Let’s run through the appetizer quickly to get to the main course.
The Week That Was
Should’ve known Ryan Hartman was going to score the game-winning goal.
Still baffled by that entire sequence where Marc-Andre Fleury’s glove was so obviously removed intentionally by Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler and the play wasn’t not stopped, nor was it ruled goaltender interference.
Between the End and Where We Lie
After Kyle Davidson’s first trade deadline as the Blackhawks general manager, I find myself with even more questions about how this stated “rebuild” is going to unfold. Not ones borne out of frustration, but more out of genuine curiosity.
The Brandon Hagel trade signified that Davidson is not afraid of shrewd moves that will be unpopular with fans — the kind of moves that the Blackhawks have seemed hesitant to make in the past. The Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Carpenter trades were more obvious deals, and this article from The Athletic provides some interesting insight into the Fleury trade unfolded. More trades were desired, it seemed, but it takes two teams to complete a trade and a few of Chicago’s other trade candidates reportedly weren’t generating much interest.
But here’s where the questions start, all falling under the wide-ranging umbrella of: “What’s next?” Do the Hawks bring back Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik and Calvin de Haan (and others) on one-year deals to see if they can add enough value to be flipped at the 2023 deadline? While de Haan’s minutes will almost certainly go to one of Chicago’s boatload of blue-line prospects, the Blackhawks don’t have many forwards knocking on the NHL door and they do have to field a full roster for next season, so perhaps Strome and Kubalik get another look.
Speaking of the blue line, Chicago has four veterans under contract for next season: Seth Jones, Jake McCabe, Connor Murphy and Riley Stillman. The term and salary of Jones’ contract means he isn’t going anywhere. But what of the other three? Are they going to be long-term fixtures here or are they just more fodder for future deadline deals?
Who’s in goal next year? Will Kevin Lankinen be given run as the No. 1 guy or will the team bring in a veteran for more of a platoon? And could that veteran be Fleury so he can keep his family at its current home in Chicago?
What about Jonathan Toews? The captain shared some understandable frustration after the Hagel trade, perhaps a sign that even he can no longer ignore the growing reality of how deep a hole the Blackhawks’ organization has dug itself. Chicago would likely need to retain some salary to make Toews affordable for any team, but he is an unrestricted free agent next summer. Does Davidson envision Toews being around after that? Would Toews even want to stay here? Trading a fan favorite like Hagel is one thing, but is Davidson willing to trade away a franchise cornerstone who’s been the team’s captain for over a decade?
And what about Patrick Kane? Earlier this month, he talked about his future and did not sound like he wanted to go anywhere but Chicago. Can Davidson change Kane’s mind if Davidson’s plan is to have Kane moved? Or does Davidson envision Kane staying here for the rest of his career — however long that is — as a veteran player who can still produce and mentor the next wave of Blackhawks prospects?
Alex DeBrincat turned 24 in December and clearly has several years of his prime left but is the Blackhawks situation so dire and the road back so lengthy that even DeBrincat could be moved to amass more picks and prospects who are even younger?
The questions don’t stop there but, hopefully, the point is made. There won’t be much learned over the final quarter of the season but it should make for an interesting summer.
The Week That Will Be
Wednesday, March 23 at Anaheim Ducks
It’ll be interesting to compare the timelines of Anaheim and Chicago through the next decade, with both teams hiring new GMs in early 2022 who quickly moved the team into rebuild mode after several seasons of hockey irrelevance due to an aging core.
Thursday, March 24 at Los Angeles Kings
Was wholly unaware that the Kings are in second place in the Pacific Division until checking the standings within the last few minutes.
Saturday, March 26 at Vegas Golden Knights
I remain fascinated by this ongoing saga with the Evgenii Dadonov trade from Vegas to Anaheim.
Monday, March 28 vs. Buffalo Sabres
We’ll call this game the “Apathy Cup.”
Kitty chases Fiddy
We are not back.
Last Week: 2 games, 0 goals
Season Totals: 63 games, 34 goals
Current Pace: (34 goals / 63 games played) * 82 games = 44.25 goals
Needing 16 goals in the last 19 games feels like a rather high mountain to climb. Not impossible, but it barely feels probable. DeBrincat should still surpass his career-high mark of 41 from the 2018-19 season, his sophomore year in the NHL.