It’s out there again.
And this time it’s coming for the Chicago Blackhawks. It started with the Cubs, made its way over to the Bears, ran through the White Sox, and now it’s targeting the most successful franchise in the Windy City this century: this notion of the tank season.
It’s the belief that losing is somehow better for developing young players than winning, that taking a chance (not even a certainty at it, a chance) at a higher draft pick is a better idea than winning games which won’t result in achieving a playoff berth.
Not all tanking situations are equal, of course, and there are situations where a total tank is necessary. But no matter what flies across Twitter after the Hawks give away another game on a soft goal in the third-period, no matter what is spoken after an odd-man rush puts the Hawks down by four in the second period, let’s get this out of the way right now:
Blackhawks are NOT in total tank mode
If they were, more than three players would’ve been traded at the deadline. If they were, John Hayden and Gustav Forsling would likely be back from Rockford already. If they were, Corey Crawford would’ve already been shut down for the season.
And a full-on tank may not even be possible right now. With the plethora of no-movement clauses owned by virtually every veteran on the Blackhawks roster, general manager Stan Bowman doesn’t have the option to hit the reset button and start from scratch like some factions of the Hawks fan base would prefer him to do. It’s not possible right now.
What is possible right now is for the young players on this team to get some valuable NHL experience in the final month of the season and for some of its slumping veterans to find some success that can lead to a rebound season in 2018-19.
No, picking a few spots higher in the upcoming NHL draft isn’t going to help this team return to the playoffs next season — and make no mistake, that is the plan for next season, as Bowman told reporters after the trade deadline passed last week. What’s going to help this team is Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz continuing to prove they belong in top-six roles with this team going forward. What’s going to help this team is Vinnie Hinostroza continuing to thrive in the second half of the season. What’s going to help this team is Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad finding a way to re-create the scoring touch they had to capitalize on their possession-driving ways. What’s going to help this team is for someone, anyone, please, to emerge as another defenseman worthy of a top-four spot (fingers still crossed for Connor Murphy).
And if or when those things start to happen, Chicago is going to start winning games, at least at a higher rate than it has for the last two months. That’s going to do more for this franchise’s short-term health than any draft pick can provide, because landing consensus No. 1 pick Rasmus Dahlin feels like even more of a pipe dream than a Blackhawks’ playoff run this season does.