Blackhawks Toews, Kane still around as training camp gets set to open ... but for how long?
Think back to a year ago today.
The Blackhawks hit the ice for training camp with a true No. 1 defenseman in Seth Jones, prolific offensive firepower in Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat, nice complementary pieces in Brandon Hagel, Dylan Strome, Dominik Kubalik and Connor Murphy and a future Hall of Fame goalie in Marc Andre-Fleury.
Oh, and Jonathan Toews was back after a year away.
Riding a wave of optimism, head coach Jeremy Colliton and GM Stan Bowman were talking playoffs.
Then the season started ... and disaster struck, with the Hawks losing 11 of their first 12 games. Colliton was replaced by Derek King, and Bowman lost his job in the wake of the Kyle Beach sexual abuse scandal.
Incredible that all of that was happening just a year ago, isn't it?
Now, the Hawks are one of the worst teams in the league, with GM Kyle Davidson clearly in the rebuilding lane.
It's a spot the Hawks haven't found themselves in since the mid 2000s, when Toews and Patrick Kane were fresh-faced teenagers and only beginning their NHL careers.
Now, they are grizzled veterans in the final season of their eight-year, $84 million contracts. They'll be on the Fifth Third Arena ice when camp opens on Thursday, but the question will loom all season: Will both be traded to Stanley Cup contenders at some point?
The guess here is that, yes, both will be gone. But Davidson and head coach Luke Richardson wanted none of that talk Wednesday during a 30-minute Q&A with the media.
"They want to be a part of this right now at the start," Davidson said. "They look like they've come in and prepared and are ready and have smiles on their faces.
"They're not walking around grumpy and unhappy, but they're competitive."
Davidson said no teams have yet inquired about acquiring Toews or Kane. If that day comes, Davidson will always be known as the GM who dealt a franchise icon -- or two.
"Haven't gone down that road," Davidson said when asked if that thought keeps him up at night. "We didn't have any intentions on making any of those moves, and they didn't have any intentions on going anywhere. So we were both mutually focused on the season."
Richardson plans to treat Toews and Kane "like any other player." It's a philosophy that new Bears coach Matt Eberflus is using and it seems to be paying dividends.
"That's how you create a good culture and everybody respects that," Davidson said. "I think they agree with it."
So, how does this season figure to go? Well, the Hawks did add solid veteran forwards in Max Domi, Andreas Athanasiou and Colin Blackwell, a serviceable goalie in Petr Mrazek and a veteran D-man in Jack Johnson.
Seth Jones and Connor Murphy will still anchor the defense. Kane is still Kane. Rookie forward Lukas Reichel should develop into a playmaking force. Toews, no doubt, wants to prove he still has some gas left in the tank.
But there's so much youth and inexperience that it's difficult to see the Hawks winning more than 30 games.
It begs the question, what will success look like in 2022-23?
For Richardson, it's "to build a team" that sticks together no matter what.
Eight-game losing streak? Sure, that stinks, but let's keep our spirits up.
Lose a 9-2 nightmare? No problem. There's always tomorrow.
Stuff like that.
"Myself and all the coaches, we have a personality that we want to get into the dressing room and walk through and not just sit in our coaches' offices," Richardson said. "Even skating around before and after practice, talking to guys about certain drills, plays in games from the night before, etc. That's huge ... "It's going to take some time to get around to everybody, and everybody to feel comfortable with us. But I'm confident with the personalities that we have on the coaching side. And some of the players we met ... they've taken it upon themselves to step forward and shake our hand and introduce themselves. It's a good sign.
"Everybody's excited to be here. Why wouldn't you be in Chicago with the Blackhawks? So I think that gives us an extra boost there. Everybody wants to be here and be a part of this."
Blackhawks training camp schedule(Subject to change)
Thursday-Saturday: Practice, 10 a.m.
Monday: Practice, 10 a.m.
Tuesday: Practice, 10 a.m.
Preseason game vs. St. Louis at United Center, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday: Practice, 10:30 a.m.
Preseason game at Detroit, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 29: Off
Friday, Sept. 30: Practice, 10 a.m.
Saturday, Oct. 1: Practice, 10:30 a.m.
Preseason game vs. Detroit, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 2: Practice, 11 a.m.
Preseason game vs. Minnesota at Milwaukee, Wis., 6:30 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 3: Off
Tuesday, Oct. 4: Practice, 11 a.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 5: Practice, 11 a.m.
Thursday, Oct. 6: Practice, 11:30 a.m.
Preseason game at Minnesota, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 7: Practice, 11:30 a.m.
Saturday, Oct. 8: Practice, 11:30 a.m.
Preseason game at St. Louis, 7 p.m.