The end to a dynasty is never pretty. For the Chicago Blackhawks, it seems like their incredible run has come to a halt. Starting in 2010 when they won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1961, all the way until their 2014-15 Cup-winning season, they were the most feared team in hockey. Led by future hall of famers Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, they won an unprecedented three cups in five years. In today’s age of free agency and player movement, it was an incredible feat, matched only by Sidney Crosby’s Penguins, and one we will probably never see again. Toews, drafted in 2006 and Kane in 2007, were the pillars to what would become the greatest hockey team of our lifetime.
But since that third Stanley Cup victory in the 2014-15 season, it has been general mediocrity and even disappointment from the Hawks. In the three seasons following, the Blackhawks were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs twice, swept once, and last season failed to make the playoffs. This season, it seems as though they will miss the playoffs for a second straight season, sitting five points behind the Winnipeg Jets and the second wild-card spot.
This begs the question: is it time to trade two of the greatest players in hockey history?
Both Toews and Kane are under contract through the 2022-23 season and will be a $10.5 million dollar cap hit after signing identical eight-year contract extensions back in 2014. But things just don’t seem to be working in Chicago no matter what moves are made to complement these two greats of the game. Neither the reacquisition of players like Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger nor the newly added Chris Kunitz have changed this team enough to make them a Stanley Cup contender again.
Normally, this would be a situation in which a team would rebuild immediately. In this case, however, the hesitation of the Blackhawks seems warranted due to the historical significance of these two players to their franchise.
This hesitation must come to an end for the good of the Chicago Blackhawks franchise and the rest of the league. Two of the greatest postseason players in the game need to continue to write history, even if it is for another franchise. Nothing frustrates the professional sports fan more than a waste of good talent. Notable examples include the MLB’s Mike Trout and the NFL’s Larry Fitzgerald. The Blackhawks cannot allow their two franchise greats to become like these examples for the latter portion of their careers.
The haul that the Blackhawks could bring back for an elite two-way center and captain in Jonathan Toews, as well as an amazing scoring winger in Patrick Kane, could ring in the newest era of Blackhawk success. No doubt it would take some time, but anything is better than waiting on the resurgence of a team that will never come.
Teams desperate for an elite talent with cap space such as the Carolina Hurricanes and the Colorado Avalanche should come calling on both Toews and Kane. Both young, talented teams could use a veteran with Stanley Cup experience. The center-hungry Boston Bruins would definitely be in on Toews and this could help them compete with the trigger-happy Toronto Maple Leafs, who would no doubt take a look at both of these talents as well.
Nonetheless, there would be a barrage of suitors for both of these players and it is time for the Blackhawks to start listening. As radical as it seems for them to trade two future hall of fame talents it is time to end the mediocrity in the hockey hub that is Chicago – a market that leads in every home attendance statistic this season despite their team’s disappointing past couple of seasons.