Bernstein: Eras Ending For Blackhawks

The Blackhawks' recent moves signal a change of course toward development.

Dan Bernstein
October 31, 2019 - 1:22 pm

(670 The Score) An attempt to reconstruct on the fly while remaining competitive might be pivoting now, looking more like more of a commitment to going back before they can go forward.

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The Blackhawks have only won three of their first 11 games, and some combination of realism and desperation may have inspired their decision to promote 19-year-old defenseman Adam Boqvist from AHL Rockford on Thursday, starting his contract clock in the same way they've decided to do with another raw and talented first-round pick in rookie center Kirby Dach, who won't be returned to his junior team in Saskatoon.

They need all the help they can get in almost all phases right now, struggling to both put the puck in the opposing net and keep it out of their own. The Blackhawks' power play is second-worst in effectiveness in the NHL, and the same can be said for their goals-per-game average.

Mainstays of glory days remain on the roster more as reminders of what was than anything else, existing as much as living trophies as contributors commensurate to their respective contracts. Brent Seabrook was a recent and unhappy healthy scratch by coach Jeremy Colliton, and it doesn't take a cynic to wonder if such a move was made while envisioning Seabrook choosing to waive his no-movement clause to facilitate a trade.

It appears that goalie Corey Crawford had begun his Hawks denouement as well, ceding crease time to the impressive Robin Lehner, who has been asked to do more than his reasonable share of work keeping games close enough for a team once designed for puck possession that now resorts to chasing it around. Crawford is now approaching age 35, and his injury history means he's always one bad impact away from missing considerable time.

Duncan Keith can't move at all like he once did, Jonathan Toews's resurgence last season may have been more anomalous than we thought and Patrick Kane doesn't yet find himself in his usual position among the league's top scorers. All of this may be combining in a way that sends a message to make the most of development opportunities.

Colliton's system -- whatever it may still be -- isn't yet in enough evidence, and it's difficult to see how any core principles can be put in place while the back end is in shambles and the line combinations continue to churn as if looking for anything to click.

It all means the Blackhawks are now caught in between, carrying several large salaries in a hard-cap environment and struggling to stay out of the bottom of the standings even after adding a slew of mid-level veterans via free agency and trades before this season. If they once thought they could cultivate their next champion while still staying viable in the moment, their overall quality of play to this point may be quickly disabusing them of that notion.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in midday. You can follow him on Twitter @Dan_Bernstein.