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Screen Shots: The Future Ahead for Chicago, Detroit and Arizona

Adam Proteau takes a look at three teams - the Chicago Blackhawks, Arizona Coyotes and Detroit Red Wings - and what their short- and long-term futures could look like.
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It’s time, once again, for a Screen Shots column. In this (more or less) weekly piece, we break down a few hockey issues into smaller bytes. As always, we’ll do away with a huge introduction, and get straight to it:

– There has been speculation that the Chicago Blackhawks’ cornerstone forwards, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, may have to look elsewhere next season if they intend on playing in the post-season for only the second time in six years. While it may be true the Hawks aren’t going to be a Stanley Cup threat anytime soon, don’t expect either Kane or Toews to orchestrate their way out of Chicago.

Both veterans are very comfortable in the only NHL organization either has ever known, and it doesn’t really matter that they’ll both be unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2023. They know how steep the road ahead really is, and the biggest question is how much of a pay cut they’ll be willing to take from their average annual salary cap hit of $10.5 million apiece. Chicago is going to need a lot of cap space to pay their younger stars, and if they’re going to fill in holes in the roster, they very likely cannot afford to pay Toews and Kane eight figures per season.

But we’re still a good year away from getting to that crossroads with them. Depending on how the Blackhawks perform next year, there may be a circumstance where trading them to a real Cup contender makes sense for one or both. Right now, though, it’s safer to assume they’re creatures of comfort as most NHLers are, and all things being equal, they’d rather play their entire pro career with the same franchise. When it comes to them leaving that behind, best to file it under I’ll Believe It When I See It.

– For a while there at the start of March, the Arizona Coyotes looked like they’d taken a step forward; they’d won a season-high four straight games – including wins over Colorado and Toronto – and six of seven games, However, reality took over after that, and the ‘Yotes have gone 2-8-1 in their past 11 games, and they now are where many believed they would be at the beginning of the year::in dead last in the entire league, worse than the expansion Seattle Kraken.

Arizona GM Bill Armstrong knew what he was getting into with the Coyotes, and in some respects, this latest bout of agony for the team is necessary for them to draft enough top young players to eventually rise through the ranks and finally become a real NHL powerhouse. Still, it’s very probably going to be another year of disappointment for them, and they’ll have the additional indignity of playing in a 5,000-seat arena. It has never been easy to be a Coyotes fan, and that’s not going to change in the short term.

– Finally, while the Detroit Red Wings have won two games in a row, let’s not presume they can do anything to save the job of head coach Jeff Blashill. The two-game win streak ended a six-game losing skid in which the Wings were outscored 33-13, and though a fair amount of that can be chalked up to awful goaltending and a lineup that’s still nowhere close to being ready for prime time, Blashill has not been able to draw up solutions for what ails them.

If Blashill does return as Wings coach next season, GM Steve Yzerman will (and should) come under criticism for sticking with a bench boss who simply hasn’t produced enough wins to stay employed in Detroit. But something tells me Yzerman will make a change, and move on from the Blashill Era. You can’t go to your fan base time and again with the same management formula that clearly isn’t working. A different voice is needed.

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