After a long hiatus, I'll finally start writing some Blackhawks pieces again, until at least the end of the Hawks season. It's been a season of struggles for the Hawks, as they currently have 30 points, tied for last in the league, the young superstar Connor Bedard has hit the injured reserve with a broken jaw and will miss the all-star game, and the rest of the Hawks forwards haven't been very productive. However, some light has been shining in this darkened season as there have been some impressive performances from a few veteran players that may mold the future direction of where the Blackhawks are going.
Future Leadership Starting to Take Shape
After Jonathan Toews stepped away from the team last season, the question of who could be the Hawks's future captain arrived. Toews wore the "C" for the Hawks for roughly 15 years and out of respect the Hawks decided not to name a captain for the 2023-2024 season. Now that Chicago is in the thick of their rebuild season, it'll soon be time to name a future captain and the most likely candidate (other than Bedard) has been signed for another two years.
Nick Foligno joined the Hawks back in June via trade with Taylor Hall, the trade came as a way to implement some veteran leadership after Toews left the team. Foligno has been very versatile on the Hawks moving from line to line, and Foligno has also acted as the Hawk's "unofficial" captain. On January 12th, Folgino was extended for two more years, worth $9 million.
"The impact Nick has already had on our team in such a short time is a testament to his work ethic and dedication to helping the players around him succeed,” said Blackhawks General Manager Kyle Davidson. “Hard-working on the ice, the energy he brings every night, and his versatility to play in any situation have been tremendous assets. His leadership skills both on and off the ice have been instrumental in what we are building, and we are excited for him to continue to push our team forward.”
I do believe Folgino will be patched with a "C" on his jersey at least for the next seasons to help mold the young superstars Chicago will continue to bring in. Even though the 36-year-old veteran doesn't have the best statistical season right now (9 goals, 9 assists), his leadership has been very noticeable by Chicago's front office and coaching staff. Foligno was also the captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets for six seasons.
More Hawks catch extensions
Foligno isn't the only Blackhawk who was awarded an extension, goaltender Petr Mrazek signed a two-year extension, worth $8 million on January 24th. Mrazek joined the team back in 2022 where appeared in 38 games and finished with a 10-22-3 record, a .894 save percentage, and averaged 3.66 goals against. This season has been a much better go for the veteran goalie as he holds a .907 save percentage and is only allowing 3.01 goals against (which is 35th in the league, but for the Hawks is quite good). Mrazek offers more veteran presence for the young and upcoming goaltenders that will come through Chicago's system, specifically the 21-year-old Drew Commesso who is currently stationed in Rockford.
The other Blackhawk that has received an extension is forward Jason Dickinson who was extended back on January 16th for 2 years and has a 4.25 annual cap-hit. Dickinson also has been with the Hawks since the 2022 season where he notched 30 points (9 goals, 21 assists) in 78 games. Dickinson has also had a turnaround season, as he already has 25 points (15 goals, 10 assists) in 48 games. Dickinson also recorded his first career hat trick back in November against Toronto. The former first-round draft pick has offered some very nice offensive substitution since Bedard went on the IR, he's the only other Hawk that has tied Bedard in goals with 15.
Even though all of the struggles this season has brought. It's nice to see Kyle Davidson and the rest of the front office start to build the foundation of the future Blackhawks team. The three guys mentioned above have assisted the upbringing in the Hawk organization whether that's been with Bedard, Kevin Korchinski, Luckas Reichel, or the other young players on the team. There's still a long way to go and many more losses to endure. However, this is a point in the right direction and some hope for us Blackhawk fans. As always, Go Hawks!
(Can't wait to these two back on the ice together)