The Blackhawks are down to their final few days of the 2021-22 season, which means all the attention is starting to shift to the summer and the bigger picture for this franchise moving forward.
On March 1, Kyle Davidson was named the permanent general manager of the Blackhawks and he didn't dance around what needs to be done to fix the roster. The Blackhawks are in a rebuild, and this could be a longer-term one, although Davidson said from the start he isn't going to put a timeline on it.
In his de-facto exit interview on Tuesday, Patrick Kane said he's had multiple conversations with Davidson about day-to-day stuff, but not certain things about the future yet. That will come when the season officially comes to a close.
"We’ll have our end of the year meetings and I’m sure we’ll talk about certain things that both of us are thinking, just kind of go from there," Kane said. "I’m sure there’ll be more than one discussion. For me it’s more about just having a good summer and getting myself back to the level I know I can be at and help this team out even more next year than I believe I did this year."
A 15-year NHL veteran and three-time Stanley Cup champion, Kane is a competitor at heart. He wants to win, and it's no doubt eating at him that the Blackhawks haven't won a playoff round since the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.
Asked whether working with some of the younger players could be enough to satisfy him during some potential dark times in the coming years, Kane acknowledged that his leadership role could play a big part in speeding up the timeline of the rebuild.
"As a player, you’re always trying to personally improve yourself and try to get better every day," he said. "And I think that’s something that I feel I can be even better at, is trying to help these guys develop a little bit quicker, point some things out on the ice that are just little details that might help our team, especially when they're in the back of your mind and you can know that certain things are going to happen out there.
"It could be a good thing. I’ve enjoyed always being around the younger guys and I feel like I’m still a young kid at heart, the way I go about my business and daily life."
In that same answer, Kane also went out of his way to talk about the relationship and chemistry he's developed with Alex DeBrincat. If the Blackhawks are swept off their feet with a DeBrincat offer this summer and move him as they did with Brandon Hagel, you have to believe that could change the way Kane feels about his future in Chicago.
"If he’s here and if he’s a big piece, then that makes it easier for me too, right?" Kane said. "Because I’m playing with him every day and he’s such a good player and it makes it fun to be out there with him. We’ll see how it all shakes out."
As a player, you don't really want to accept the word rebuild. Your job is to go out there and compete every night and try to win, no matter what the management group does with the roster.
Kane's hope is that the Blackhawks can follow the blueprint of the Los Angeles Kings or New York Rangers, both of whom underwent rebuilds on the fly and are already back in playoff contention.
"You can win and still be in a rebuild," Kane said. "I think there are teams that have accelerated that, too, right? You look at LA, they had some young guys that probably came in and maybe exceeded some of maybe their front-office expectations and all of a sudden they’re in a spot where they can sign guys like [Phillip] Danault and trade for [Viktor] Arvidsson and they’re a better team.
"Same thing with the Rangers, right? They put out that memo a couple of years ago that they’re rebuilding, and all of a sudden they’re one of the best teams in the league a couple of years later. Obviously, you bring a guy in like [Artemi] Panarin, that helps, or a guy like [Igor] Shesterkin. He comes to the forefront.
"You need those young guys obviously to take next steps but I think it could be done quicker than maybe some people think. So, as a player, you’re not worried about how long it takes or what’s going on as far as when we’re going to win again. You’re always trying to help that process move along as quickly as possible, right?"
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