Now that nerves have been calmed and heads have been leveled after a pair of Chicago Blackhawks wins over the weekend, let’s go back to something that came up during the deepest depths of Chicago’s five-game losing streak.
It was suggested on Twitter, it was debated in our comment sections, and no doubt it was discussed at sports bars around Chicago: that “R” word.
Conclusions were being drawn that this franchise’s current era had reached its peak, the championship window is now closed, and it was time to ship off every asset the Hawks have for draft picks and/or prospects.
Whether or not the Hawks are at that stage is not the point right now. Instead, it’s a caution about this entire theory, because there seems to be one significant misconception about this whole “rebuild” idea.
A franchise rebuild does not guarantee future success.
Let’s say that again.
A franchise rebuild is not a guarantee of future success.
It’s like the Chicago Cubs brilliant tear-down and subsequent rebuild has everyone convinced that the process always works. Theo Epstein doesn’t work in hockey, and it’d be a difficult task to find someone in the NHL world with a reputation and track record that matches his. Along with the general manager, there are also needs for scouts that can locate talent and coaches — at all levels — who can take that talent and turn it into NHL-worthy products. That’s the first problem: finding quality front office personnel who can oversee such a monumental project is already an incredible challenge.
Aside from all of that, there is also the daunting task of finding the right players — and it’s not just as simple as tanking the regular season to get high draft picks. The Edmonton Oilers were terrible for a decade before landing the best draft prospect since Sidney Crosby. Where are they right now? Destined for a return to the draft lottery by the end of the season. Even in Chicago’s recent past, for every Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane they’ve drafted, there are plenty of Kyle Beach and Cam Barker and Jack Skille picks that have yielded much different results.
It’s not just a matter of losing a lot of games, piling up young players, and then watching it all come together a few years down the road. It’s a wildly unstable mixture of players and coaches and scouts and general managers and assistant general managers and trainers and doctors and strength coaches and on and on and on. It’s a volatile concoction of elements that could ultimately combust if just one wrong ingredient is added. It can give sports fans some temporary hope. But it can just as easily crush their sports-loving souls. Presenting the 2011-2016 Chicago Bears teams as evidence, your honor.
The alternative to tearing down this team is trusting a successful — yet undoubtedly aging — core of players to mesh with some new youngsters in the hope that they can recapture some magic beginning each April.
Neither road is certain; neither path guarantees fruitful results. But don’t let the rosy entrance to one path distract from the thorns lurking along the way.