The 2016-17 season was a huge eye-opening experience and left a bad taste in just about every Blackhawks fan’s mouth. Not only did the Hawks get swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in four straight games, they were swept by their Western Conference rival, Nashville Predators. This poor showing left everyone, including myself, wondering if this could truly be the end of a dynasty here in Chicago for the Hawks. The team’s General Manager, Stan Bowman, was the first to admit that the way the season ended was unacceptable, as he said,
“Standing here April 22  is not the way we expected our season to end. And it’s a complete failure when you measure it against the expectations that we have of ourselves. We did not come even close to reaching the standard we have set over the years here. And that’s unacceptable.”
Stan then went on to promise that there would be changes made within the Chicago Blackhawks organization and nobody was considered untouchable at this point.
Moves were indeed made and some of them were huge. Former assistant coach Mike Kitchen was cut loose, while the Hawks went on to hire Ulf Samuelsson and Don Granato to replace Kitchen on Joel Quenneville’s coaching staff. This was just the first step towards creating a new identity for the 2017-18 season. In a blockbuster trade, the Blackhawks made a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Hawks sent fan favorite Artemi Panarin, Tyler Motte, and a 6th round pick to Columbus for former Hawks player Brandon Saad, Anton Forsberg, and a 5th round pick. Our defense was spread extremely thin with the loss of Niklas Hjalmarsson to Phoenix. Although Hammer was gone, the Hawks were able to scoop up some much needed young defensive talent in Connor Murphy in the Hjalmarsson deal. Stan Bowman dismantled one of the top offensive lines in the NHL in 2016-17 (Panarin-Anisimov-Kane), traded probably our most reliable defender at that point in Hjalmarsson, and decided to sign aging stars such as Patrick Sharp in a desperate attempt to try and recreate some of the magic of the 2014-15 season when they won their last Stanley Cup.
It is safe to say that Bowman failed miserably in the 2017 offseason. Most people are probably wondering why the team played as bad as they did this past season. When you actually take a closer look, not only are the core players like Toews, Kane, Keith, Seabrook, Crawford, and etc. getting up there in age, you also have to take into consideration how much hockey the guys have played – 82 game seasons every year besides 2012 (NHL Lockout) plus playoffs, Olympics, All-Star Games, and so on. Has Father Time finally caught up to our beloved Blackhawks? It certainly looks like it. They finished the year with a dreadful 33-39-10 record which earned them last place in the Central Division.
They also failed to make the playoffs this season – for the first time since 2008.
It is an extremely weird feeling because Blackhawks fans have become spoiled in recent years. Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville were rumored to be on the hot seat again this year, but the organization decided to keep them on. However, it does seem like this could be their last chance to cool it off. Even though I am pretty much disgusted with what the team has become, it truly is hard to turn your back on the two guys who made your team relevant again and brought 3 Stanley Cups to Chicago in a 5-year span.
John McDonough tells the media that Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville will remain in their current positions. #Blackhawks
— Eric Lear (@BHTVeric) April 5, 2018
Joel Quenneville and Stan Bowman will remain Head Coach and General Manager during the upcoming 2018-19 season. The question is, could it be their last?
Bowman and Co. are essentially back to the drawing board after two consecutive failed seasons. Talks of rebuilding are running rampant through the streets of Chicago. The Blackhawks wound up with the 8th pick in the 2018 NHL Draft which did not come without controversy. During the lottery to determine the draft order, the Hawks were one bounce of a ball away from landing the #1 overall pick this year – literally.
Chicago had ball #11 in perfect position to be drawn when the Buffalo Sabres #6 ball smacked the Hawks ball out of the way instead. Even though I would have loved the opportunity to land the consensus #1 pick, Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, who I believe will become an elite 2-way NHL defenseman for many years, the team is still in prime position to take a game-changing talent that can be placed directly on the NHL active roster to make an immediate impact next season.
Do you remember the last time the Blackhawks held the #8 overall pick? It was 30 years ago. 2018 is the 30-year anniversary of the Jeremy Roenick pick. The Hawks took center Jeremy Roenick with the 8th pick in 1988. Coincidence? Maybe, but I always feel things happen for a reason.
What will Bowman do with this year’s pick? That’s the million dollar question. There’s a lot of possibilities here at #8 since the Hawks also have the Nashville Predators pick which is still being determined due to them still playing in the playoffs right now. Will they move up, trade down and collect draft picks, or stay put and draft 2 players? It’s very likely that they stay put at #8, but they could also package the two draft picks, and possibly a player, to move up and select a premier prospect, like Dahlin, who they desperately need to fill a huge void on defense. Trading down would also be a great option because let’s face it – the Blackhawks are not very good right now and could really use as much young talent as possible to inject them with a dose of adrenaline. Duncan Keith is aging (34) and posted a -29 +/- stat line this year – no, that is not a typo. Brent Seabrook is also 34-years-old on a salary cap draining contract.
Brent Seabrook was paid $9,000,000 in salary this past season
The Vegas Golden Knights just made the conference finals with a 6-man D-corps that earned a TOTAL of $8,157,500
— CorsiHL (@CorsiHL) May 7, 2018
The team gave up 256 goals which was 8th worst in the entire NHL. These guys are on their last legs, so if the Blackhawks do decide to stay at #8, the defense needs to be a top priority. Please, for the love of God, please draft some defense.