Even with winning the last two games, I think it’s safe to say that this season is in the toilet and the possibility of the Hawks going on some insane run to squeak into the playoffs is rather low. The players will of course never say as much because, one, they’re going to keep repeating what they’re told to say, and two, I’m sure they’re not actually trying to be awful and would like to go on an insane run.
The front office will probably remain a little more subtle about it, although Stan Bowman’s latest comments about how they’ll “be better a year from now than we are now and two years from now” definitely belie the One Goal bullshit and reveal they know this season is a lost cause at this point.
So if we’re living in reality, and it’s clear the rebuild is necessary and not some on-the-fly nonsense, it’s time to evaluate what that rebuild actually entails, and not just the merits of whether or not to tank for a draft pick. I’m talking about something else: because to rebuild something you have to knock it down first, and that means the Hawks should look at trading Patrick Kane.
But Rose!, you’re saying. That’s insanity and he’s their best player and he’s part of the core and you’re a fucking lunatic and HOW COULD YOU SAY THAT. Calm down. This is a thought exercise around a move that probably won’t happen but maybe isn’t as disastrous as it initially seems. Let’s explore this together.
A Dose of Realism
As we’ve covered and as everyone basically knows, Patrick Kane is having a career year. As of this writing, he was leading the Hawks in points (by a wide margin), leading the team in goals, and his shooting percentage is the highest it’s been since his Hart-winning 2015-16 season. He’s also in the top ten league-wide for points and goals, and he’s the Hawks’ only representative at the All-Star game this weekend. Yes, his possession numbers are underwater but that’s never been his strong suit and my god, did you see Artem Anisimov on his line all those games?
On top of the numbers, there’s no reason to think this can’t carry over for a couple more seasons. Kane just turned 30, so undoubtedly the clock is ticking. But he implemented some new training regimen this offseason that apparently is working for him (it was described by another player in the article where I read about it as “jedi shit”), and we know Kane loves the adulation and the high of scoring (probably the high from other things as well but that’s none of my business). When he cups his hand to his ear to egg on the crowd or does his fist pump move, you can see him feeding on that energy. That’s why it’s also blatantly obvious when his give-a-shit meter is at –12.
And that meter has been pretty damn low for a lot of games, not just this season but over the last couple. It’s entirely possible Kane would welcome a trade to a team that’s actually a contender or could be one. What if, say, the Hurricanes or Sabres came calling? Or what if Erik Karlsson and Joe Pavelski both walk from San Jose after the season and the Sharks find themselves with $11 million? Or what if, now that hell has definitively frozen over and Pete Chiarelli has been fired into the sun, the Oilers start making smart decisions? None of these are necessarily LIKELY to happen, but just consider them. I highly doubt Patrick Kane feels such undying devotion to Rocky Wirtz and Jon McDonough that he wouldn’t even entertain the possibility of playing his last good years somewhere where it’ll matter and could result in some more hardware.
All Games, All Price Levels
But the front office would be insane to do it, right? Ticket sales would tank! Well, I’ve got news for you in case you haven’t been listening: judging by all those GREAT SEATS STILL AVAILABLE plugs from Foley and Olczyk, ticket sales are already tanking. And with how this season is going to end, there is nothing here currently to stop that process.
You know what does help? Being good. Consistently good. Even unexpectedly good. And the most likely way the Hawks are going to get there is by admitting the problem and rebuilding. Yes, they could try to make the right trades, add pieces, wait for Adam Boqvist, and close their eyes tight and hope. But how has that been working out so far? There are still issues like Seabrook’s contract and all the things we’ve pondered and dissected for lo these many months. Which brings us back to the inevitable need for a rebuild and the fact that Kane is the movable piece.
Denial, Anger, Bargaining…
Now for the Hawks, this would obviously demolish their scoring capability in the short term (at least). But if this is the way forward, it’s time to get a bunch of puzzle pieces and see if they fit. And Kane’s 10.5 mildo a year can buy a shitload of puzzle pieces. The other big contracts on the books are much less likely to be moved, for all the reasons you already know: Seabrook’s is an albatross, Toews probably does have undying devotion, Keith appears not to give a flying fuck about anything, etc. That leaves a willing Patrick Kane as the most sensible way to exchange a big contract for many small ones.
And it doesn’t have to be all at once. In this scenario, they should trade him this year at the deadline, but given the sullen paralysis the organ-I-zation appears to be in (five stages of grief and all that), trading him in the offseason seems likelier. In either situation, the Hawks would have time and space to tinker with whatever they got for Kane in the trade, and add guys on the cheap during the 2019-20 season.
With the youngsters coming to the defense, they might as well land a bunch more for the forward corps. In full-on rebuild mode it would no longer be necessary to get a solid top-pairing defenseman, so no more even pretending to pay Karlsson or Dougie Hamilton or anyone else to come here. Boqvist, Mitchell, and Beaudin, in some combination or all three, would be playing on Madison St. with zero-fucks-to-give Keith and Immovable Nachos as VETERAN PRESENCE. Maybe one of two of them gets packaged for a deal of equally talented youngins’. Toews would play the elder statesman role on the offensive side, and they could see what randos and kids can do with Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome for the next year.
This would also open up roster space for guys already in the Hawks system, read: Dylan Sikura. Oh, and remember Victor Ejdsell? What the hell ever happened to him? (He was hurt, yes, but I mean in the larger sense.) The Ice Hogs are bottom feeders right now too, so anyone in Rockford with any talent isn’t likely to develop in any meaningful way, so let’s see if they can do anything with the top club. And if they can’t, move them out. Then the pipeline is open to start gathering the talent and assets necessary for the Hawks to be consistently good again in a few years’ time.
Shut Up, Lana
I know, you understand how rebuilds work. But any logic or sensibility in this plan is overshadowed by the visceral feeling of loss. The loss of a player who, for better AND for worse, is beloved by a huge contingent of fans. And the loss of any pretense that the Hawks are still the same team we’ve known and loved these past 10+ years. Sure, some of the core would still be here, but without Patrick Kane this isn’t the same team, and there would be no chance of even pretending this is the same organization that won three Cups in five years. Quenneville’s firing was the wake-up call to that; Kane leaving would be the final death knell of any remaining argument.
That’s what hurts the most. Knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that a golden age has ended and that mediocrity and, at best, normalcy are stretching out interminably before us. But it’s coming sooner or later. Something has to change significantly or else this team and this situation isn’t going to get any better. And nostalgia shouldn’t stand in the way of progress—the good times can be remembered and celebrated, but if we ever want them to come back, this road is coming.