The Blackhawks: Are They Aging Out?

Stephanie Racker The answer to the Chicago Blackhawks current season slump is actually quite simple: the team is old. As in any professional sport, young rookies that were viewed as generational players often peak and begin a slow descent from greatness to retirement. Sound familiar? It should. It’s where the Hawks are now with center Jonathan Toews and right-winger Patrick Kane. Their glory days are long behind them. Although Kane seems to be on track to continue playing productively, Toews’s statistics are not looking quite as bright. Instead, the captain, who drastically altered his fitness routine in an attempt to bolster his scoring ability, is still not providing the Hawks with the offense needed to be Stanley Cup contenders. But Toews is not the only one to blame. The root of Chicago’s problems stem from its aging defense. The team lost 26 year-old Trevor van Riemsdyk in the Las Vegas Expansion Draft. That loss was a critical blow to Chicago’s effort to defend against an increasingly faster and younger NHL. The Hawks took a step in that direction in trading veteran defenseman Nikolas Hjalmarsson for the young and promising Connor Murphy, but we have yet to see whether Murphy will fulfill that promise. For whatever unfathomable reason, Coach Quenneville hardly gives Murphy the chance to play. Young players must make stupid mistakes in order to learn and grow. If Murphy is not given the chance to make these mistakes, the Hawks can’t expect any kind of payoff from the trade. His lack of playing time is beginning to look awfully similar to Trevor Daley’s stint with the Hawks. The weakest link in the Hawks’s defense stems from assistant captain Brent Seabrook, whose lackluster seven points are evidence of his inability to contribute positively to the team. In fact, Gustav Forsling has just as many points as Seabrook, something the Hawks need to be concerned about if they hope to reach even a wildcard playoff berth. In a perfect world, Seabrook could be traded immediately for someone who could help the team navigate the NHL’s faster paced waters. Unfortunately, Seabrook’s contract has a no-movement clause and he will only become an Unrestricted Free Agent in the year 2024. In other words, even if he does not pick up the pace the Hawks are stuck with him for what might possibly be another 7 long years. Another downside to Seabrook’s contract is the 55 million dollar price tag stapled to it; valuable salary cap space being sucked up by a player that is just not producing. Brent Seabrook is incredibly talented as a player, there is no doubt about that. The problem is that Seabrook is 32 years old, which is an issue that can only be avoided for so long. Until it is addressed, the Hawks will continue to struggle against teams like Toronto and Columbus, who are filled with the talent that only comes from young players, hungry for success in the pros. Younger players like Nick Schmaltz and Alex DeBrincat help compensate, but they can only do so much. When offensive stars like Brandon Saad are doing more poorly than both Schmaltz and DeBrincat, the Chicago Blackhawks need to re-evaluate their roster and ask and answer some tough questions: who is taking up each spot and, more importantly, is their price worth the numbers they put up. Until then, the Chicago Blackhawks will forever be trying to play “catch-up,” always a losing proposition on aging knees and battered hips.]]>