We are officially one month away from the Hawks opening up their regular season against the defending champions. While many are saying that their expectations for this team are low, I’d argue that they are extremely high. Sure, no one is expecting a Stanley Cup, or for them to make a run at the playoffs, but instead the slogan “Tank Hard for Bedard” is all over Hawks fans social media. Being so bad that you have the best odds to win the draft lottery isn’t as easy as it sounds, but do the Hawks have to be the worst? When it comes to the Draft Lottery, since 2012 the team with the best odds of winning the first overall pick has done that just four times (2022 MTL, 2021 BUF, 2018 BUF, 2016 TML), three times the second lowest seed has won it (2012 EDM, 2013 COL, 2014 FLA), two times the third seed has won (2015 EDM, 2019 NJ). What does that all mean? Hawks best bet is a bottom three finish, but is this team built to fall that low? Lets take a look:
Out: Alex DeBrincat (41-37-78) Dylan Strome (22-26-48) Dominik Kubalik (15-17-32) Kirby Dach (9-17-26) Henrik Borgstrom (4-3-7)
In: Max Domi (11-28-39) Andreas Athanasiou (11-6-17) Colin Blackwell (10-10-20) Buddy Robinson (1-5-6) Dylan Sikura (33-40-73 AHL)
The big name here is Alex DeBrincat, losing a 40 goal scorer and Kaner’s right hand man is tough, but when you are trying for a top pick not having him on the ice is huge. Last season DeBrincat had 6 game-winning goals; that’s an extra 12 points this team picked up in the standings. Now, to put that in perspective let's pretend those where all non overtime winners, that takes the Hawks from 68 total points and 27th in the league to 56 points and 31st in the league. Losing Strome is a wash, the lack of constancy from him, bringing him back in hopes of flipping him at the deadline where he had no interest last year, and the $3.5 million cap hit just wasn’t worth it to me. Kirby and Kubs needed a fresh start else where and Borgstrom was a Bowman project that just made zero sense.
Bringing in Domi and Athanasiou are a great examples of low risk, high reward type of situations. Both players have skill; however, they just can’t seem to figure it out. Bringing them in can be good because they are cheap; you are giving them plenty of ice time to prove they still have it and come deadline time could bring in some picks. Worse case scenario, they continue to underperform and this team bombs to the bottom of the standings.
Overall, I think it's safe to say that the Forward group has taken a step back. The true wild card for the Blackhawks offense is Patrick Kane. Coming off a 92 point season, it's always hard to count out a team with Kane leading the charge. You have to ask a few questions though, is he going to continue to put up the numbers now that the Cat is gone and he’s going to be playing with a lot of younger talent? How many games is he going to steal for this team? How fast do you ask him to make a decision on being traded?
Out: Calvin de Haan (4-4-8 -21) Erik Gustafsson (3-15-18 -4)
In: Jack Johnson (1-8-9 +5 Stanley Cup)
I’m going to keep this short; the defense stinks and I am ok with that. This unit is going to be led again by Seth Jones, who will be rejoined by Jake McCabe, Connor Murphy, Riley Stillman, and Caleb Jones. Jack Johnson joins after winning the cup for a nice extra veteran presence.
Luke Richardson will definitely be rotating in some of the younger guys like Vlasic, Regula, Mitchell, to name a few. However, the best thing for our defensive prospects this year is to play together in Rockford, build chemistry, so when it comes time to get the call the growing pains are kept minimal. I would like Davidson to explore the trade market for Murphy and McCabe; however, moving both will be a tough task.
Out: Kevin Lankinen (8-15-6 3.50 GAA) Colin Delia (1-4-1 3.85 GAA)
In: Petr Mrazek (12-6 3.34 GAA) Alex Stalock (1 NHL Gamę Last season 6 GA)
Goaltending has been a problem for this team since letting Crawford leave, Bowman had the mindset; it didn’t matter who was in net when you have a solid team in front of him. The problem is, he didn’t put a solid team in front of Lehner or MAF. With Soderblom and Commesso looking like they could be the next guys, they need time to develop. Davidson knowing that brings in guys who can fill the void for a few more seasons. Mrazek had great success in Carolina, a team with great defense. Last season he dealt with some injuries and Toronto had Jack Campbell in net, so he is hoping to take the starters role here in Chicago and prove he can still be that guy. However, with the defense this team has, that’s very unlikely.
Overall this team is bad; however, I am still not convinced they are worse than Arizona or Montreal. They still have some moves to make that can help the tank job better, but right now the projected bottom three finish is ok with me and with the history of the draft lottery I like this team's chances at landing that 1st overall pick.
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