“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.”
— Chicago Blackhawks press release, Oct. 20, 2020
Deftly straddling the right message for an increasingly anxious fanbase on one hand, and yet another massive PR faux pas on the other, the Blackhawks issued a statement today that hit all the right notes—but also clearly suggested they are not being completely truthful with someone.
Consider these words about their alleged rebuild very carefully: “an effort that will require a stockpile of emerging talent to complement our top players.”
This is basically the formula the Blackhawks have been following for four years—just not trying to call it a rebuild.
The fact remains, the Blackhawks have neither the draft picks nor the prospects nor the cap room to fulfill this promise without biting the bullet—risking alienation of the diehard meatheads who continue to lap up the “anything can happen” pig slop every year—and trading those same “top players,” meaning Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith.
In other words, it is still not going to work, even if you “step out” and call it a rebuild.
At face value, the Blackhawks are like Lucy: Pulling away the football yet again on a dwindling, delusional fanbase that just will not let go of the now decade-old One Goal dream.
“Rebuilding is fine, as long as I get my ‘Kaner’ fix and can fantasize about the playoffs for a month or two.” This is where it has come to, and that is not a rebuild.
This is not being negative, either. It is living in the world of actual “facts.” Do the math.
Even if Kirby Dach, Adam Boqvist and Ian Mitchell (as long as we are fantasizing here) end up being very good or great NHL players, the Hawks need at least three or four more NHL players of that ilk to become remotely what they were from 2010–2015, when they had four future NHL Hall of Famers, and another four or five terrific players.
And by the time Dach, Boqvist and/or Mitchell would become those players, Keith, Kane and Toews would all be 35–40 years old, or old and injured enough.
And where is that “emerging talent” coming from? Picking guys like Lukas Reichel at 17th overall in the first round? Alex Vlasic? Jake Wise? Being jacked up to the salary cap every year because of four guys over age 30 with no-movement-clause contracts into the next century?
But maybe the Hawks have an ace up their sleeve, and they intend to quietly shop Keith or Toews or Kane as the in-season trade deadline approaches in hopes of getting the boatload of high picks and prospects a real rebuild requires.
Well, then they apparently would not be leveling with those players, would they? Unless you are willing to believe the Hawks—with a straight face—are defining Dylan Strome as a top player, in which case, we have a bridge we want to sell you.
No, for the fourth consecutive year, here come the Hawks! The double-talking Blackhawks! Not contending (but at least they are not pretending about that anymore!). Not rebuilding (but now saying they are—probably only as a justification for reducing salary—let’s be honest here).
If that sounds familiar, you must have been around during the Bill Wirtz era, when Stanley Cups were “too expensive.”
Bit of advice: Stop trying to put a positive spin on this organization’s annual “bs” simply because it is easier than facing the fact that this team is swirling the drain as a serious hockey franchise. Because that’s when they have you—yet again.
Which is, in the end, why the Blackhawks are actually hemorrhaging fans (and sponsors). The team is mediocre, but not terrible. But, the brand is tanking.
Why? Because they cannot be completely honest in meaning what they say—and doing what they say. Not with their fans, possibly not their players and maybe not even themselves.