The Chicago Blackhawks made an announcement yesterday notifying fans that the team is rebuilding, or so it seems:
Aside from this announcement, there were additional notable quotes from general manager Stan Bowman afterward. Overall, they are summed up pretty well below:
So what does this mean? Well first off, a normal rebuild would mean completely tearing it down and building through the draft and shrewd moves to improve the roster. Usually, the best way to do that is by trading the good, older, established players on the team to recoup assets to assist in said rebuild. Per Bowman, and other insiders who broke down the message from the Blackhawks, this team wants Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook to be a part of said rebuild.
Are you confused? If not, good. If you are, no problem. Let's break it down regardless.
The Core Sticking Around for the Rebuild?
This might be the most puzzling part of the rebuild. A rebuild is necessary, and we'll discuss that in a minute. But as previously mentioned, a rebuild means getting a plethora of assets to use in the draft to build a team. The top players on this team are those type of players that will speed up a rebuild. However, since the organization wants these core guys to stick around (although Crawford and Saad were punted out of town), they're going to have to draft REALLY well in order to build around the core four.
Currently, the Blackhawks have players such as Adam Boqvist, Kirby Dach, and possibly Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome that fit the narrative as good, young players for this franchise to develop. However, that will not be enough, and the Blackhawks pipeline is quite dry now that Dach and Boqvist have graduated to the NHL. That is not a recipe for success if this team wants to truly rebuild.
Is Stan the Right Man for the Job?
Stan Bowman has never been faced with a rebuild as a general manager. Even if fans want to consider each year since they were swept by the Predators in the playoffs the rebuild, he hasn't been doing a good job. When the Blackhawks were winning Stanley Cups, Bowman was tasked with keeping the roster competitive and filling holes since the core for all of those Cups was already in place thanks to Mike Smith and Dale Tallon.
So, here is the real question. Is Stan Bowman the right man for the job? Say what you want, but that's not the purpose of this article. However, if you believe he is or isn't, this organization is not in a good position to rebuild quickly if they plan on keeping Kane, Toews, Seabrook, and Keith around. As of now, the Blackhawks do not own more than each of their own picks for the next three seasons and are currently without their own 2021 third-round pick due to re-acquiring Andrew Shaw from the Canadiens.
The key for this team to successfully rebuild is draft picks and drafting successfully. A good example is the 2020 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Of their entire current roster, nine players were directly drafted by the Lightning. Many of them, including Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat, were picked in rounds later than the second round. The key to a successful rebuild is hitting on late-round picks. Bowman's track record isn't favorable when it comes to that area.
Since most draft picks take three years to make any impact at the NHL level, we'll only take into consideration his first draft in 2010 up until the 2016 draft.
Of all those drafts, only two players drafted later than the third round made any impact with the team. Those players are Andrew Shaw and Vinnie Hinostroza. That's it. Many of Bowman's drafts led to players making the NHL, but many times it was with other teams when the Blackhawks either flipped them or gave up on them too soon.
The fear with this track record is that Bowman will not be able to draft enough talent to be a contender again while the core four are not entering the twilight of their careers.
Aside from that, Bowman already botched the possibility of receiving an additional draft pick(s) in the Brandon Saad trade. It's hard to believe Bowman didn't receive at least one pick in the deal, and I have been very vocal about that. Most recently, you can hear my thoughts on that topic in the latest Four Feathers Pod episode.
So far, Bowman is not showing he can recoup the draft capital needed to rebuild a team in the desired window for the core four.
So What's Next?
Now, the Blackhawks have prepared their fans by being transparent, similar to what the New York Rangers did for their fans. It's a step forward, especially considering John McDonough would constantly sit at the podium and claim this was a playoff team. At least there is transparency regarding the direction of this organization.
However, by being transparent, fans should expect some really bad hockey over the next few seasons. Unfortunately, they'll need to suck for a bit in order to have high draft picks, and then hopefully hit on players like Kirby Dach who will complement the talent they already have in place.
There are pieces on this team. Players such as Dominik Kubalik, Alex DeBrincat, and Kirby Dach will be major pieces going forward. However, they need more and will need to continue to build the pipeline if this team has any hope of becoming a contender again while Kane and Toews are still relevant players.
There are a lot of questions about where this team is going, however, all fans should expect is a lot of losing, hopefully good trades and drafting, and the possibility of this team being good. Given all the lingering questions mentioned above, are they really rebuilding for the better? We will find out.