After the Chicago Blackhawks recently sent a letter to fans stating their commitment to a rebuild, head coach Jeremy Colliton is hoping the team's veterans will be on board and aid in the process.
"They need to help on this," Colliton recently said to the Chicago Tribune's Phil Thompson. "They have a part to play in helping bringing young guys along and being an example of how we want them to act on and off the ice. That's going to speed up this process, and in the end, it's going to be good for them as well."
The Blackhawks have been among the NHL's most successful teams over the last decade, winning three Stanley Cups from 2010-15. Since winning the championship in 2015, however, Chicago has failed to make the playoffs twice and hasn't advanced beyond Round 1.
Its core veterans, who helped lead the club to those Cup victories, include the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook. The four players each have multiple years left on their respective contracts and will combine for a $33.4-million cap hit over the next three seasons.
"We need it to come from young players (because) we can't afford to go out and get established veterans who can already do it - who you just plug right in - because of our cap situation," Colliton said. "So this is the way we're going to be competitive."
Chicago has added some bright, young talent through the draft and trades in recent years, such as Alex DeBrincat, Dominik Kubalik, Kirby Dach, Dylan Strome, and Adam Boqvist. The club also recently parted ways with veteran goaltender Corey Crawford to give 26-year-olds Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia the crease.
Colliton believes the Blackhawks aren't far from being an elite team again, and he saw his young players' potential throughout last season.
"We saw the fruits of that in the playoffs. We had a lot of young guys playing big roles who helped us beat Edmonton and be competitive against Vegas," Colliton said. "If we wouldn't have given them (an) opportunity during the season, I don’t think we would've been nearly as competitive."
He added, "For the past couple of years, we've been a bottom-half team, a bubble team at best, hoping to sneak in and catch lightning in a bottle. I'm not excited about that. I don't think they should be either."