Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and other veteran Chicago Blackhawks players need to be on board and set an example during their planned transition period, coach Jeremy Colliton said this week.
“They need to help on this,” the Blackhawks coach told the Chicago Tribune. “They have a part to play in helping bringing young guys along and being an example of how we want them to act on and off the ice. That’s going to speed up this process, and in the end, it’s going to be good for them as well.”
The Blackhawks earlier in the week sent an open letter to fans which said in part, “We’re committed to developing young players and rebuilding our roster.”
Earlier this month, Toews, the Blackhawks captain, told The Athletic, “I’ve never been told that we were going through a rebuild. … A lot of this comes as a shock because it’s a completely different direction than we expected.”
“In the moment, sometimes the veteran players don’t love every situation, every decision you make, but they’re focused on their own game and how they can help the team individually,” Colliton said. “My job is to focus on the greater good and bigger group, both so we can have a successful season but also … have an excellent team, an elite team, in the years coming up.”
The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015 but have not reached the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs since. Chicago (32-30-8, .514 points percentage) finished 12th in the Western Conference last season and was the final Western team to qualify for the Return to Play 24-team tournament, winning a Stanley Cup Qualifier series against the Edmonton Oilers before being eliminated by the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of the playoffs.
This offseason, 35-year-old goalie Corey Crawford, who won the Cup twice as Chicago’s starter, was not re-signed by the Blackhawks as a free agent (he signed with the New Jersey Devils), and 27-year-old forward Brandon Saad was traded to the Colorado Avalanche.
The NHL salary cap will remain at $81.5 million this season, which is targeted to begin Jan. 1, 2021.
“We need it to come from young players [because] we can’t afford to go out and get established veterans who can already do it, who you just plug right in, because of our cap situation,” Colliton said. “So this is the way we’re going to be competitive.”
Those decisions, and the earlier reaction of Toews, has ignited trade speculation regarding other older Blackhawks.
The newspaper said Colliton, general manager Stan Bowman and senior vice president of hockey operations Al MacIsaac met with Toews, 32, Kane, 31, Duncan Keith 37, and Brent Seabrook, 35, to explain their plans.
“What they should be excited about is being an elite team again. That’s what we’re working toward,” Colliton said. “That’s what I expect from them, is to put everything they may have into getting us there as quickly as possible. And if we do that, that will be a benefit to them. …
“That’s what I have to sell. That’s what we’re doing. They have a lot to offer, and we want them to be part of it.”