4 Takeaways From The Blackhawks' Now Complete, Ugly Preseason

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4 Takeaways From The Blackhawks’ Now Complete, Ugly Preseason

Chicago Blackhawks

There wasn’t a way to watch the Blackhawks play in St. Louis on Saturday, which is totally okay because they got whooped 6-0. They allowed three goals in the first and second period and the game was effectively over before the third period began.

The loss drops the Blackhawks to 1-5-0 in preseason. The Blackhawks were out-scored 20-2 in their five losses. Now they get to come home for a nice Saturday night and Sunday at home before jumping on a plane to Denver on Monday to start the 2022-23 regular season after they raise a banner on Wednesday.

So what do can we take away from the Blackhawks during this preseason? I’ll try to sum it up as best I can without needing more than one cocktail.

  • The goaltending wasn’t good at all, but…

… it wasn’t the Blackhawks’ biggest problem. If you missed it a couple paragraphs ago, I’ll say it again here: the Blackhawks were outscored 20-2 in their five losses. That’s atrocious. Four goals against per game isn’t good, but two goals in five games is… insert poop emoji.

Petr Mrazek and Alex Stalock both had a save percentage of 85 in the preseason. That’s brutal. But when you look at where the goals came from in Saturday afternoon’s finale, you start to understand why it’s been a battle for these two guys.

Now, I will throw out the obligatory caveat that the Blackhawks haven’t had Connor Murphy or Jake McCabe, two top-four defensemen, for the preseason. And Caleb Jones has been injured. And, now, Riley Stillman is gone. So they’ve relied on a lot of young defenseman, some of whom — Kevin Korchinski, Ethan Del Mastro, Jakub Galvas — aren’t in Chicago any more.

When Alec Regula, Isaak Phillips and Jack Johnson lead your defensemen in 5-on-5 ice time in a six-game stretch, you’re asking for ugly results. Regula and Phillips are going to be nice contributors this season and into the future, but they’ve been relied upon far too heavily thus far. And that’s what’s going to happen when a front office and coaching staff are legitimately conducting a thorough evaluation process. Let’s see how the ice time is distributed and who’s healthy when the puck drops in the first 4-5 games of the regular season.

  • Subtraction by subtraction

Yeah, the saying is “addition by subtraction,” and that might be the case at times. General manager Kyle Davidson added Sam Lafferty via trade last year and brough tin two players — Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk — and two draft picks in the Brandon Hagel trade. And he just added Jason Dickinson (and a draft pick) in the Stillman trade on Friday night. Those four figure to be bottom-six contributors this season (Raddysh might slide into the top-six because, you know, there’s nobody else).

But the more likely reality is that the Blackhawks are going to move guys out to add future assets and replace them with either prospects from within or other modest players like the three we mentioned above.

The addition the Blackhawks are looking to make right now is in the culture of the club and the draft pieces they have in the future. So, in the immediate, it will feel like subtraction by subtraction.

  • The kids are alright

We knew coming into the summer that the Blackhawks had more depth on the blue line than the organization did up front, but the additions of Korchinski and Filip Roos (via free agency), the maturation of other prospects like those we mentioned earlier and Wyatt Kaiser should give you some confidence that the Blackhawks have a strong group coming on the back end.

We’ve already mentioned a bunch of young players who got some run in the preseason and impressed. Korchinski and Del Mastro looked like they fit in before heading back to junior. Galvas, Phillips, Regula and Alex Vlasic all got some NHL run last season.

But the biggest jump in the organization that we’ve seen during the preseason was the hope for some help coming up front in the future as well. Lukas Reichel is starting the season in Rockford, but he looked pretty good in his NHL action this preseason. When he returned from concussion protocol and got into one NHL game, Colton Dach was arguably the best forward in the lineup for Chicago. And college free agent Cole Guttman was solid in his first NHL action.

Others like Samuel Savoie looked good as young prospects in training camp. Couple those performances with what we saw earlier this summer from guys like Landon Slaggert, Dominic James, Frank Nazar, Aidan Thompson and Paul Ludwinski and the injection of young skill in the organization has been wonderful to see.

Unfortunately, the only forward we’ll probably see from this list at any point at least early this season will be Reichel. And we all expect to see more players leave before the end of the year, so there will be some ugly scores. But there are reinforcements coming.

  • Buckle up!

It’s going to be a long season. The comments sections and twitterverse have already gone off the rails on a regular basis because this team has been awful for six games. And we’ll spend a lot of time in this space this season reminding you that the point this season is growth and development while doing their absolute best to earn a high lottery pick next summer.

There are going to be more trades this season. There are going to be departures that fans aren’t excited about and openly question. There are going to be lineups turned in by Luke Richardson that make you scratch your head. We’re all going to wish Reichel was starting at LW1 with 19 and 88 a lot (until he comes up). And we’re all going to long for the dynasty days when wins were seemingly easy to come by.

Davidson has told us his bold ambition: overhaul this entire organization to not only get it back to prominence but build it into a system that can sustain excellence. Success on the NHL ice isn’t happening this year. But there are going to be things for us to watch and evaluate together as we all wait for the bright future we’re hoping is around the corner.

Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab