For anyone who’s been paying attention, none of this should be new.
On Tuesday afternoon, multiple media outlets released interviews with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman, detailing an alleged “rebuild” the Blackhawks are now embarking.
Here are some comments from Bowman, as reported by ESPN’s Emily Kaplan:
“But what I don’t want it to mean is we’re trying to tear this team apart and trying to bring in a whole new group of players in the next year and a half,” Bowman told ESPN in a wide-ranging interview on Monday. “But we do need to rebuild the depth of our team. We don’t have enough players, top to bottom, to compete with the top teams. We’ve got a lot of good players, we’ve got a pretty good start on the makings of a good team, but we still have a ways to go yet, and I accept that.
Portions of the above and below quotes were bolded for emphasis by Second City Hockey.
“We’re committed to developing young players and rebuilding our roster,” the letter read. “We want more than another window to win; we want to reach the summit again, and stay there — an effort that will require a stockpile of emerging talent to complement our top players.”
This is not how a rebuild works, folks.
Part of this comes down to a semantics debate. It’s been said several times at this website and on our podcasts that, as long as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith are around, the Blackhawks are NOT in a rebuild and any suggestions to the contrary are incorrect. And as long as Bowman isn’t committing to moving those players, the Blackhawks are NOT rebuilding.
A true sports rebuild is what the Cubs did in the early 2010s and the White Sox did in the mid-2010s, when any piece of potential value was shipped out for picks and/or prospects.
The White Sox traded a perennial Cy Young candidate in Chris Sale. The Blackhawks haven’t traded Kane. Ergo, this isn’t a rebuild.
Bowman’s comments seem to confirm what’s appeared to be the Blackhawks plan since the 2017-18 season was lost when Corey Crawford was sidelined by injuries.
The Blackhawks’ plan, roughly, is stocking up on as many young prospects as they can in a short window and fast-tracking them to the NHL. Those developments are being expedited because the clock is ticking on the remaining years of Kane and Toews in top-six roles, with the latter being of more importance than the former because there is no replacement for Kane in the Blackhawks organization. The hope is this young talent meshes with talented veterans in a short enough window to assemble a team that can be a Cup contender before Father Time comes calling for Toews and Kane’s ability to be top-six forwards.
If there’s one position on the ice where the term “rebuild” would apply for the present, it’s at goaltender. Letting 35-year-old Crawford walk this month means the No. 1 spot will go to either Malcolm Subban (26), Collin Delia (26) or Kevin Lankinen (25). But that’s the only position where a full youth movement is ongoing.
The other thing this Bowman media tour appears to be doing is lowering expectations for the 2021 season because the Blackhawks will likely be a subpar team at best. This past season, Chicago was propped up by the excellent goaltending duo of Robin Lehner and Crawford. Despite their Herculean efforts, the Blackhawks were 23rd in the NHL standings after an abbreviated regular season. Removing the security blanket that was Lehner and Crawford without many signs of improvement from the current roster suggests an unpleasant season is in store for Chicago.
Whether or not it’s the right plan can be debated ad nauseam — and has been for more than two years now. But the plan doesn’t appear to have changed that much, if at all.
They’re just saying it out loud now.