What a Difference a Year Has Made for the Chicago Blackhawks
It's worth adding in what a difference a new coach can make as well. Luke Richardson is having an effect on the Chicago Blackhawks, there's no doubt about it. Comparing last season's start to this year is like comparing compost to an actual meal someone might want to eat.
As shocking as it is, the Blackhawks are in third place in their division after eleven games. Whomever thought this would happen put your hand up. Now we know who the liars are because no one thought this was going to happen, especially after trading Alex DeBrincat to Ottawa.
Last year, Chicago started its first eleven games with a single win against the lowly Senators. In fact, Chicago was so bad last year that their record was 1-8-2 after eleven games. This year they are 5-4-2. What's even funnier is that not only does Chicago not have DeBrincat, they are currently playing without their number-one defenseman Seth Jones.
I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop and see that the team has bottomed out. I'm not holding my breath, but I expect it. Fans were not promised victories, quite the opposite. We were promised pain and mediocrity that would all be worth it once the rebuild was complete. Yet, here we are and Chicago has accrued points in eight of their eleven games. Look, I don't get it either.
All of this raises some interesting questions though. For example, did Stan Bowman build a better team than people realized? The thought comes on the heels of wondering, what would have happened if Richardson had been hired instead of Jeremy Colliton? I don't know that this was an option, but looking at the team on the ice this year, and reflecting on the last few years, the difference is stark. Richardson has this team playing a tough, hardworking style of hockey that is grinding out points. Neither Colliton, nor Derek King had been able to manage anything like this despite having what should have been better rosters.
What about Toews? He looks like a man on a mission out there. After eleven games, Toews has nine points (7G, 2A). It's been a few years since I've had this version of Captain Serious. Is he just trying to get traded to a better team? "Look, I really am better than everyone see! Get me out of here!" I could see this being his thought process, but ultimately Toews just wants to win no matter where he is. Does he just want to prove the doubters wrong? This could just be about demonstrating that he's fully recovered and back in form.
Was he just so unhappy under previous coaches that Richardson has found a way to get the best out of the long-tenured captain? It's always possible previous managers couldn't reach him and he played for them out of obligation, but not respect. If Colliton had "lost the room" as many people speculated, such as Phil Thompson of the Chicago Tribune (the article is from a couple of years ago), then maybe Richardson finally was able to do what neither Colliton nor King could accomplish, get the players to loosen up and just play.
it's not clear what's happening, but the success is obvious. Chicago is exceeding expectations, and now we all have to wonder who gets traded and when. Despite knowing that this year is all about rebuilding, it would be a little sad at this point if the team was depleted at the trade deadline and had to limp their way to the end of the season after having early success.