Shortly after angering players like Jonathan Toews, the Chicago Blackhawks sent a message to fans: yes, they’re rebuilding. Refreshingly, the Blackhawks even used the word “rebuilding” in that letter.
Sure, the messaging is clumsier because it’s coming now. You know, after they made Toews and others mad. That said, it’s better than the Blackhawks trying to ignore the rebuilding elephant in the room.
Blackhawks tell fans they’re rebuilding with letter
Here’s the full text of the Blackhawks rebuilding letter to fans:
We recently said goodbye to a pair of popular, two-time champions and acquired some new players via trade and free agency. We understand it was tough to see those respected veterans go and realize you may have some questions about our direction. We’d like to address that direction and share why we’re hopeful for the future of Blackhawks hockey.
We’re committed to developing young players and rebuilding our roster. 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. The influx of youth and their progression will provide roster flexibility and depth throughout our lineup.
We were already the youngest team in the 2020 playoffs and several Blackhawks experienced that intensity for the first time; this will help to further establish a culture that embraces the grind of improvement driven by competitors who are relentless, engaged and motivated by a team-first mentality to win.
As our young players develop and learn how to win consistently, they’ll make some mistakes. Inevitably, we’ll miss the mark sometimes, too, but we’ll communicate openly with you on this journey together.
We know that what comes next must be more than just words, and that inspires us.
– The Chicago Blackhawks
Interestingly, it’s from the team as a whole, rather than “Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman.”
Overall, this is a wise move by the Blackhawks. While it remains to be seen if the Blackhawks can combine luck and savvy in an open rebuild like the Rangers have, it’s smart to be transparent. Even if it isn’t as dramatic as Mike Babcock saying “there will be pain.”
A quick look at the process so far
For an in-depth look at the Blackhawks’ rebuilding process, check out this recent post.
Before mentioning anything else, it’s fair to reiterate that the Blackhawks should have done this sooner. Even the dopier among us pointed that out as early as 2018.
Hey, better late than never though, right?
In case you were wondering, Corey Crawford and Brandon Saad represent that “pair of popular two-time champions.” Considering how many times Crawford (and Robin Lehner) kept the Blackhawks in games in 2019-20, it’s plausible that letting him walk was crucial for Chicago. Let me clarify: it’s crucial because they might be better off just being really bad.
Of course, you rarely know with goalies. But the Blackhawks increased their odds of getting league-average netminding, which would increase their odds of losing a lot of games. Which would increase their odds of having some of the best 2021 NHL Draft Lottery odds.
As the Blackhawks noted, they boast a young roster overall. Even so, they could use some true blue chippers, rather than maybes like Dylan Strome, Alexander Nylander, and prospects less obvious than Adam Boqvist and Kirby Dach.
On Tuesday, The Athletic’s Corey Pronman ranked the Blackhawks’ young talent 17th overall in the NHL (sub required).
That’s not apocalyptic, particularly for a team not that far removed from trading off futures to chase Stanley Cups. But it’s also another way of saying that the Blackhawks need to add more high-end young talent.
More pain coming?
As of this writing, the Blackhawks have six of their seven typical picks for the 2021 NHL Draft, with a third-rounder missing. You’d like to see more, not less, than the customary pick per seven rounds. So, if Chicago can move more veterans for more picks and prospects, that would give them more throws at the ‘ol draft dartboard.
By preparing Blackhawks fans with this rebuilding letter, the front office can aggressively search for ways to get better in the long run.
Maybe that means Saad-type trades, though ideally future moves would bring in better returns than Nikita Zadorov and marginal savings. Now, the Blackhawks might lack the space to do this, but it wouldn’t be reckless to take money off of a contender’s hands in exchange for picks or prospects. (See: Red Wings absorbing Marc Staal and the Hurricanes getting a first-rounder to buy out Patrick Marleau.)
Again, hypothetical ideas don’t guarantee actual moves. Yet, by getting Blackhawks fans ready for a rebuilding process, Chicago made it that much easier to pull this off.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.