On the final day of the 2022 calendar year, the Chicago Blackhawks continued their tanking ways with a loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first of back-to-back games for Chicago over the New Year’s Eve/Day holiday weekend. They’ll come home tomorrow for the first game of 2023 against the San Jose Sharks. Today’s game was thankfully moved from a 6:00 p.m. start to a noon start time so we were able to get this Bedard Bowl out of the way early, but the 4-1 loss at least wasn’t without some fun moments.
Alex Stalock came to the rink with a late entry for the 2022 Save of the Year with this paddle save in the first period on Johnny Gaudreau.
Shortly after that save, the Blackhawks actually got on the board first. Which, after my last check, will still be allowed to happen in 2023. Andreas Athanasiou ripped his eighth goal of the season to open the game. With the loss, the Blackhawks’ record when scoring first this season is now 4-1-2.
On Athanasiou’s goal, defenseman Isaak Phillips recorded his first career NHL point with a secondary assist. Congratulations to him!
After that opening 18 minutes though, things went off the rails for the Blackhawks. Columbus scored three unanswered goals through the next 22 minutes of hockey and coasted through the third period to a 4-1 win after adding an empty-net goal to finish things off.
It was a “tank win,” but a demoralizing loss when you think that the next-worst team in the NHL ahead of the Blackhawks are these Blue Jackets, and the game didn’t even feel that close this afternoon.
So while this game wrapped up 2022 for the Blackhawks, we’ll wrap up the last Hawks Hits of the calendar year with three New Year’s Resolutions from us for 2023.
Appreciate the time left with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane as Blackhawks
Since October of 2007, the Chicago Blackhawks have been graced with the presence of both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The duo has cemented themselves as organizational pillars, helping lead the team to three Stanley Cup Championships in the 2010’s. Both are future first-ballot Hockey Hall of Famers.
They also, likely, only have a few months/weeks left as members of the Blackhawks.
So this is a reminder, to fans and to ourselves at CHGO Blackhawks, to appreciate the legacy of the players and appreciate these (potentially) final games they both play with Chicago. Don’t get too caught up in the trade rumors and speculations, and take time to reflect on how special their runs with the Blackhawks have truly been.
Put some trust in Kyle Davidson’s process
We can debate whether “tanking” in professional sports for better draft picks is right or wrong, but that is the direction the Blackhawks are going under general manager Kyle Davidson. After taking over full-time in March of 2022, Davidson jumped into this season with the goal of putting the Blackhawks into the best position to have the top overall draft pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.
That requires a lot of losing this season. So far, so good (?) for this Blackhawks team.
But with the plan being to get the best odds at drafting first overall, ultimately drafting Connor Bedard, Davidson is doing what is necessary for this organization to move forward into the next era of Blackhawks hockey. One could argue, and I would agree, that this type of rebuild and reset for the franchise was needed in 2017, either after the first round sweep against the Nashville Predators in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, or following the 2017-18 season.
Davidson walked into the 2022 NHL Draft with zero first-round picks and then walked away with Kevin Korchinski, Frank Nazar, and Sam Rinzel, along with another handful of already promising draft prospects from that 2022 class. If he can replicate that kind of early success from the upcoming 2023 Draft class, a draft class where he will likely again have three first-round picks, the future of the organization is going to be set up nicely. Of course it will require a bit of patience.
Get excited about the future of the Blackhawks
Speaking of that future, there is already a great amount of Blackhawks prospects that should be making fans excited for the next seasons ahead. Guys like Kevin Korchinksi, Lukas Reichel, Ethan Del Mastro, Frank Nazar, Colton Dach, Nolan Allan, Isaak Phillips, Drew Commesso, Arvid Söderblom, Alex Vlasic, Landon Slaggert, Wyatt Kaiser, Ryan Green, and on and on and on down the list have seemingly bright futures ahead. That’s not even counting some of the potential players the Blackhawks could add in the 2023 Draft class like Connor Bedard or Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson or Matvei Michkov, Will Smith or Brayden Yager, and so on down the line of first-round talents the Blackhawks could being into the fold.
It’s been a very long time before the Blackhawks have had this much of a plan for the future of their players and prospects. For nearly a decade, the Blackhawks weren’t drafting and developing players for their future because the focus was on winning Stanley Cups. But before that, the drafting and developing helped build a team that included players like Dustin Byfuglien, Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarrson, and Brandon Saad over the years. When you have those kinds of players in the system and making progress, adding in a Jonathan Toews and a Patrick Kane put Chicago over the top.
The goal is to get back to that point. So far, no reason to believe it can’t happen again.
Happy New Year, everyone!