A Fan’s Guide to Watching the 2022-23 Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks open the regular season tonight in Denver against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche. But you’re probably asking yourself why you should even watch.

It’s no secret that the Blackhawks will be bad this season. You’ve heard Kyle Davidson all summer, you watched the preseason, and — if you follow us regularly — we’ve provided you with in-depth coverage from the prospect camp in July through training camp.

Still, we love Blackhawks hockey. And, believe it or not, there’s plenty of reason to tune in. What you watch for is going to dictate your experience this season, so I put together a quick guide to watching the Blackhawks this season ahead of tonight’s puck drop.

Competitive Loses

The Avalanche are one of the teams that Luke Richardson and his staff are working to emulate; during his interviews, Richardson and Davidson watched the Stanley Cup Final together. And Richardson has shown tape of that series to the current Blackhawks team.

Colorado is the best team in the NHL, and in a copycat league they’re the model others are chasing and trying to duplicate. Chicago is certainly on that list.

But, at this particular time, the Blackhawks aren’t in the same class as the Avs. Last season’s opener was an eye-opening experience for Blackhawks fans, watching the Avs skate circles around the Hawks as they blew the doors off and routed Chicago.

But here’s the key to a season in which the loss column will be bloated: competitive losses. Can the Blackhawks lose and beef up their draft positioning next summer while not getting pushed around and embarrassed on a nightly basis?

Richardson’s new systems are designed to have the Blackhawks playing a faster, more aggressive brand of hockey, but at the same time, many players have said that they empower them to play freely and relaxed. So, hopefully, that results in some scoring, and while the goaltending will be a roller coaster ride all season, if the Blackhawks can score, they can keep the losses closer and more entertaining.

If the Blackhawks can lose competitively, they’ll be playing a brand of hockey that the organization envisions for the future, and to some extent, it will signal growth from players. I’ll root for that.

Keep an Eye on the Kids

The opening night roster doesn’t include a large future presence, but there are some names to watch with a long-term lens, and there will be more on the way this season.

Alex Vlasic and Alec Regula are the guys who interest me most on the opening night roster. Two young defensemen with solid offensive instincts and the ability to move with the puck and create seem like perfect fits for Richardson’s defense-to-offense vision for his team.

Vlasic impressed towards the end of the season in his brief time with the Hawks last spring and had one of the better summers, especially at the development camp and Tom Kurvers showcase.

Regula played big minutes and stuffed the stat sheet with shots, blocks, hits, and takeaways during the preseason. He told us that he’s ready to take the next step in his NHL career this season after using the last two years to get his legs under him at the pro level.

The organization’s top prospect, Lukas Reichel, will start this season in Rockford but rest assures that he will be in Chicago for good at some point this season. When he arrives, he’ll have plenty of eyes on his play as well.

Isaak Phillips and Nolan Allan are another pair of young Blackhawks’ blue-liners in Rockford the organization hopes can develop into NHL regulars. Phillips made his NHL debut last season and appears to be next in line for a call-up if needed at some point this season (read: injuries or more trades opening ice time).

Enjoy the Time we Have Left with 19 & 88

While everyone in the Blackhawks building has denied that there have been active discussions – whether internally or externally – regarding the futures of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, there’s very little doubt that the two franchise legends will see their time in Chicago come to an end this year.

Both are playing in the final season of their contracts, and both hold value to contenders (Kane more so than Toews) looking for an extra or final piece down the stretch this season. Kyle Davidson has made it clear that he holds no loyalty to the inherited roster, and he’s full steam ahead in sculpting his vision for the Blackhawks. If he’s going to do it the right way, it would be malpractice to let these guys, especially Patrick Kane, walk at the end of the season for nothing in return.

It sucks, but it’s the reality of things here. These two have authored the last 15-plus years of Blackhawks history, but there’s a strong chance that Tab and I will be writing post-mortem stories on their Chicago careers this year — and we all have to come to terms with that.

So, enjoy the heck out of the time we have left with 19 & 88 in Blackhawks sweaters this season.

Beefing up Trade Value

Last but certainly not least, we have a point that ties into the rest of this guide. The Blackhawks are building for the future, not the present, and while we want to see them lose games to beef up their draft positioning, *cough* Bedard *cough*, we want to see guys like 19 & 88, Max Domi, Andreas Athanasiou, Connor Murphy, etc. play well and build their stock.

Davidson will be an aggressive seller, we saw it leading up to the draft, and we saw it this past weekend with Davidson fleecing the Canucks for a second-rounder and Jason Dickinson in exchange for Riley Stillman.

As it stands today, Davidon’s war chest of draft picks includes two first-rounders, two second-rounders, and two third-rounders in each of the next two NHL Drafts, and you can bet your behind that adding to that collection of picks will be his top priority.

So, seeing guys like the ones I mentioned play well this season is a good thing in the long-term scope of things despite that fact that those players won’t be here beyond March 3.

See, there’s plenty to root for this season! Now, as Chance the Rapper famously said on SNL…

written by

Patrick grew up in Chicago's Bridgeport and Garfield Ridge neighborhoods before moving to the Western Suburbs of Chicago before eventually relocating to the Las Vegas area with his family in 2023. He started with Bleacher Nation in 2021 and has spent time as a Staff Writer and on the Chicago Blackhawks beat. He is currently a writer and editor at Bleacher Nation covering the Chicago Bears and the NFL at large and the author of the Bleacher Nation Newsletter. Patrick is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).

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