Blackhawks News & Rumors: Kane, Toews, Davidson, Stillman

With the NHL’s regular season around the corner, the headlines surrounding the Chicago Blackhawks have begun to shift accordingly. Rather than supporters having to participate in a guessing game based mostly on speculation and hearsay, we’re now seeing real storylines that will impact their results through 2022-23.

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This edition of Blackhawks News & Rumors will go from one extreme to the other, shining a spotlight on the veteran presence necessary for progress while the club continues to build from the ground up.

Kane Controls Chicago’s Production

Although not every experiment attempted throughout the preseason will align with how a club strategizes during the year, sometimes they stick — if they work, that is. Training camp is designed to maximize what the respective lineup is capable of, after all. When it comes to the Blackhawks, optimizing what others are capable of generally revolves around where they pair up relative to Patrick Kane.

Patrick Kane Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin/The Hockey Writers)

After attempting a set of lines the coaching staff seemingly weren’t content with, they decided to put their two most accomplished side by side. Having a regressing Jonathan Toews centre an ageless Kane might just be what the captain needs to lift out of his funk. Or, maybe it won’t.

Either way, especially on a squad with expectations as low as this rebuild, why not throw it all into a blender and see how it turns out? The worst that can happen is that it fails. Yet, that’s already anticipated for the 2022-23 Blackhawks. Meanwhile, if it works, it could propel development in a way not otherwise achievable.

After testing the waters with this approach in the days leading up to the real thing, will we see the Blackhawks deploy this strategy when the games actually matter? It would certainly give their most loyal a more nostalgic reason to watch. That, in and of itself, might make it a worthwhile tactic.

Blackhawks Need Toews to Lead

Speaking of Toews, the long-time leader of this franchise has an opportunity to rebound from what was his worst statistical year since breaking into the league in 2007-08. Through 2021-22, Toews was only able to muster up 12 goals and 25 assists, logging a career-low 17:29 per night. That said, he did maintain his positive impact at the dot, with a faceoff percentage (FO%) of 59.0.

Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin/The Hockey Writers)

While he had made his feelings clear regarding this rebuild in recent months, in that he’s not overly enthused to be playing through it, Toews has shown up with a smile on his face of late. A great sight to see for all involved, as his leadership could expedite the club’s rebuilding efforts if utilized accordingly.

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Plus, Toews coming to terms with the circumstances that surround his team means he can isolate more energy for the task at hand. Even if he isn’t capable of regaining a scoring touch, displaying the focus and work ethic necessary to compete at this level will be invaluable for the prospects looking to him for that very example this season.

Davidson Extracts Value Out of Stillman

In what was a surprise Friday evening headline, the Blackhawks traded Riley Stillman to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Jason Dickinson and a second-round pick.

It’s somewhat surprising that Chicago chose to move on from Stillman this quickly, given that he was acquired via trade just over a year ago and signed an extension shortly thereafter. Yet, on the other hand, that the Blackhawks leveraged his services in exchange for another pick to bolster their future directly aligns with Kyle Davidson‘s current approach.

Kyle Davidson, Chicago Blackhawks
Kyle Davidson, Chicago Blackhawks GM (Amy Irvin/The Hockey Writers)

The reality is, Chicago’s blue line has been crowded and when you account for the prospects that should be getting added ice time this year that congestion wasn’t set to clear on its own. The club won’t know who best aligns with its plan until there is a proper opportunity to assess and evaluate. Stillman moving on means that a pathway has opened up for another defenseman to now make their case, as the franchise continues to edit its script.

Regardless of whether or not one agrees with the moves Davidson continues to make, the general manager deserves credit for maintaining his game plan the whole way through. He’s been quite clear that his intentions are to rip this team apart to construct a more effective rebuild.

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That he’s extracting value wherever he can, picking up picks and prospects along the way, directly aligns. Even if 2022-23 becomes a season to forget, it will be interesting to see how Davidson’s long-term plan pans out.

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