Everything about the idea of trading Alex DeBrincat feels wrong
So let’s talk about it.
Alex DeBrincat remains the biggest question of this entire rebuild process, and his name was the centerpiece of internet chatter last week for those outside of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
On Thursday, Daily Faceoff’s Frank Servalli posted an article of the offseason’s top trade targets and put the Blackhawks winger atop said list.
Let’s quote Seravalli’s words directly here:
The question seems to be ‘when’ and not ‘if’ the Hawks will move the two-time 40-goal scorer. Is it this summer, or before next season’s trade deadline?
Seravalli added more thoughts during a Friday podcast, while The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta was already listing teams that were parties interested in acquiring DeBrincat’s services. It’s all added up to a week of reports, speculations and rumors that suddenly make the idea of DeBrincat being shipped out of Chicago feel significantly more plausible than it did a week ago.
Oh. Well, allow me to retort:
No move that the Blackhawks can make would feel worse than this one. Nothing this team can do would be more disappointing, more disheartening, or more deflating than sending DeBrincat out of town, whether it happens within the next few weeks or at next year’s trade deadline.
There’s something deeply satisfying about watching one of your team’s homegrown talents evolve into one of the game’s top snipers, especially when there were a bunch of outsiders suggesting said player was a “novelty act” or a “one-trick pony” or whatever ridiculous claims an unnamed source wanted to make three or four years ago. DeBrincat responded with the strongest middle fingers an athlete can muster: a pair of 41-goal seasons and a third with 32 in 52 games, which is a pace of just over 50 goals in an 82-game season.
DeBrincat’s rapid emergence and then constant top-tier performance have been one of the only bright spots around this team since it drafted DeBrincat in the second round (39th overall) of the 2016 NHL Draft. He’s probably the only success story this team’s had for nearly a decade (more on that in a bit). As the team has plummeted towards league-wide irrelevance and a countless supply of nobodies have paraded in and out of town, DeBrincat has become an all-around player who flourishes at 5-on-5, is lethal on the power play and has even added the penalty kill to his agenda. He’s everything a team would want in a star player and seems destined to wear the “C” at some point of his NHL career.
But there’s one point that has to be conceded here:
It does makes sense.
No matter how awful it’d feel, trading DeBrincat for picks and prospects has plenty of merit because this team has been so awful since DeBrincat joined it that there may not be any other way out of the league’s basement. This team is in such an awful position that trading away a 24-year-old all-star forward who’s likely entering the prime years of his NHL career is probably not the worst idea. Think of how awful a team has to be for that sentence to be accurate.
But there’s another thought that pops up every time I head down that road of accepting this premise.
The Blackhawks have been dreadful at drafting and developing talent for the better part of a decade. DeBrincat is the Blackhawks only real success story from the draft since 2011, which nabbed Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw. Chicago nabbed three consecutive NHL-worthy talents in the first rounds from 2012 to 2014, but that trio (Teuvo Teravainen, Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman) all enjoyed their most NHL success elsewhere. Ben Pope of the Sun-Times explored the depth’s of the Blackhawks draft failures as part of this article from Sunday.
It should of note that the Blackhawks “new” amateur of scouting is Mike Doneghey, who’s been with the team since 2009. The team also brought longtime executive Norm Maciver back to the team as an associate GM, while general manager Kyle Davidson’s lengthy tenure with the team is well documented. Sure, there’s a new guy in charge of it all and there are some new faces in the organizational depth chart. But there remains a higher portion of people who were under the umbrella of the old regime which consistently failed at the draft. Not exactly the NHL equivalent of Theo Epstein’s legion that transformed the Cubs.
And now I’m supposed to believe it’s a good idea to give those people even more picks and prospects to work with in hopes of finding other players who end up like the guy(s) they’d be trading away?
Forgive me if my confidence is lacking.