Blackhawks: Tanking Pays Off, But Rebuilding Continues
The Chicago Blackhawks had a season to forget in 2022-2023. With a dismal 59-point finish and a staggering -97 goal differential, the team was the second-worst in the league. According to the ESBC Power AI metrics, it was not a fluke; they genuinely deserved that lowly position. However, there's a silver lining for the Blackhawks: their tanking strategy won them the ultimate prize in the draft lottery—Connor Bedard. As they prepare for the 2023-2024 season, the key question is, how much longer will the rebuilding phase last?
Last Season's Dismal Performance: Tanking or Failing?
The Blackhawks had a tough time last year, which was partly intentional, as they appeared to be tanking to secure a high draft pick. This isn't the first time Chicago has used this strategy; back in 2007, they also tanked and ended up with Patrick Kane, transforming their fortunes in the years that followed. Last season saw the departure of some key players including Kane himself, Max Domi, and Jake McCabe. This summer, captain Jonathan Toews announced he would be taking a year off, further signaling a transitional phase for the team.
New Additions: Seasoned Veterans and a Generational Talent
In what seems like an attempt to inject some life into the team, the Blackhawks have brought in Corey Perry, Ryan Donato, Taylor Hall, and Nick Foligno. However, aside from Hall, whose playing time is expected to increase compared to his stint with Boston, the other veterans are past their prime. Their "best before" stamps have expired, and it’s unlikely they'll have a transformative impact on the team.
The real gem is rookie Connor Bedard, a generational talent who could be a game-changer for Chicago in the long run, much like Patrick Kane was over a decade ago.
Another prospect to watch for is Lukas Reichel, who could very well break the 20-goal barrier this season.
Coaching and Goalkeeping: Tough Tasks Ahead
Luke Richardson continues as the head coach for Chicago, and his role will be pivotal in steering this transitional team towards a more competitive future. The goalie duo of Peter Mrzaek & Arvid Söderblom will likely have their work cut out for them, given that the team defense hasn't improved much.
Outlook for 2023-2024: Still Rebuilding
Despite the infusion of new talent and the blockbuster draft pick, the Blackhawks are far from being a competitive team for the upcoming season. They remain in a rebuilding phase, and fans should keep their expectations in check.
While winning the draft lottery and acquiring Connor Bedard is a significant milestone in the Blackhawks’ rebuilding journey, the road to becoming a playoff contender is still long and fraught with challenges. The team has mixed older, declining players with emerging talents, which typically signals a transitional phase. Coaching, strategy, and particularly defense, will have to dramatically improve for the Blackhawks to start climbing back up the league tables.
This season will likely be another learning experience, but with Bedard on board and some luck in future drafts and trades, Chicago could eventually find their way back to NHL relevance. Just don't expect it to happen overnight.
(Please read our Disclaimer for NHL Team Points Distribution Histograms.)
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