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Revisiting a Reasonable Timeline for the Blackhawks Rebuild

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It’s hardly spoken to as no front office or coaching staff wants to over or under deliver to a fanbase. The Chicago Blackhawks are no different here.

So as the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers fight for the Stanley Cup starting Saturday, they’re the final two of 32 teams vying every season to climb that mountain.

But rebuilds are supposed to result in Stanley Cups. But it doesn’t always turn out with a happy ending. Ask the Oilers–a team making their first Final appearance since 2006, and going for their first Cup since 1990. Beyond that, their rebuild technically started at the beginning of the last decade. Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers are back again in the Stanley Cup Final, hoping to hoist it instead of watching another team do so.

So when it comes to the Blackhawks rebuild, especially since so many have varying opinions on it, what’s realistic in the grand scheme of things?

Blackhawks Rebuild Gifted With Connor Bedard

Connor Bedard changed the scope of things after general manager Kyle Davidson tore things down a season prior, dealing away Patrick Kane and sending other former pieces to snag younger foundational pieces. It was done in the hope that those players (Frank Nazar, Kevin Korchinski, and Sam Rinzel) would be important parts of that rebuild process.

Bedard eased the fears of a prolonged one and then backed it up with a likely Calder winning season.

But this offseason, as written about several times here at CHN, is the first of three consecutive that likely set the stage  for whether the Blackhawks are contenders or pretenders.

With the second overall pick, the Hawks have a chance to add another pristine talent to fortify the core. Some smart free agent moves coupled with reasonable trades can afford Davidson to place valuable pieces around that core for years to come.

But it won’t all happen this year and it’s absolutely critical that the Blackhawks see at least a five-game increase in victories from 2023-24. Each offseason, then, must build on the previous without slippage that raises questions as to whether it’s “working” or not. Gradual improvement leads to contention, but in the same breath, some slippage should be expected. It’s where teams adjust as such to find those right pieces, not necessarily the best, to take Chicago to the next level.

The Panthers are an example of that–acquiring many players through trade or free agency to build around the players they selected many years prior.

What’s the Bottom Line?

So as for reasonable expectations, well, that can’t be predicted until the offseason completes and games begin. But the Western Conference will be a dogfight for an emerging Blackhawks team. Making sure that gradual growth along with finding those right players takes precedence after selecting high again in the 2024 NHL Draft. The first box checked in the Blackhawks rebuild should be picking lower next year in the first round–only because it shows growth had been there. From there, .500 play or better should dictate the conversation a year from now heading into 2025-26. In the 2026 offseason, the playoffs should start the discourse.

It likely won’t be a linear path and it’ll have bumps, too. But a reasonable timeline recalls that not all paths are the same–and the Blackhawks offseason work now can save them a whole lot more work later.

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