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Blackhawks Column: The Brutal Reminder of Rebuilds

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Prior to launching Chicago Hockey Now, I chronicled a rebuild as it was in its infancy. But unlike the Chicago Blackhawks version, there was no lottery luck, and no generational pick.

Nothing but a realization that it would take several years before a corner was turned and the word playoffs would become a reality. The Red Wings would be lucky if it happened in five years.

The fifth year is this now for them and at best, they’re a bubble playoff shot. Not only is their division a dog fight–so is the conference.

Nothing, it turns out, is guaranteed.

But covering it was a constant cycle of wash-rinse-repeat, putting all the hope into prospects that saw some never make it, and wondering if it would ever end.

After a game like today’s 4-1 loss where the Blackhawks looked tired and overmatched, it makes things even more exhausting for the fans emotionally invested and watching at home.

Bedard Helps, But They’re Down to Essentially One Line

As Connor Bedard continues his road point streak, it at least provides the light that ushers the team out of the darkness of a rebuild. But even that is trying.

With Corey Perry no longer with the team, Taylor Hall’s season done because of his right knee surgery, and Andreas Athanasiou on the IR, the Hawks are down three players who were counted on to contribute. Lukas Reichel was a healthy scratch today while Wyatt Kaiser and Isaak Phillips were sent back to Rockford.

Even the young kids counted on are scuffling, too. The Blackhawks are 7-16 now, tied for the least amount of points in the NHL. The end goal of course is to get the top pick again, and grab Mack Cellebrini, which would make the Blackhawks top line a proverbial must-see TV moment 82 times.

But slow it down a moment. Not all the prospects are going to hit and general manager Kyle Davidson’s best laid plans of insulating Bedard and Kevin Korchinski with veterans has been reduced to Nick Foligno, who although he is an incredible voice in the locker room, is just one person. The other veterans off the ice certainly are there, but aside from the leadership aspect, the numbers just don’t add up enough on the ice.

It’s ghastly.

But in the midst of all of this, some accounts randomly appearing in my Twitter feed were calling for Luke Richardson and even Kyle Davidson’s head. It prompted me to tweet this:

In short, not even the great Scotty Bowman or Jon Cooper would see much different in terms of results. The  roster was created in the way it was–predicated on a delicate balance of being good enough to not be embarrassed nightly but not good enough to fall out of favorable lottery odds. With the recent developments, that balance went to hell in a hand basket when a couple of those players are no longer playing for the season.

Patience is the End Game

Go back and look at the teams that rose out of the ashes of rebuilds and they started similarly. A lot of losing–sometimes badly–and the gradual growth of the prospects who will one day be the foundation of the organization.

Bedard and Korchinski are those two so far. But it doesn’t blunt the pain of seeing them unable to string a winning streak together.

Or cobbling together three goals in as many games…while surrendering 12.

Worse–what about the fact that only two defensemen, two, have scored goals this season. Of the three goals, two belong to Korchinski. The other?

Nikita Zaitsev–who’s played just seven games.

No, rebuilds are not designed to be fun and they test the patience and sanity of any fan, especially the diehards. One moment it feels like they’re turning a corner and the next–well, they’re on another three-game losing streak.

The end goal then is what I’ll likely write once a month to remind that patience takes precedence, and that until there are more scoring threats outside of whatever line is out there with Connor Bedard, blame can’t really be laid at the feet of Richardson, Davidson, or the players.

In the words of the late, great Dennis Green, they are who we thought they were.

One day, though, that will mean something completely different. No, nothing is guaranteed, but there’s an awful lot to look forward to.

At least, that’s the hope.

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