When Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson said in his introductory press conference that he was preparing for a rebuild, it was a breath of fresh air to a fanbase that thought something like this should've happened years ago. The transparency, most notably, is appreciated and Davidson has no intention of deviating from that plan.
If you're a player, however, a rebuild is probably the last thing you want to hear, especially for the Blackhawks, given how difficult the last few years have been as it is. You have to imagine the guys inside the locker room were hoping the trajectory was pointing upward, not the other way around.
On paper, it looked like the Blackhawks were going to compete for a playoff spot after they acquired Seth Jones and Marc-Andre Fleury over the summer. But that's looking less and less likely by the day, and it's forcing Davidson to look at the current state of the team through an objective lens.
Brandon Hagel is on board with Davidson's vision, but he's trying to stay optimistic that it won't be too long before the Blackhawks are perennial contenders again.
"We have a good group in here," Hagel said. "Obviously the start of this year, everyone thought we'd probably be in the playoff hunt. We made a few deals, getting Jonesy and Flower. Those are huge pieces to our hockey team.
"We don't feel that far away. We hope we're not that far away. We have a really good crew in here. But everyone's going to believe in him and what he has to do and what he has to bring to this team, and we have to stick on that path and kind of go from here."
Jonathan Toews said something similar a few days ago when asked about the rebuild. The players don't exactly want to accept that the team is in a position where the organization has to strongly consider taking some steps back before they go forward again, and that's the mentality they should have.
"You look at our team on paper and that's a huge reason why everyone continues to fight, even though we've seemed to deal with different types of adversity and challenges and trying to find our team game through it all," Toews said. "We know, somewhere in there, we have much better than what we've shown, for the most part."
An offensive outburst in Tuesday's 8-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks at the United Center served as a reminder for the players that there's untapped potential with this current group. And that's what makes things even more frustrating for them.
"Obviously scoring five in the first period, you just hear the crowd," Hagel said. "The fans were going insane when we were walking off the ice. It's nice to hear. It's nice to hear that stuff. We missed out on it a lot this year. There's nothing we can do now, but definitely hurts a little bit knowing where this place can be if we're really, really a contender."