With the first game of the season now just hours away, it’s time to unveil some ridiculousness. Patrick shared some key things to watch this season, but let’s make some bold predictions for the 2022-23 Blackhawks campaign.
The first month of the regular season has kicked the Blackhawks’ tails over the past three years. Since the start of the 2019-20 season, the Blackhawks have a 6-17-7 record in the first month of the year (October twice and January in 2021 after the pandemic). That’s… awful.
Last year, the Blackhawks rolled off a stunning 0-7-2 mark through October, which was cause for Jeremy Colliton to (finally) get his pink slip (the Hawks were 1-9-2 when he got the axe on Nov. 7).
The schedule this season doesn’t help the Blackhawks look good in the standings, but we all now that isn’t the point. With Colorado, Edmonton, Florida and Minnesota this month, the tank will get some gas in the engine early.
But I’m going out on a limb here and predicting the Blackhawks will win a game quicker this season than they did for Colliton 12 months ago. I’m circling the Seattle game on Oct. 23 as the first W of the year. The Kraken are a young team with their own flaws — they’re part of the Bad 4 Bedard Circle of Trust — and that game being an early afternoon start at the United Center might be the perfect trap for a dub. The Blackhawks’ first win came against Ottawa on Nov. 1 last season.
Philipp the Box Score
Just so we’re all on the same page, the assumption is anyone/everyone who has one year remaining on their contract is trade bait right now. Agreed? Okay, so with that in mind, I’m going to jump up on that somewhat sturdy limb again and predict that Philipp Kurashev will lead the Blackhawks in goal scoring this season.
He’s always had a nice game but struggled to put it together at times. But this year, there’s no pressure to succeed (like there was when he was skating with Jonathan Toews and Dominik Kubalik at times last year) and he’s going to get a terrific opportunity to see solid minutes because… well, he’s one of very few guys on the roster who can score. At all.
What’s the magic number to lead this team in that category? Well, a lot will depend on if/when Patrick Kane gets traded. If he stays the entire season, this prediction is in the trash. But I think Kurashev getting to 22-24 goals this season isn’t insane and that could be good enough to lead the squad.
Blue Paint Blues
The Blackhawks’ tank insurance is their opening night goaltending tandem of Petr Mrazek and Alex Stalock. Neither one of them has a track record that should give fans confidence that they can win games (again — that’s the point) but the other issue is neither of them has a track record of staying healthy.
So I’m going to wander out onto that limb again and predict that Arvid Söderblom will lead the Blackhawks’ goalies in wins this season.
We talked about this when he looked good in the Blackhawks’ only preseason victory: he’s the best goaltender with a contract in the organization right now. On a team that was trying to do something more than earn additional ping pong balls, he would be the No. 1 guy on the depth chart right now; hell, I wrote that he should have been one of the two guys on the NHL roster when the Blackhawks signed Stalock.
I’m guessing we’ll have injuries this year that cost both Mrazek and Stalock starts, and their play won’t earn either of them many wins anyway. So I’m going with the youngster to lead the team in wins this season out of the bullpen.
Right now, the Blackhawks have six picks in the first three rounds of the 2023 NHL Draft; they have two in each of the first three rounds. With the guys currently on the roster and the cap flexibility the Blackhawks have, I’m going to predict general manager Kyle Davidson will have nine picks in the first three rounds of the 2023 NHL Draft when the dust settles at the trade deadline.
If the right team gets desperate enough, the Blackhawks might be able to add two of the three picks needed to make this one come true when Kane is dealt. The third becomes tricky when you look at the (limited) value of the rest of the pieces on this roster. But that brings us back to the Blackhawks’ cap flexibility — and depth of prospects on the blue line. Chicago has some assets they could move and the ability to eat salary that could enhance their return on another deal; just look at the second-rounder Davidson got for Riley Stillman.
Between the assets he has, their limited financial exposure to an acquiring team and Chicago’s ability to eat salary (both incoming and outgoing), Davidson should have the firepower to add three more early picks in the loaded 2023 draft.