What's a reason for hope for Blackhawks fans right now?
Greg Wyshynski, senior NHL writer: The hope for Blackhawks fans is in the coaches, both present and past. The current bench boss, Jeremy Colliton, is in a thankless situation. Asking him to reverse the trajectory of this season was like asking someone to perform CPR in a morgue. This team is getting roasted at 5-on-5, with a 43.85 goals for percentage, while sporting the league's worst power play (an astoundingly bad 11.6 percent) and fourth-worst penalty kill (74.4 percent). This a problem with construction, not coaching, and one hopes that GM Stan Bowman uses his cap space next summer to give Colliton a better tool chest to rebuild this formerly dynastic team.
As for the coach himself, by all accounts the 33-year-old has the stuff to be a good one. I'm reminded of when Jared Bednar was thrust into a hellish situation on a post-Patrick Roy Colorado Avalanche team, watched the bottom fall out, and then rebounded with two strong seasons. I'm comfortable giving Colliton another shot after this trial by fire, and believe he'll be better for it.
As for the coach of the past, the hope is that Quenneville gets hired by someone sooner rather than later. And when he does, perhaps it could help solve the true problem with the franchise: all of those no-movement clauses. Would Corey Crawford accept a trade to play with Q? Would Brent Seabrook, with a draft pick sweetener from the Blackhawks? What they need is the same thing Dale Tallon gave them when Brian Campbell agreed to waive his no-trade clause and the Florida Panthers assumed the final five years of the veteran blueliner's elephantine deal: a familiar face who could potentially coax one of these contract boondoggles to head to a new place. (And as far as I'm concerned, everyone not named Patrick Kane should be portable.)
Emily Kaplan, national NHL reporter: It already feels like a lost season (later to be rebranded as "a transition season") for the Blackhawks. Chicago fans should latch on to this feasible plan: a Bears playoff run as a winter distraction, then revival for the Blackhawks next October. The Blackhawks, as currently constructed, are stuck in neutral. Stan Bowman can engineer intermediate trades -- like the recent Nick Schmaltz-for-Brendan Perlini and Dylan Strome swap -- but a complete overhaul is near impossible, considering six of the seven players with the highest average annual value salaries have a version of a no-trade clause. So this season can be about more small tweaks. Next season, the changes might feel more significant.
With the cap projected at about $83 million in 2019-20, the Blackhawks would have roughly $20 million to spend. Chicago had some money to spend last summer too, but the market was limited. Next July 1? There's a possibility that Matt Duchene, Jordan Eberle, Jake Gardiner, Kevin Hayes, Erik Karlsson, Anders Lee, Artemi Panarin, Joe Pavelski, Wayne Simmonds, Jeff Skinner, Eric Staal, Mark Stone and Jacob Trouba will all be available. The best course of action? Add one of those players (hopefully to the top-six forward group) and supplement the blue line with the suddenly flush prospect pool. Adam Boqvist nearly made the team at training camp, and should contend for a role next season. Many believe Ian Mitchell and Nicholas Beaudin could as well. That situation looks far rosier than what the Blackhawks are putting out there now.
Sachin Chandan, ESPN The Magazine researcher: Well, every loss puts you closer to Jack Hughes. But other than that, there are some underlying signs of development. The Blackhawks have given 1,395 minutes to rookies, fourth most in the NHL. Henri Jokiharju has maintained a 54.9 even-strength Corsi for percentage, second among rookie defensemen, though he has seen his minutes fall under Jeremy Colliton. Second-line forward Dominik Kahun had a meager 6.4 percent shooting rate on the season, but has a 17 percent rate on shots within 20 feet. Meanwhile, 20-year-old Alex DeBrincat has carved out a steady role and 2018 No. 8 pick Adam Boqvist was recently named to Sweden's preliminary World Junior Championship roster.
But other than that, fans may want to start Googling Jack Hughes USA Hockey national team development program highlights.