With Blackhawks core fading, Alex DeBrincat, Nick Schmaltz & Co. need to step up

Chicago Blackhawks' Alex DeBrincat (12) celebrates with teammate Patrick Sharp after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Montreal, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP) ORG XMIT: GMH103 Chicago Blackhawks' Alex DeBrincat (12) celebrates with teammate Patrick Sharp after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Montreal, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP) ORG XMIT: GMH103

“I let him win,” the 29-year-old Kane joked. “I was playing with [Patrick Sharp] the past couple of games, so I passed it every time. I give [DeBrincat] credit. official nfl jerseys cheap He had a great season and did his job. And he should be proud of himself.”

Chicago Blackhawks' Alex DeBrincat (12) celebrates with teammate Patrick Sharp after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Montreal, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP) ORG XMIT: GMH103

Chicago Blackhawks’ Alex DeBrincat (12) celebrates with teammate Patrick Sharp after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Montreal, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP) ORG XMIT: GMH103

Indeed he should. DeBrincat’s 28 goals this season marked the first time a player other than a three-time Stanley Cup winner has led the Hawks in goals since the vaunted core became a thing in 2009-10. That’s a modest distinction in the worst Hawks season of the Joel Quenneville era, but still the first tangible sign that a new era beckons. It’s about time the next generation takes a bigger step toward leading the Hawks to their next serious Cup contention instead of playing a supporting role.

With the glorious core fading — only Patrick Kane had an in-his-prime season in 2017-18 — the Hawks still have hope that Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook can have rejuvenated seasons in 2018-19 and Corey Crawford returns in top form. But unless they’re chugging from the Fountain of Youth, it’ll be up to DeBrincat, Nick Schmaltz (21 goals, 52 points), Vinnie Hinostroza (seven goals, 25 points in 50 games) reebok nfl jerseys and other relative newcomers — including defensemen Connor Murphy, Jan Rutta, Erik Gustafsson and Jordan Oesterle — to take a giant leap toward leading roles on and off the ice. The Hawks no longer can afford to be a team with a veteran core supported by a group of deferential youngsters.

It will be a challenge, though. The leadership of the core group that became a hallmark of the three-Cup run is so strong that it can be an intimidating factor for the next group. When Toews became the third-youngest captain in NHL history at 20 in 2008, the longest-tenured Hawks were Jim Vandermeer (three-plus seasons) and Keith, Seabrook, Sharp and Rene Bourque (three seasons) — none of whom had won any Cups. Even with recent departures, players such as DeBrincat, Schmaltz and Hinostroza still are looking up at Keith, Seabrook, Toews, Kane and two-Cup winners Crawford and Brandon Saad.

“Those older guys you look up to so much,” Schmaltz said. “You don’t want to — I don’t want to say steal their show — but you respect those guys so much that they’ve done such a good job of leading and taking care of the young guys. But at a certain point, the younger guys coming up need to take a step in the leadership role. Whether it’s by leading with your play or saying a few things on the bench or in the locker room. As a young group, we can definitely step up and add some leadership.”