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Veteran Benefits

June 24, 2022, 2:33 AM ET [151 Comments]
Theo Fox
Chicago Blackhawks Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT

With rumors that the Blackhawks could be trading Alex DeBrincat and that in turn could cause a chain reaction where Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews may ask out and waive their NMCs, there is growing apprehension of losing veterans to not only lead the team in games and in the locker room but also play the tough minutes against the opponent's best players.

That last statement is a true axiom in hockey. If the team is gutted down to just youngsters and prospects on an endless carousel of cups of coffee from the minors, then some harm -- or a lot of it -- can be done to their confidence and development in the long run. Their growth can get derailed and there may be a hard time getting back on track to hit full potential.

So why trade the likes of Kane, Toews, and/or DeBrincat as well as Seth Jones, Connor Murphy, and/or Jake McCabe? Throwing the young ones to the wolves game in and game out may not build a contender the right way. Sure, they get experience via trial by fire but what about the importance of mentorship on how to be a pro before, during, and after games.

One thing to keep in mind is that some trades of the aforementioned will gain back players with miles in the NHL especially to help the other team's salary cap. It's understood that they may not be of the same caliber as those they are being exchanged for. However, it could be argued that skill level and career accolades don't matter as much in a rebuild.

Another factor is time within the organization. A veteran doesn't need to be a lifer with the same team that drafted them. Similarly, a veteran also doesn't even need to stay with the team beyond a season or two. Case in point is Robert Lang who the Hawks signed to a two-year contract to aid Toews' acclimatization to the NHL. Lang got traded after just one season.

In that lone year in Chicago, Lang performed quite well as the top center before Toews eventually emerged in that role then earned the captaincy that following offseason. Lang logged considerable minutes en route to 54 points in 76 games. He wasn't brought aboard to rescue the franchise. Rather, Lang permitted Toews to grow at a more comfortable pace.

Defensive defenseman Jim Vandermeer did the same for Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook who entered the league together in 2005-06. Keith and Seabrook have credited the start of their NHL careers to Vandermeer who was far from being one of the best players on the team. That year veteran D also included Adrian Aucoin, Jaroslav Spacek, and Jassen Cullimore.

In that same 2005-06 season was when the ABC line of Tyler Arnason, Mark Bell, and Kyle Calder graced the lineup. Along with Patrick Sharp, Rene Bourque, and Radim Vrbata, this trio of youngsters leaned upon veteran role players Martin Lapointe, Matthew Barnaby, and Curtis Brown. Some of these young players ended up with better careers than others, of course.

Thus, there is upside to having veterans of various skill packages, resumes, and contract lengths on the roster. Even if the Hawks export some veteran capital this summer, they are more likely than not importing some capital back in. Then there's free agency to bring in experience, too, regardless of what trades may or may not go down.

Both types of veterans brought in as trade acquisitions and as free agents could quite possibly be on short-term contracts that expire in a year or two and can hopefully be flipped at the TDL for new assets -- preferably draft picks. The Hawks may march to the beat of this drum for the next several seasons during the early stages of the rebuild.

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Blackhawks Updates

With Mark Eaton and Meghan Hunter as the assistant general managers, Karilyn Pilch as the director of player personnel, and Brian Campbell as advisor of hockey operations -- and not to mention Kyle Davidson at the top of the hockey sector of the organizational chart -- the Blackhawks are clearly steering away from the old guard and ringing in a new era.

Another indication of this is taking a look at who the Hawks have already interviewed and are interested in interviewing for the head coach position. As other teams continue to recycle the coaching mulch of the NHL, names like Luke Richardson, Brad Shaw, Ryan Huska, Andrew Brunette, and even incumbent Derek King are the ones of interest to the Hawks.

Will this pay dividends in the short term and long term? That is what will determine whether breaking from established methods and networks is worth it. A possible barometer for such progress is the work outputs of another newbie to the franchise and to the league: associate general manager Jeff Greenberg. Will his data analytics generate positive results?

Advanced metrics are ruling the day more and more in pro sports with hockey being no different. Thinking uniquely and instilling new blood into the personnel of all facets of the organization isn't exactly novel either. Yet, for a team that had a horrendous season on and off the ice, new minds and voices with fresh perspectives are a welcome sight for the Hawks.

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IceHogs Updates

A minor league signing like this is for depth purposes and perhaps a reward for Seamus Malone's ECHL offensive output. A year ago the Blackhawks acquired Liam Folkes from the Oilers system for future considerations. Folkes had a year left on his AHL deal but never played for the IceHogs. He split time between the Indy Fuel and Maine Mariners.

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See you on the boards!

Sources: Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, NBC Sports Chicago, The Athletic Chicago

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