The Chicago Blackhawks are struggling as expected. General Manager Kyle Davidson dismantled the team to begin a multi-year rebuild. The analytics don't look good right now, nor should they. The Blackhawks put a very young team on the ice night after night, learning on the job. Some things come easy for a player, while other facets of the game come a little more slowly.
Expectations for players like Connor Bedard are pretty high. To this point, he has lived up to the hype offensively- he leads the team in total points, goals, and assists. For other young players like Kevin Korchinski and Alex Vlasic, the expectations were tempered a bit because defensemen develop at a slower pace. Both have exceeded what many thought they would accomplish this year.
One area that is pointed out quite frequently where the Blackhawks fall short is at the dot.
Right now, the Blackhawks come in at 30th in terms of faceoff win %. Currently, they win 46% of their draws. This is the one area where Connor Bedard struggles. He wins a paltry 40.9% of his faceoffs, winning 106, while losing 153. Looking at his game log, there is not a definitive trend. He has won at an 11% clip up to 75%. In his last four games, he has had a game at 0% and one at 75%.
Lukas Reichel has also struggled. He wins just 48% of his draws, and they are as wildly scattered as Bedards. Cole Guttman, in his second year with the Hawks, has fared a little better. He is winning 52.5% of his faceoffs. Philipp Kurashev hasn't taken as many draws, but he is winning at a 57.7% clip. From there, the other players are all over the map. The result, though, is a team that wins far fewer faceoffs than their opponents.
It's clear that Chicago struggles here. The kids have a lot to learn and the time to do it. To that degree, though, is this important for the Hawks? Looking at the faceoff leaders in the league, only three of the top ten teams are currently in playoff spots: the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Dallas Stars.
The reason is that the stat itself doesn't tell a complete story. To win a faceoff, a player simply has to make contact with the puck first. The true analytic to follow would be to find out what happens over the next five seconds to see who takes actual possession of the puck. Or better yet, what faceoff win leads to an immediate goal? To illustrate the point, the Vegas Golden Knights are the best team in the league with five more points than any other team, yet they are the 17th-ranked team in terms of faceoff percentage. For them, winning the faceoff isn't as important because they are so defensively sound and excellent at digging pucks off the boards. They typically outscrap the other teams.
For the Blackhawks, it is important to improve at the dot, especially in the defensive zone. Right now, they spend a lot of time chasing teams. There are times when Bedard's line cannot get out of the defensive zone. The real answer, though- the game changer for the Hawks is to get better in the corners. To win board battles. To win 50/50 pucks. To outscrap the other team. Right now, they simply aren't there, nor should they be. They are rebuilding and learning how to play. They do not have the players capable of doing this yet. Yes, the faceoff percentage is bad, but worrying about it now is a waste of energy. It will come.