Why parting with Core 4 wasn't right move for rebuild


It's fair to wonder now, starting the 2020-21 season 0-3-1 with the Blackhawks being outscored 20-9, if the organization would be in better shape if they had cut the core loose to get as much value as possible for the rebuild. It was also fair to wonder in the offseason when the franchise moved on from Corey Crawford and Brandon Saad.

When the Hawks decided on a directional shift, it appeared Jonathan Toews (medical issue), Kirby Dach (wrist injury) and Brent Seabrook (back) would all be good to go in 2021. That matters immensely. The circumstances are very different now, but the Hawks still would have had a rough go at least to begin the year even if all key players were available given the current team makeup. 

Young Blackhawks like defenseman Ian Mitchell, and forwards Philipp Kurashev and Pius Suter are showing skill and promise, but paired with new, albeit experienced, faces like Mattias Janmark and Lucas Wallmark, the group as a whole has had trouble gelling and incorporating a consistent team game. Throw in the revolving net with three different goalies in the first four games, and it's clear that trial and error will be necessary for growth and development on an individual and team basis for the Hawks moving forward.

Every golden age runs dry and needs a reboot. What makes the Blackhawks' situation interesting is keeping a core of future hall of famers and three-time Stanley Cup champions on the squad as the team moves to a rebuild.

The Hawks could have received value for their highly-decorated vets leading to more fruitful prospects and picks that could pay dividends for the rebuild. Perhaps the brass thought it best to keep them around as mentors. There's even the chance that the rebuild pans out quickly — within a couple seasons — and the core is able to contend again with the youngsters.

Toews' timeline is unclear, but it sounds like Seabrook, 35, just tweaked his back and should be giving it another go shortly. 

Kane, Keith and Toews are locked up through 2022-23 with no movement clauses and Seabrook, under contract through 2023-24, has a modified no trade clause beginning the 2022-23 season. Each member of the core has recently expressed a desire to stay in Chicago as well. 

If a player doesn't want to part with a team or a city, you'd have to imagine it would be difficult to talk them out of waiving a no movement clause.

We should see how Seabrook rebounds from surgeries last winter on his right shoulder and both hips, but the other vets indicated last year and in the bubble that they're still impact players in the league.

As easy as it is to fantasize about the returns the Hawks could have received for the core and as tough as the 0-3-1 start has seemed, imagine a team full of rookies with the exception of a player like Andrew Shaw who can play and has Cup experience.

Leadership and experience are paramount not just in getting through this season, but in turning it into a positive and in giving the rebuild a foundation with a small safety net. Whether it's in the middle of a play, on the bench or in the room, it has to be a lot more reassuring for a young player to look up and see Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith in the same sweater right now.

Keith and Kane could be seen at training camp taking time to communicate with young Hawks trying to earn a spot. It's clear they bought into the direction of the team and at the same time are putting it on themselves to win, an invaluable element for the youngsters to witness.

"As a player, I feel like I've always been a guy that tries to better myself and try not to worry too much about other people's jobs or what the next step is as a franchise," Kane said after the first day of training camp. "As a player, you want to win now. You want to compete now. And I think we can do that with this group. I think we can surprise some people. I think we can put together a good team game. We have a lot of guys that work hard; we have a lot guys that are competing for a job that will follow a team structure."

The Blackhawks next play the Detroit Red Wings (2-2-0) for their home opener at the United Center on Friday.

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