In a matter of one week, the Blackhawks lost Kirby Dach (wrist) for four-to-five months, Alex Nylander (knee) for four-to-six months and Jonathan Toews (illness) indefinitely. Talk about a disastrous scenario to close out the year 2020.
The Dach and Nylander injuries were significant blows because the organization planned to give each of them larger roles in a rebuilding year. But Toews' absence is an absolute gut-punch.
In a scary statement released Tuesday, the Blackhawks captain announced he is dealing with a health issue and will not be joining the team for the start of the season.
"This offseason, I’ve been experiencing symptoms that have left me feeling drained and lethargic," Toews said. "I am working with doctors so I can better understand my condition. Until I can get my health back to a place where I feel I can perform at an elite level and help my team, I will not be joining the Blackhawks for training camp. I do not have a timetable for when I will rejoin the team. I am extremely disappointed, but it wouldn’t be fair to myself or my teammates to attempt to play in my current condition."
Hockey takes a backseat when you read something like that. Toews' health is the top priority and you hope whatever is ailing him isn't as serious as it sounds and he can get back to doing what he loves as soon as possible.
Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they don't have much time to digest the news and prepare for life without their leader ahead of a 56-game compressed schedule. The on-ice portion of training camp starts on Jan. 4, which is now less than a week away, and the regular season begins on Jan. 13 against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
The only way to move forward if you're the Blackhawks is to accept that the 2021 season is going to be full of challenges. It will probably get ugly (don't bother trying to figure out the Opening Day line combinations). And that's okay, given the circumstances.
The Blackhawks have no choice but to legitimately prioritize the development of their younger players this season, in hopes of putting themselves in a better position for the 2021-22 campaign. But doesn't necessarily mean to throw all the kids into the fire.
If a prospect is struggling, send them to Rockford and put them in a better situation before it leaks into their confidence. Ease players into larger roles when they're ready for it, although some might have to sink or swim if injuries continue to pile up. Every individual is different.
The Blackhawks very well could be in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick, which is likely to be former Chicago Steel defenseman Owen Power. This is the hand they've been dealt and it's time to embrace it.
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