade him, they would’ve by now. They can’t, though, because they overpaid him in 2015. He has a cap hit of $6.875 million every year from now through the 2023-24 season. Unless they buy him out, Seabrook is going nowhere.
Like everyone on the Hawks this year, Duncan Keith is struggling. He’s not scoring at the rate he usually scores at, and he seems to have lost a step in his 13th NHL season. Much like Seabrook, Keith has a hefty cap hit of $5.5 million per season through 2023. That’s a big number for an aging defenseman, but one the franchise is going to have to deal with. He’s the more movable piece of your defense core, but the likelihood of that happening is slim.
And finally, firing Joel Quenneville. Of all the possibilities listed above, this one seems like the most realistic. The second most winningest coach of all time can’t figure out the Hawks’ issues, and it seems the writing is on the wall for coach Q. It’s sad to see because of all the brilliant moves he’s made in the past. The end may be near, though, for Quenneville.
This season has been frustrating as a Hawks fan, no doubt. As a loyal fan, I’ve felt the same sentiments at times as well. But we, as a fan base, need to slow down and properly assess what’s happening with this team.
Outside of the core seven players that have “been there before” (Toews, Kane, Crawford, Keith, Seabrook, Saad, Sharp), this team is a bunch of young guys. Connor Murphy, Jordan Oesterle and Erik Gustafsson are three defensemen all under the age of 25. They’re still trying to find their way in the NHL, and we haven’t given them that time to do so.
Alex Debrincat, Nick Schmaltz, and Anthony Duclair are all 22 years old or younger. That’s three wingers who can barely drink alcohol legally in this country! Hell, Debrincat is only 20, so he can’t even do that yet!
David Kampf, Vinnie Hinostroza, and Ryan Hartman are all 23-years old. I could keep on going, but you get the point. This is a young Blackhawks team surrounded by an aging core. Six of the eight oldest guys on the roster are the core pieces of the team. Everyone else are kids essentially.
What makes this season tough to watch is you see the likes of Toews, Keith, Seabrook, and Sharp struggling. It’s frustrating to see because when you tune in to see these players, you expect to see greatness. And for nearly a decade, we have. Think of all the great moments this team has provided us the past decade. That’s a whole other blog for another time.
You see these players that you love and idolize, and when they start looking like mere mortals, it sucks. We never had to see Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen suck. They were gone when the Bulls became bad again in 1999. We never really saw Walter Payton play “bad” either. He retired before the Bears fell apart in the early 1990s. To have to watch these Chicago sports gods play so poorly is surreal.
I don’t know what the future holds for this team. Change will be coming, but I don’t know what exactly that will bring. I’m going to try and keep perspective on this whole situation, though. This is a very young and inexperienced Hawks team outside of the main core, and maybe it’s going to take time for these guys to gel. I’m going to try and keep morale up as we head into an offseason of uncertainty. The question is: will you?