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As puck drop on opening night for the Chicago Blackhawks approaches in Denver, Colorado, with their first game of the 2022-23 season coming on banner-raising night for the Stanley Cup Champion Avalanche, the mindset of the locker room is defiant. Almost everyone you talk to about the Blackhawks has the same outlook for this season: pain. All the analytics, national talking heads, and local media alike hold the expectations low for the Blackhawks and understand that the idea is to land a top-three draft pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.
Even the organization is leaning into the rebuilding process as the team released their new brand campaign ahead of opening night with a promotional video hyping up the process of rebuilding. “Ready to Work” is replacing what was once “One Goal” and I gotta say, it’s refreshing to see the organization is not trying to tell us one thing when our eyes see another.
As for those doing the work on the ice, the locker room is holding onto a mentality that they are out to prove every one of you and myself wrong about them. Talking with MacKenzie Entwistle ahead of Wednesday night’s season-opener, he spoke about the things being said and assumed about the team and it’s two leaders in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, saying the team welcomes those lack of expectations as a chance to show what they believe they can really do this season.
We heard similar notions late last season when players like Toews and Kane and Seth Jones said they believed any “rebuilding” process didn’t have to take that long. While I tend to agree that the rebuilding process might not be long, as far this season goes, the opportunity to “shock the world” seems like a long-shot.
But this mentality is what you’d expect from professional athletes who have the desire to compete at the highest levels of their sport. You don’t get to this point of hockey, or any professional sport, with the mentality that just being in the NHL is good enough. These players strive for the top of the mountain no matter if the top is just a few feet away like it is for the Colorado Avalanche, or if it’s miles away like it is for the Blackhawks. Either way, Entwistle and the rest of the Blackhawks locker room seems prepared for the miles-long journey. Whether they will see the top of the mountain together or not is another story.
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