Five games into the season and the Blackhawks have three points out of a possible ten. Chicago has allowed 21 goals against. They aren’t realistically competing for anything except the draft lottery, and Detroit, who was historically bad last year proved that being the worst team doesn’t guarantee the first overall pick. Chicago needs to replenish its talent pool, but where does the rebuild go from here?
It’s not like the team is going to simply throw the season away for the sake of developing a handful of rookies, but Chicago Blackhawks did officially announce a rebuild with an emphasis on younger players. Yet, the season has the feel so far of being like a 56-game audition for next year, or beyond.
This isn’t just about giving the young guys their first NHL experience. Youth is part of the rebuild, but it isn’t everything, and this looks like it’s also about trying to figure out who is expendable. How else do you explain signing veterans during the offseason?
Chicago has been a bit rough around the edges for a few years now, and adding younger players isn’t going to solve the team’s problems. Looking at CapFriendly, Chicago has more than a dozen players on expiring deals.
Some of those players won’t be back, such as Zack Smith and Carl Söderberg; whereas others such as Alex Nylander will need a new deal despite spending the year on injured reserve. Nylander will probably get at least a one year deal anyway, but others may just no longer be on the team next year.
Evaluating organization depth at each position needs to be a goal for the Chicago Blackhawks this season.
That might not be so bad, and this year really is about seeing the scope of the organization’s depth. This includes veterans. The goalie roulette in the net really emphasizes this point. Malcolm Subban is 27. He’s not exactly a prospect at this point, and neither is 26-year-old Collin Delia.
It’s entirely possible not one of the three players pushing for the starter’s role will actually get it. This year may end up deciding who the team’s backup goalie is, rather than the starter. The team could then move on from a couple of guys, but then Chicago would still need a number one goaltender. This is all part of the process, and the team needs to know what they have in their roster from top to bottom.
The upside to all of this is that, at least for me, I can’t remember a time in the last decade where Chicago really made it a point to play their prospects in the NHL. The season has only just begun and there have been three different goalies, multiple new faces among the forwards, and defensemen playing their first NHL games in Chicago.
This is going to progress, and it’s likely that the team’s lineup will undergo further changes as the season continues, and not just for the rookies. Keep your eyes on the veterans as well, because if Chicago is going to be a contender, it’s making sure their depth is quality, and not just young.