Blackhawks: The team that won’t tank for a draft pick

A post-season team will be picking 1st overall at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Although losing in the qualifying round gives those teams a better shot at the selection, don’t expect the Chicago Blackhawks to go down without a fight.

The Chicago Blackhawks had some less than successful years as an organization, before the 2010s seeing a complete change of fortune for this franchise. As a silver lining, losing allowed the organization to acquire better talent in hopes of impacting their future.

Amidst what can be a complex topic, the basic rundown of any draft lottery is such that the worse a team does throughout the season the better their chances are of landing the 1st overall pick in the proceeding NHL Entry Draft.

There is a lottery process, wherein included teams are in a draw to then determine which position they will select. Basically, the lower the ranking of the team, the more lottery entries they have.

Finishing in last place overall throughout any given NHL campaign ultimately gives you the greatest chance at picking in the top spot, it’s just not guaranteed. The Detroit Red Wings now know that all too well.

New Millenium of Opportunity

The Blackhawks did not see much success early on in this millennium, after coming out of a less than brag-worthy conclusion to their 1990s. Yet, Chicago never did finish in the last place through the 2000s.

When teams start a season seeing little to no success, the question often becomes whether they’ll be tanking the rest of the way to make more sense of a failed season.  A similar conversation occurs throughout all sports, not just hockey.

Even when it was clear that Chicago’s results would be less than ideal for any given season, this was never an inquiry they faced. But why would a team in re-build mode not do everything in their power to position themselves for a better future, by making it easier to obtain a top-pick?

Because the Blackhawks aren’t built that way.

Good thing for them, luck was on their side in 2007. Winning that year’s draft lottery, they moved up from picking 5th to 1st overall. That is still the only time the franchise has selected in that position.

They didn’t disappoint and made the best of the selection, drafting Patrick Kane that year.

What could future top picks mean for an organization that’s looking to get back to their winnings ways and would management and coaching be willing to let them slip into that type of a scenario?

Pivotal Past Picks

Even without having a 1st overall pick, key drafting throughout the 2000s brought in cornerstone pieces of their puzzle. These players would prove to be necessary to help the organization reach the levels of success that followed.

2002: Duncan Keith (54th)

2003: Brent Seabrook (14th), Corey Crawford (52nd), Dustin Byfuglien (245th)

2004: Dave Bolland (32nd), Bryan Bickell (41st), Troy Brower (214th)

2005: Niklas Hjalmarsson (108th)

2006: Jonathan Toews (3rd)

2007: Patrick Kane (1st)

Although all of these players had a tremendous impact on this team, whether they helped win one, two, or all three of the Stanley Cups the Blackhawks earned throughout the 2010s.

However, there is no denying how influential the 1st overall pick from 2007 has turned out to be. Certainly, they play and win as a team. But having a player like Kane has given Chicago an advantage against every other team that doesn’t.

Downturn of Dominance

After the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, the narrative began to shift for the Chicago Blackhawks. They’d earn limited success through the following few seasons, including First Round departures from the 2016 and 2017 playoffs and not making it at all in 2018 and 2019.

And under normal circumstances, they would have missed again this year.

But as the 2019-20 season wrapped up, and with the uniquely revised format of the upcoming post-season, they find themselves sitting in a position to play through their qualifying round.

They’ll face off against the Edmonton Oilers in a play-in series, in one of the seven best-of-5 match-ups, to determine who will then make it through to the more traditional 16-team playoffs.

Ultimately, the Blackhawks have a shot at the 2020 Stanley Cup. Or, they could lose in that first series and not even have really made it into the playoffs at all. Either way, we can bank on the fact that they will be ready to battle.

Winning the Pick

Most recently, the Blackhawks found themselves the beneficiary of lucky lottery odds for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. They moved all the way up to select 3rd overall, from starting as the 12th pick, where they drafted Kirby Dach.

With this year’s draft lottery, a currently undetermined team has won the 1st overall spot, which kicked the Detroit Red Wings out of that position. A post-season team will get the top pick.

It’s been an odd year for the league, so this seems both nonsensical and fitting simultaneously.

There are two possible avenues of what’s to come next. In either, Chicago has an opportunity to be selecting 1st overall for only the second time in franchise history.

If play resumes, 16 organizations will participate in the qualifying round. The eight losing teams will be included in the second draft drawing. If play does not resume, the eight teams currently sitting in 17th-24th will automatically be entered into that next lottery process.

The Chicago Blackhawks find themselves waiting along both potential avenues. They either play on and can lose in that first round, or the league doesn’t resume and they’re in the mix anyway.

2020’s projected 1st overall pick is Canadian born Alexis Lafreniere. It’s widely agreed upon and anticipated that he will bring an immediate increase in offensive output to whichever team is lucky to land him.

For the Chicago Blackhawks to have a better chance at influencing their odds, all they’d have to do is lose their play-in round for that one in eight shot at the top selection. But we all know that’s just not how this Blackhawks franchise works.

Outside of being gifted a superstar like Patrick Kane, most of their draft picks throughout the 2000s will illustrate that this team has won by drafting the best talent they can in the positions they’ve earned.

With whatever comes next, fans of the Chicago Blackhawks now have a couple of things to cheer for. If play resumes, Chicago has a chance to hoist another Stanley Cup. And if it doesn’t, they could win another 1st overall pick. Either way, as they always do, they’re working for their results.