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Connor Bedard makes his Blackhawks debut tonight, and Hawks fans shouldn't have to temper expectations
The day has finally arrived. Connor Bedard will make his Chicago Blackhawks and NHL debut tonight in Pittsburgh. It’s a day Hawks fans have been waiting for since May 8th, when Chicago won the draft lottery. It’s also a day Hawks fans have been dreaming of for much longer than that.
The term “generational talent” is throw around far too often, but Bedard is a generational talent. That’s not just my opinion, either. The folks who get paid to analyze prospects have been saying this about Bedard for years. Had he been draft-eligible in 2022, he would have been the number-one overall pick in that draft, as well.
All of this to say; if I read one more damn, “Temper Your Expectations on Connor Bedard” column, I’m going to lose my mind.
Chicago, it is okay to be excited about Connor Bedard.
It is okay to expect him to be great. Everyone has expected him to be great since he was 13. There is a reason several teams, including the Blackhawks, decided to completely punt on the 2022-23 season for the slightest chance to land Bedard.
Bedard is going to be great. It’s just a matter of how great he will be, and how quickly it will happen. He may not score a hat-trick tonight in Pittsburgh. He might not light up the league in his first season. It takes even the top players in history some time to reach their full potential, and that’s okay, but please don’t let these hot-take curmudgeons rain on your parade. Don’t let these writers and columnists who have watched and followed the Blackhawks for all of 25 seconds chime-in with their predictably tempered takes because their editors told them Bedard is today’s hot story.
“Oh, but Jay, the pressure! How will he handle the pressure?” Bedard has passed every test thrown his way, and with flying colors. The “pressure” angle was there when he entered the 2022 World Junior Championships at age 16. He responded with eight points in seven games. Bedard would find himself with more pressure in the 2023 World Juniors. Surely, the intensified spotlight would be too much for the kid to handle. Bedard ended the tournament with 23 points in seven WJC games. He is now Canada’s all-time U20 WJC scoring leader, five points ahead of Eric Lindros in five fewer games (with two more years of WJC eligibility).
“I’ve had a gradual growth of exposure and pressure for the last five, six years,” Bedard said at the draft. “That’s been good for me. It wasn’t an overnight thing. I’m not focused on outside expectations. I’ll be focused on my teammates, coaches, family, everyone there, the staff, trying to win hockey games and be the best player I can be.”
Optimism is a form of rebellion.– Nikki Giovanni
Let Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson say all the right and safe things. “It’s up to us to temper expectations a little bit. This isn’t junior hockey anymore; there’s going to be a transition phase,” Davidson told ESPN. “I think he gets that. He’s not walking in here expecting to put up the same amount of points or goals as junior hockey. But he also holds himself up to a high standard and you also don’t want to take that intensity away from a player because that’s what makes him great.”
Ok, Kyle. We’ll leave the tempering up to you. We’re going to encourage Hawks fans to be as passionate and meatbally (meatballish?) about Bedard as their hearts desire. Negativity is the easiest and laziest route to take. Soak this moment in and look forward with optimism. After all, generational talents only come around once in a generation, right?
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