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Blackhawks Week That Was and Will Be, 3/9: Last one out, hit the lights

Gather up the jackets, move it to the exits, I hope you have found a friend

Chicago Blackhawks v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

So this is how it’s all going to end, eh?

Jonathan Toews out with long COVID? Patrick Kane on the Rangers? Brent Seabrook’s on the Lightning’s LTIR books? Duncan Keith’s cap recapture penalty on the Hawks payroll after a stint with the Oilers? A Chicago Blackhawks roster full of cast-offs and veteran journeyman playing out the stretch of a season with the goal of being as bad as possible?

This is how the best era of hockey in franchise history is going to end?

Last week’s trade of Patrick Kane brought back all those memories of Chicago’s highest points before the present-day reality sent that journey plummeting back down to Earth. It’s an unfathomably steep fall, too: the top two scoring leaders from this season aren’t even on the team anymore. The clubhouse leader among players who are still on the team has 31 points. The team leader in goals (Taylor Raddysh with 16) may not break 20 before the season ends. The ice-team leader for forwards in Wednesday’s game is Andreas Athanasiou, who’s on his fourth team in eight seasons. Chicago has played 64 games and tallied 49 points in the standings. Not all that long ago, a Chicago team needed just 28 games to amass 49 points in the standings.

It’s an almost unfathomable drop from where the Blackhawks were to where they are now. Don’t think it would’ve entered anyone’s mind that a team with both Toews and Kane on it for a significant portion of the season — Kane’s played 54 games, Toews 46 — would be capable of such misery. Everything seemed so bulletproof then, ya know? (Focusing solely on the on-ice product here).

But there never seems to be a happy ending in this world, no matter how dominant the team or how talented the player. Look no farther than the guy with a statue inside the United Center atrium. Yeah, sure, Michael Jordan retired after a season when his Bulls won a sixth NBA title. But he also retired before a chance at a seventh NBA championship and still hates that he did it. It’s so difficult to find instances in pro sports when the storybook ending came to fruition — or didn’t require a significant “but.” Coming back to the hockey world, Ray Bourque got his Cup but had to leave the Boston Bruins to do it. Joe Thornton never got there. Neither did Jarome Iginla. Alex Ovechkin finally got his Cup but his team’s slowly fading away and probably won’t playoffs this season. Sidney Crosby — perhaps the only active player who can top Toews and Kane in overall career accolades — could also be a postseason spectator. Every dynastic team or player has its eventual downfall, it seems.

Just something to keep in mind after the Hawks win a third championship in five seasons at the 2035 Stanley Cup Final.

The Week That Was

Time to catch up.

Monday, Feb. 27: Ducks 4, Blackhawks 2

Biggest loss of the season?

Tuesday, Feb. 28: Coyotes 4, Blackhawks 1

Or maybe it was this one?

Thursday, March 2: Stars 5, Blackhawks 2

They really should’ve let Max Domi walk to the Dallas locker room and skate for the Stars in this game.

Saturday, March 4: Predators 3, Blackhawks 1

Yeah, this helps the team in the long run, but losses to Nashville will never not be annoying.

Monday, March 6: Blackhawks 5, Senators 0

An alternate headline for this game could be “Progression From the Mean.”

Wednesday, March 8: Red Wings 4, Blackhawks 3

And this would be the “Regression to the Mean.”

For Miles

While we’re on the subject of collapsing dynasties: the Detroit Red Wings!

Detroit has not won a postseason series since 2013, which is one hell of a drought for a team that was the pinnacle of hockey success for a while.

Wait ... did something happen to the Red Wings that postseason?

Good times.

Anyway, it is worth a look to see why that all fizzled out and why Detroit still hasn’t come back to life yet, given that Chicago is headed down the same road — just a few seasons behind. After that 2013 postseason defeat, the Red Wings made the playoffs in each of the next three seasons but lost in the first round each time. Pavel Datsyuk retired in 2016. Henrik Zetterberg followed in 2018. By the time No. 40 hung up his skates, virtually every foe worth remembering from those vaunted Detroit teams was long gone.

The torch was passed to Dylan Larkin, a No. 15 overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft and he’s now in it for the long haul after signing an eight-year contract extension worth a nice $69.6 million last week. Scroll up from that draft, though, and you’ll quickly see why Detroit’s still floundering outside of the playoffs: it hasn’t drafted all that well. The first-round picks from 2015 and 2016 are gone from the organization. Michael Rasmussen, a 2017 No. 9 overall pick, has been closer to “fine” than “good.” Filip Zadina, the No. 6 pick in 2018, has just five points in 23 games this season, missing a chunk of it with a broken leg. What should be this team’s present core has been a series of missteps. Detroit may have more luck in the future with 2019 No. 6 overall pick Mortiz Seider and 2020 No. 4 overall pick Lucas Raymond looking more like future fixtures than any other draft picks since Larkin.

While the Red Wings have had top-10 picks in the last six drafts, they’ve only picked in the top five once (Raymond). And that’s such a big deal because of this:

Kane was a No. 1 pick. Toews was a No. 3 pick. Yes, star players can be found outside of the very top of the draft but the odds of finding them are exponentially smaller.

Chicago hasn’t won a playoff series since 2015 (to hell with whatever the hell that 2020 postseason was, it’s an exception) — just two years behind Detroit in that drought. But landing a top-three pick is a substantial step towards ending that miserable stretch.

Landing talent outside of that first round and developing it into actual hockey talent certainly wouldn’t hurt matters, either.

The Week That Will Be

Friday, March 10: Blackhawks at Panthers

The Blackhawks recalled Filip Roos on Thursday morning which means it could be the return of my personal favorite, self-created meme:

Saturday, March 11: Blackhawks at Lightning

This one feels like it’s going to be bad. Very bad.