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On Patience, the Panic Button, and Lukas Reichel

Patience over panic as it hasn’t been the year anyone envisioned for Lukas Reichel

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When expectations followed Lukas Reichel into the season, there were really only three paths: He hits them, he underwhelms, or blows everything out of the water.

The verdict for now? Underwhelming. But to put a little bit more onto it, there’s this from head coach Luke Richardson today.

“He’s young,” Richardson said of Reichel. “There’s growing pains with young guys.”

He’s also realistic that Reichel, unlike say Connor Bedard, is coming into his career in a much different spot with much different expectations.

“Not very many players come in as young guys at the top of their game right off the hop,” Richardson said. “He’s still finding it. I think he had it going at times last year. Just trying to help him, and even show him some of those games from last year to try and get him back there.”

Fans and analysts–and the Blackhawks staff– have looked with concern at Reichel’s numbers. It’s certainly not what anyone expected. But the main fact of the matter is that Reichel is still only 21 and while fans and management often overvalue its own prospects, there’s often more to it.

Not the Time to Hit the Panic Button With Lukas Reichel

Were there clues that maybe the 2023-24 season wouldn’t go as many thought–or hoped it would? If there is anyone who knows Reichel well, it would be Rockford IceHogs head coach Anders Sorensen. Reichel enjoyed steady play while with the IceHogs, and followed it up in Chicago with a good showing of 15 points (7-8) in 23 games.

Back during development camp, Sorensen made a comment that might very well offer a clue as to what this season has been so far.

“If things didn’t go his way in the game, if it was within a shift or within a period, I think in the past, he would let that affect him the rest of the game or the next game,” Sorensen said.  “His ability to move on from things was a lot better.”

Reichel is potentially sitting out another game tonight, with Richardson considering it after another subpar performance early on in the Blackhawks 4-2 loss to Vancouver. He’s missed three games already as a healthy scratch, but to say that Reichel has been noticeable on the ice would be a stretch. Richardson is right to say that he’s got to push through it–that at some point, it’s the old phrase “put up or shut up” once a player gets to the NHL.

But if indeed Reichel would overthink a shift of a period of play, what could be in his head as his entire season hasn’t come close to what he expects?

Play Out The String and Set 2024-25 As The Baseline

Not every player is able to just leave things as they are and move past it. It’s the human element that is often forgotten about when it comes to sports. There’s often this dualistic way of thinking–either “he sucks” or “he’s incredible” with not a lot of wiggle room in between.

This isn’t to dismiss Reichel’s subpar season. It is a disappointment. But conventional wisdom seems to favor pausing the “bust” talk and allowing Reichel to play out the string on what’s been a tough season. Sometimes in life, time is taken to step away and then reset expectations. Perhaps Reichel tried to do too much.

Or maybe not enough.

Whatever it is, trading him now (unless there’s a significant package that can be had) seems to be dealing at a discount. Instead with likely more young talent making its way to Chicago next season, Reichel could be best served being exclusively at wing and having the chance to restart without the higher expectations saddled to him.

Is it lowering standards? Perhaps to some. But as it is with those who have children, students, or serve in a management position, every person reacts to things differently. The way to motivate or help different people takes different approaches for all.

Patience over panic seems the right course of action. But if similar returns occur next season, then time may very well be running out on Lukas Reichel figuring it out with the Blackhawks.

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