Given the lack of success experienced by the Chicago Blackhawks all season long, it would have been justifiable to presume they’ve been out of playoff contention for months. Yet, it was just recently made official. Even with little left to play for this year, there are still storylines the club needs to focus on to help shape a more fruitful future. Let alone if they expect their fanbase to maintain any level of interest whatsoever.
This edition of Blackhawks News & Rumours will shine a light on some selective optimism, while calling into question certain areas of concern that Chicago hopes to correct before next season gets underway.
Hossa Signs & Celebrates as a Blackhawk
It’s safe to say that Marián Hossa will be remembered as one of the faces of the dynasty Blackhawks from the 2010s. Part of an exclusive group of players to have won three Stanley Cups with Chicago within a six-year span, Hossa wasn’t merely along for the ride. He was a difference-maker.
In those Cup-winning postseasons alone, Hossa accumulated 14 goals and 34 assists, for 48 points through 67 contests. Hefty production in any regard, let alone during the NHL’s toughest tournament. He even netted five game-winners throughout that span, furthering just how vital his impact truly was.
Despite the fact that his last NHL game was played in a Blackhawks uniform, Hossa has technically been a member of the Arizona Coyotes these past few years. Chicago traded Hossa to Arizona in 2018, in an effort to clear up cap space at the time.
Although he entered the Hall of Fame as a Coyote, both the Blackhawks and Hossa knew that the conclusion of his on-ice storyline deserved a more suitable setting. Not only did Hossa sign a one-day contract with Chicago for the purpose of retiring as a Blackhawk, but the organization followed up on that announcement by committing to send his number to the rafters next season.
Hossa enjoyed an extremely productive career, which spanned nearly two full decades. He’s part of the 500-goal club and accumulated 1,134 points through 1,309 games played. While he certainly found a way to make an impression throughout his first few years in the league, it was those he spent in Chicago that will remain worthy of celebration for years to come.
Reichel Remains Unproductive in Return
Lukas Reichel is undoubtedly among Chicago’s most anticipated prospects. For good reason, too. The 19-year-old had not only been playing among men twice his age these past few seasons, but he found a way to produce at a rate of 0.64 points per game overseas in Germany.
Chicago’s first-round pick from 2020, Reichel wasted little time navigating his way over to North America. Playing with the Rockford IceHogs through most of 2021-22 thus far, his 49 points currently lead the team. With his skill set transferring so successfully from his experience overseas, it’s made that much more sense to see what he’s capable of in the NHL.
Although Reichel hadn’t impressed in quite the same manner during his first two stints with Chicago, going pointless through five games split between January and February, the club felt now was the right time to call him up again.
“In Rockford I had a lot of ice time and when I was [called up] you get experience and you learn from those games and try to work on those weaknesses,” he explained. “Now I’ll try to play my game.”
While this offered Reichel another chance to make his mark at the highest level of play, his streak remains. Averaging just over 13:00 in his past two games, he has still yet to force his name onto the scoresheet. However, whether or not he ends up chipping in with the Blackhawks by the conclusion of 2021-22 shouldn’t deter onlookers.
Reichel will only be 20 at the start of 2022-23, with a whole season ahead of him to grow into a more meaningful role. As he’s proven throughout his young career, he won’t have a problem finding a way to adapt. He will be an instrumental part of any success this team sees in the near future, let alone one of their most exciting talents to watch blossom.
Lankinen & Delia Struggle to Take On Starter’s Role
Remember when the Blackhawks landed Marc-André Fleury — one of last offseason’s biggest acquisitions — in what seemed to be further evidence that this roster was ready to compete? Given the fact that Fleury had barely settled in before he was shipped off to the Minnesota Wild for a draft pick, it’s now crystal clear that this franchise has reverted to a rebuild.
It’s not all bad, though. The reality is, Chicago’s ability to finally recognize the work that lies ahead in order for them to climb back up the standings means that they can shift their focus towards the areas that need it most. Such as goaltending.
With Fleury in the fold, Kevin Lankinen and Collin Delia were never due to get the playing time that would be necessary to help them develop into undisputed starters. However, with the future Hall of Famer now out of the picture, the laneway has opened up for either to take the wheel.
Unfortunately, though, increased playing time hasn’t been kind to their stat line. Sure, the team has struggled as a whole, but both Lankinen’s and Delia’s numbers aren’t doing the Blackhawks any favours along the way.
Since Fleury’s departure, Lankinen is 1-4-2 and has only stopped 201 of 228 shots faced, while Delia has accumulated a record of 1-1-0 and averaged nearly three goals against per game. Neither has recorded a shutout all season long.
Chicago’s goaltending landscape is already less than clear heading into next season. Add in the fact that both Lankinen and Delia are due for new contracts by the conclusion of 2021-22 and it doesn’t help clarify things any further.
With that said, Lankinen’s impressive rookie campaign through 2020-21 should finally be rewarded in the way it wasn’t able to be with Fleury stealing the show through much of 2021-22 — his sophomore campaign. Chicago needs to prioritize re-signing Lankinen, treating him as the starter he’s already proven he can be and allowing him a suitable opportunity to build upon that reputation.