Blackhawks

Rocky Wirtz acknowledges changes could be coming for Blackhawks: 'Nothing lasts forever'

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AP

Rocky Wirtz acknowledges changes could be coming for Blackhawks: 'Nothing lasts forever'

Since winning three Stanley Cups in six years, the Blackhawks have had back-to-back first-round exits and followed that up by missing the playoffs altogether for the first time since 2007-08.

It's unfamiliar territory for the Blackhawks. At least under Rocky Wirtz, it is.

The Blackhawks Chairman opened up about the team's recent struggles in an interview with Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business, and was asked to weigh in on what he believes has contributed most to the underachievement over the past three years.

"The better players all had off years," Wirtz said. "There were lots of reasons. ... We're not going to have a knee-jerk reaction. You can't let your emotions be in control."

Perhaps the main reason why it's important not to have a knee-jerk reaction is because Corey Crawford missed the final three and a half months with an injury, and that alone changed the entire complexion of the second half of the season.

Wirtz said Crawford "tells me he's OK," which is encouraging, but there's still that uncertainty about how the 33-year-old star goaltender will respond once he gets back into game action and whether he can be reliable for an 82-game season. Nobody can know for sure until it happens.

But the most revealing part of the interview came when Wirtz acknowledged changes could be coming if the results are status quo next year, and hinted he wouldn't necessarily wait for the end of the season to make them:

Overall, "I think the team will be fine." But, "if things are off at the beginning of the year, that's a different story. ... Nothing lasts forever."

Asked if that means changes could occur right after the holiday season if the team is doing poorly, Wirtz had a short answer: "Yes."

It's not surprising that jobs may be on the line up and down the organization — players, coaches, front office — depending on how the 2018-19 campaign unfolds, but it's telling when it's coming from the top that nobody is safe and the patience is running thin.

It only magnifies how important this offseason is for the Blackhawks.

NHL Draft Profile: D Evan Bouchard

NHL Draft Profile: D Evan Bouchard

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Evan Bouchard

Position: Defenseman
Height: 6-foot-2
Weight: 193 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"A highly intelligent defenseman with exceptional vision and offensive instincts. He reads the play very well and his passing ability allows him to be a constant threat in his team's transition game. He's one of the top offensive-defenseman in the Canadian Hockey League and magician-like when quarterbacking the power play."

NHL player comparable: John Carlson/Alex Pietrangelo

Fit for Blackhawks:

At 6-foot-2, 193 pounds, Bouchard is one of the most NHL-ready defensemen in this year's draft and that could be appetizing for a team like the Blackhawks, who are looking for immediate help on the blue line. But Bouchard is a right-handed shot, and drafting him would add a third high-end right-handed shot defenseman to the organization, along with prospects Henri Jokiharju and Ian Mitchell.

You can never have enough of them, but there's only room for three before somebody would have to play on their off hand and that would mean the third would be playing on the bottom pairing. All three of these players have Top 4 potential.

Still, that may not even come into play here. The Blackhawks will seek to take the best available player, like they always have. And if they feel it's Bouchard, they'll do it.

NHL Draft Profile: F Brady Tkachuk

NHL Draft Profile: F Brady Tkachuk

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Brady Tkachuk

Position: Forward
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 196 pounds
Shoots: Left

Scouting report:

"I know Tkachuk isn't a center, but Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) is another player who comes to mind with his combination of size, strength, skill and nastiness. Tkachuk has impressive hand skills and his upside has only begun because I think there's lots of maturity and growth to come. I've seen his speed and skating improve each of the past three years and I think he'll still get stronger and his balance will get better. His man strength will come and it'll be like, 'Oh boy, look out.'"

NHL player comparable: Matthew Tkachuk/Wayne Simmonds

Fit for Blackhawks:

If you're looking for a player that checks all the boxes in this year's draft, it's Tkachuk. And man could the Blackhawks use a player like him.

He's got offensive skill, willingly goes to the greasy areas, can provide net-front presence while playing a top-six role, and perhaps the most important part for the Blackhawks: he's very close to NHL ready. The Blackhawks will be patient with whoever they draft, but there's also some urgency to turn things around in 2018-19.

If they can draft a player like Tkachuk who can potentially jump into the lineup as early as this upcoming season, that would be ideal. Because he's the type of player that can make an impact, not just get by.