The Chicago Blackhawks are the NHL’s Worst Tire Fire in 30 Years


Conner Keough, Staff Writer

The start of every season is a fresh slate for teams and, with that new slate, usually comes optimism. The 2022-2023 season will be no different. Every team, player, coach, and fan is excited to see what the new season will bring. All teams except the Chicago Blackhawks.


On Ice Issues



It’s no secret in sports that when a team is so good for so long the only way they can go from there is down. The last true dynasty in the NHL ended in 2015 when the Hawks won their third Stanley Cup in 5 years. But, the dynasty would start to crumble over the next few seasons. The Hawks would post excellent regular season records in 2015-2016 and 2016-2017, with 103 and 109 points respectively. These teams would fail to replicate the playoff success they had in 2015.  

Entering 2017-2018 there was no reason to expect Chicago to have the drop they did. In that season the Blackhawks posted a record of 33-39-10, which was only good for 76 points and last in their division.  

But why the dropoff?


Maintaining a Dynasty

As mentioned before the Blackhawks had become a dynasty. And, when you are perceived as the team to beat, the pressure is on to perform. Management kept the expectations high to win a fourth cup so the Blackhawks made some moves. 

The team stopped searching for younger talent and tried adding proven but aged veteran depth into their lineup to try and make their team better right now. In the process, the Blackhawks would end up trading away picks, prospects, and young players that they would end up needing once those proven veterans declined.

One example of this was a trade that took place on February 26th, 2016. The trade went as follows:

Chicago received Thomas Fleischmann and Dale Weiss. Two veterans who were only added for the cup run that season.

Montreal received Phillip Danult and a 2016 2nd-round pick (Alexander Romanov).

In this trade, Chicago received two depth players who were only meant to help them for that cup run. Neither player resigned with the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Phillip Danult (who was 22 at the time) developed into a legit 2nd line forward who is a very good defensive player for Montreal. And, Alex Romanov was traded at the 2022 Draft for a first-round pick. Talk about value for the Canadiens.  

The most well-known example took place in 2017 when the Blackhawks traded young star Artemi Panarin for Brandon Saad. In his first 2 seasons in the league, the undrafted Russian scored 151 points in 162 games. But, the young star demanded a raise that the team refused to pay. He was dealt to the Columbus Bluejackets for Brandon Saad, a 24-year-old winger. Saad was by no means a bad player, but he could not replace Panarin. Over the next two years, Saad would put up 82 points in 162 games, while Panarin scored 169 points in 160 games, over doubling Saad’s production. 

A team that refuses to pay its young stars is a team that’s doomed to fail. 



During this time the Hawks ended up only recording one winning season and one playoff appearance in 2020, where they lost in the first round. Young players like Kirby Dach failed to follow the path of development that was envisioned for them and worse yet, Captain Jonathan Toews misses the entire 2021 season due to illness. The Hawks posted poor records each year.


Mediocrity and Denying the Rebuild

It’s never good for a team’s future when they deny the rebuild. It would be better for them in the long run if they bit the bullet and tear the team down. In my opinion, the Blackhawks have been denying this rebuild for far too long. In 2021 they traded for defenseman Seth Jones and signed him to a 9 million dollar extension for the next 7 years. Jones has had a noticeable decline in his defensive play since 2018, even if his point totals still looked good.  

This move screams denying a rebuild. You don’t sign a 27-year-old player to a 9×7 if you think you are going to miss the playoffs. Worse yet, the Blackhawks traded out important future pieces in Adam Boquist (8th overall in 2018), Cole Sillinger (12th overall in 2021), and David Jiricek (6th overall in 2022). The Blackhawks would be in a much better position if they had just kept all these picks and prospects instead of trading for Jones. 

The team finally embraced the rebuild this offseason selling every player of value except Kane. Alex DeBrincat went to Ottawa for an unsatisfying return. Similar story for Kirby Dach.  

Moves like this have really strapped the Blackhawks into a difficult position. A team that thinks it’s still a contender will make moves to keep contending, including trading away first-round picks and prospects. When the team misses the playoffs it becomes apparent that they need these pieces.  


Off Ice Issues


Covering Up a Sexual Abuse Scandal

Last summer a former NHL player came forward about the sexual abuse he experienced while on the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks. Kyle Beach was 20 at the time and was a highly touted prospect who never played a game in the NHL.  

Beach was taken advantage of by a video coach employed within the organization.  Beach reportedly came forth to management in May 2010 about his experiences. But, in May 2010, the Blackhawks were in the Conference Finals and making a Stanley Cup run, so management thought it would be best not to tell anyone so as to not disturb their chance at the cup.  

The Blackhawks did end up winning the 2010 Stanley Cup on an overtime game-winning goal by Patrick Kane against the Philadelphia Flyers. Beach’s name was not put on the cup and the Blackhawks organization remained silent about the abuse for 11 years until Beach himself came forward to TSN. 


Captain’s Serious Mistrust

Jonathan Toews, a cornerstone of the organization, felt uncertain about his tenure in Chicago past this season. He has lost faith in the organization’s front office. In February of this past year, Toews reacted to a move the organization Jonathan Toews - Wikipediamade with a bang, saying, “I don’t know if anyone feels safe at this point (…) I’m pretty shocked, for sure.”

After being drafted by the Blackhawks 3rd overall in 2006, Toews has been with this team through it all and was even named captain in 2008, at just 20 years old. 

Toews, now 34, will be a free agent come summer 2023, and his 10.5 million dollar cap hit will come off the books. The future of players like him in Chicago is uncertain because he will be a valuable trade piece come the deadline.


Fans are losing Faith

After seasons of mediocrity and little change, the fans are losing faith that this team will ever look like the Blackhawks of old again.  

The team sold out 535 consecutive home games that ended in October this season when the Hawks started 0-5-1 in their first 6 games.

The fans are over it. I think the team is over it. There were some nights the Blackhawks looked worse than your average peewee team. Something needs to be done.  


The Future/A Culture Shift

Let’s face it, the Blackhawks will be among the worst teams this season. They just started their rebuild and have since acquired a lot of good, young prospects. But there needs to be more than that to change the team.  

There needs to be a cultural shift for this team. The sun has set on the Kane and Toews era and the team needs to be cleansed from the 2010 sexual abuse scandal and try to do better in the future. There’s a way to fix the team. And if I can see it, surely the Blackhawk front office can see it.  

Invest in the organization and the community. Build excitement around a new young core of players and make Chicago a desirable place to play again. Only then can the Blackhawks regain their former glory.