There will be no postseason for the Chicago Blackhawks. Not even a little bit like last year, but that doesn’t mean the final games won’t matter. As a fan, it’s hard to watch, but whether or not the team wins isn’t the issue. In fact, the losses will benefit the team in the long run.
“Sacrilege!” You might be thinking as the team drops game after game, but it’s true. After the team’s 6-3 loss to Carolina, the Chicago Blackhawks are firmly in control of 21st place in the league. That’s quite a tumble from when Chicago was in control of fourth place in their division, but it’s where they should be. More importantly, it means that there’s a real possibility that the team may end up with a high pick in the first round.
While young and inexperienced players pile up minutes in these last few games, Chicago’s march downward in the standings will benefit the team. Now that there’s no chance for a postseason, with only a handful of games left the losses might be what’s best. It gives a chance for new players to get more meaningful minutes despite losing because the losses won’t be detrimental to the team.
No one in the Blackhawks locker room committed themselves to stinking up the league for 56 games just so they could have a high pick in the draft. Contrary to what people who want a team streamlined to tank might think, losing was never the plan. Even when people wrote the team off before the first puck dropped, a race to the bottom wasn’t the goal. Was that this year’s slogan, “One Goal, 31st place”? Not so much.
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The coaching staff and the players all said they wanted to compete for the postseason. Stan Bowman didn’t aggressively pursue star talent to push for the postseason, and he definitely didn’t undermine the players’ hopes by dealing away key players. Bowman let it ride, and whatever was going to happen was going to happen.
Look, the optimism was fun for a while, and it makes the last few weeks especially tough to watch. Chicago’s record up to February is starkly different from that of how the team has fared since the beginning of March. The team predictably came out towards the bottom of the standings.
Just the same, for a team that announced a rebuild to start the year, bottoming out in the standings is probably the best thing that could have happened for the organization’s future.
Ultimately, this ugly season is for the best, and what the rebuild is all about. Young players received a lot of meaningful ice time and were able to accumulate it when very little was actually at stake. Literally, no pressure except to learn. That’s what the Blackhawks set out to do this year, and they accomplished it. Ending up at the bottom of the league is the right outcome, even if it’s been unpleasant.