The Blackhawks faithful have been asked to put up with a lot this season and basically it’s all part and parcel of the “bigger picture” of professional sports.  The Blackhawks are literally defending their last-place position as they have an enormous amount at stake to preserve any chance at plucking out the top draft pick in this year’s NHL draft (hello, Connor Bedard?) That’s why the recent demotion of forward Lukas Reichel could be considered another “curious case” of the Blackhawks’ needs now versus the future.

Fans need to understand to a point that there is a huge difference between player development and organizational development.  Fans and pundits alike want to see great prospects like Lukas Reichel light it up with the big club and let’s face it, nobody gets too excited about prospects like Reichel hanging around with the Rockford Ice Hogs of the AHL.  Yes, time in the AHL is critical to prospect development and potentially rushing a player into the NHL before they’re ready could do more damage than good to a player’s long-term personal development.

That’s where I have to diverge and explain that sending Lukas Reichel has little or nothing to do with his personal development but could have more of an impact on the Blackhawks’ organizational plans for the future.  It may be hard for fans to believe but the Chicago Blackhawks’ front office may in fact want to finish in the NHL basement this season because guess what?  The team who finishes below the cellar floor gets a huge consolation prize in the form of the top NHL draft pick this summer and with the performances of top prospects in the recent World Junior Championships fresh in the minds of NHL general managers, there is a lot of top-caliber talent to choose from with the very first draft pick.

For Lukas Reichel, his three-game stint with the big club helped the team to navigate uncharted waters this season with a three-game winning streak.  Of course, Reichel was purportedly only here to replace the injured Patrick Kane and that’s probably true but the moment Reichel’s sent down to Rockford, the wheels fall off again and the Blackhawks get shellacked by the Seattle Kraken last Saturday night.

It’s truly hard to understand the organizational conflict from both the point of view of GM Kyle Davidson who’s trying to take on the “bigger picture” mantra while head coach Luke Richardson was more than happy to keep Reichel around because, well, with Reichel on the ice the Blackhawks started winning again.  In Reichel’s’ defense, he looks and plays like a top-notch NHL winger and with the call-ups both last season and this year, Reichel probably is ready to join the Blackhawks on a nightly basis.

However, that’s not going to be in the cards with Reichel and other top prospects when your front office more than likely wants your team to lose.  Now, please understand me as I say this because I don’t mean that Kyle Davidson is deliberately trying to get this team to throw games and purposely tank this season.  That being said, when a bigger prize is on the horizon (the top NHL draft pick) and that draft pick could turn out to be an enormous franchise player like a Gretzky, Crosby or Ovechkin then of course the Blackhawks’ front office is trying to see a much bigger picture than just trying to salvage some wins this season.

For Lukas Reichel, his permanent place on the Blackhawk bench will come – very soon.  Fans just need to understand that a few wins here and there this season won’t equate to future success but top draft picks could change the entire future trajectory of this storied franchise.

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