The Chicago Blackhawks are Creeping their Way Down the Standings
For anyone praying for the Chicago Blackhawks to win the draft lottery, and the right to select Connor Bedard, everything is on track. With each game, Chicago slides a little further down the standings. The early season success probably won't last, and Chicago will be in the mix for the top pick. Hopefully.
As of when this article was written, Chicago was sixth in the Central Division and 24th in the league. In the last couple of games, Chicago won by complete luck against Anaheim, the NHL's worst team, and was completely outclassed against Carolina. With regards to the Hurricanes, the Blackhawks lost to a better team, full stop. It wasn't Lady Luck that handed the Hurricanes a 3-0 shutout. This is the tale of the 2022-23 season. Good teams will pound Chicago and bad teams will make for entertaining, if error-prone, match-ups.
Chicago is maybe better than people thought, but not by much. Consider this, After 16 games, 32nd-place Anaheim has 11 points. Chicago has 15 points after 15 games. That difference of four points isn't much to separate these two teams. First-place Boston has 28 points after 16 games. At a pace of a point a game for the season, Chicago would do better than most people would have thought possible at 82 points for the year, but it almost certainly won't be good enough to qualify for the playoffs.
It's still early, but that separation between first and last place will only become more significant as the season progresses. If the Blackhawks' rebuild is going to be successful, it's what Chicago's fans should all be hoping for.
It's worth suggesting that anyone interested in the Blackhawks' future should also keep an eye on where the Tampa Bay Lightning are located in the standings as well. The Lightning sit fourth in the Atlantic and only a single point separates them from the...Detroit Red Wings. There are a couple of dark horse teams in the Atlantic that could shake things up as well, especially Buffalo (although recent weeks has said otherwise).
All this matters because Chicago has a first and a second-round pick from Tampa Bay in this year's draft. It could be very interesting if the Lightning have a rough season and don't qualify for the playoffs. What a potential boon for Chicago. Note: The pick is top 10 protected for the Lightning should they miss the playoffs and select within the top 10.
There's no such thing as being too early to watch the standings, and if Chicago continues to struggle, then everything is going according to plan. If Tampa Bay also struggles, then so much the better. These things do change quickly, and it wasn't long ago that Chicago was 3rd in their division, but it's not realistic to think that's sustainable. Carolina proved that the Blackhawks aren't an elite team. Sorry to any of the optimists out there.
It's probable that Davidson will ensure a poor finish for the season by trading a valuable player. It isn't clear who that might be, but I think Connor Murphy deserves a role on a contending team. He's barely ever played in the postseason and he'd be a help for a good team looking for defensive depth. Imagine being able to roll him out on the second or third defensive pairing on a team that's already good. Rather than a predicted precipitous drop, Chicago is inching its way toward last place. I believe they'll make it, despite their early success. Cross your fingers that Tampa Bay isn't far behind.