It has been mere months since the Chicago Blackhawks were eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention, and it has been even longer since the last time they had a solid chance at hoisting the Stanley Cup. There are many debatable, albeit downright inarguable, reasons for the lack of success that the organization has found during their five-year drought. Still, it doesn’t come as a surprise that most of the issues the team has faced have more to do with staff decisions rather than player’s skill.
The negativity began almost immediately following the Blackhawks 2015 Stanley Cup win. Blackhawks fans will remember this era for the seemingly infinite amount of stunning trades; fan-favorite players like Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp – not to mention the loss of other talents like Johnny Oduya. These losses, however, were overshadowed by the additions of Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin; Anisimov from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Brandon Saad, and Panarin from the Kontinental Hockey League. Artem Anisimov, working as Artemi Panarin’s translator for most of the season, provided the team with steady, constant talent – something they had not been getting from veteran players like Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith.
Artemi Panarin was absolutely explosive. Working on a line with Blackhawks star Patrick Kane, the two immediately connected in ways that left fans with a phenomenal sense of optimism. Panarin scored a goal in the opening game of the season, coining him with the nickname of “The Breadman” (Panera, anyone?) and continued to prove himself as a stellar addition to the team for the rest of the season. Not only did he excel individually, he also aided Patrick Kane in breaking the American record for his twenty-six game point streak-one in which, according to an NHL article, also broke the Chicago Blackhawks franchise record of eighteen games. The season led to Kane winning the season’s Hart Memorial Trophy as the league MVP with 106 points (an NHL best for the season), and Panarin winning the Calder Memorial Trophy, an award given to the best first-year player in the NHL.
However, in true Chicago Blackhawks fashion, things couldn’t stay good for long. After the team lost to the St.Louis Blues in the first round of the playoffs, the inevitable trade season began with the losses of Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw (with Shaw, the team lost their net-front presence for a number of seasons to follow). However, one of the worst trade decisions made – arguably of all time – was the trade of Teuvo Teravainen, a youthful offensive player with a wicked slapshot and a monumentally underappreciation surrounding him.
Then, the Chicago Blackhawks were swept in the 2017 Playoffs. So, Stan Bowman’s thoughtful response (sarcasm) was to trade Artemi Panarin and reacquire Brandon Saad. Not only him, but the loss of Niklas Hjalmarsson seemed to weaken the team’s defense to a point of no return. A number of years later, the team has faithfully committed to a ‘rebuild.’ Something that, according to Suntimes article was not something that the organization ever planned on, much less communicated this idea to its veteran, no-movement clause players like Toews, Kane, Keith, and Seabrook.
The Chicago Blackhawks have gone 198-152-48 (following the wins-losses-overtime losses format) since they last won the Stanley Cup in 2015. This statistic, provided by a Blackhawk Up article, is absolutely startling after a trip down memory lane. An extra kick in the shin comes in the form of realizing that the team has failed to make it out of the first round and they have only won four playoff games since their 2015 run.
Optimistically, the rebuild could do the organization some good. Statistically, a rebuild wouldn’t have even been necessary had the Blackhawks not ridded themselves of young talents like Artemi Panarin and Teuvo Teravainen. There is no telling how long the rebuild could take. Blackhawks fans could be stuck in a constant loop of suffering for a few more years. However, one thing is certain: the New York Rangers are happy to have Artemi Panarin and the Carolina Hurricanes appreciate Teuvo Teravainen much more than Chicago did.