Canada's Big Win, Unhappy Mitchell, Richardson's In-Depth Analysis, Hat Tricks for Prospects, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

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Canada’s Big Win, Unhappy Mitchell, Richardson’s In-Depth Analysis, Hat Tricks for Prospects, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are back on the ice tonight in St. Louis. And Canada will look to follow-up their stunning 11-2 demolishing of Germany with another strong performance tonight. Which game will you be watching? I’m gonna try to catch both… but it’s my wife’s birthday so maybe Canada will have to wait until after the Hawks game.

  • I mentioned Canada’s enormous bounce-back performance last night. The star of the night? Connor Bedard, who had a hat trick and added four assists for a seven-point night.
  • It’s hard to evaluate individual performances in a blowout win or loss… unless it’s something extraordinary like what Bedard did last night. But I thought the Blackhawks’ four prospects played well.
  • Ethan Del Mastro saw his ice time down in the third period with the game out of reach. He skated 15:20 in the game and was physical. Colton Dach was credited with three shots on net and picked up an assist in 13:52. Like Del Mastro, he played a physical game. Unlike Del Mastro, he got some additional ice time in the third period.
  • Nolan Allan finished second on the blue line in ice time (16:55). It appears Canada’s coaching staff trusts Allan to play solid defense. Kevin Korchinski skated 15:35 and, while he wasn’t credited with a shot on goal, did pick up two assists in the third period. He still isn’t getting regular power play time, but it’s hard to hold that against him with the talent on the roster.
  • Canada gets Austria (who lost 11-0 to Sweden) in the nightcap tonight at the World Juniors. Sweden plays Czechia in the second game on the slate today, with the United States vs. the Swiss between Blackhawks’ prospects. As always, these games will be on NHL Network.
  • If you’ve read me for the past few years you know I’ve been on the Ian Mitchell bandwagon since the Blackhawks drafted him. Since he was recalled again at the start of December, he’s been in and out of the lineup. But his play when in the game has improved a lot. And, frankly, I’m of the thought that he’s better than continuing to skate Caleb Jones (unless you’re showcasing Caleb for a trade which I’m okay with). Mark Lazerus of The Athletic talked to Mitchell about his frustration right now not getting regular run on the blue line for the Blackhawks despite showing improvement.

“[It] doesn’t make sense because Mitchell has been playing better since his most recent call-up on Dec. 1, at least relative to the defensive mess the Blackhawks have been all season. He’s more patient with the puck than he was as a jittery rookie, and he’s calmer defensively, no longer running wildly around his own zone and instead letting the play come to him. Yes, his metrics are bad, but everybody’s metrics are bad on this team. The Blackhawks are bad. But he’s visibly improved.”

  • Lazerus makes a good point that maybe the organization is just waiting for the next wave of guys to get to the NHL. That they view Mitchell as the top of a previous group of defensive prospects that isn’t going to make it here. But what I’ve seen from Mitchell is a player who could benefit the NHL roster right now, and a kid who’s working hard to improve. Again, I fully expect at least one defenseman to get traded before the deadline (maybe sooner) so maybe the Blackhawks are getting veterans ice time to showcase them to move. But I also totally understand why Mitchell would be frustrated not getting any explanation about why he’s in the press box as frequently as he has been recently.
  • Something that’s been a really enjoyable part of Luke Richardson’s time as the head coach of the Blackhawks is his willingness to break down where things went right or wrong for his team. The other night, the Blackhawks had a bad defensive moment and it cost them a goal. And, as usual, Richardson went into pretty specific detail (this time including individual player names) to coach us up as well.
  • Gavin Hayes had himself a night in a big win for Flint last night. His second hat trick of the month earned him the CHL’s No. 2 Star of the Night. The Blackhawks drafted Hayes 66th overall to start the third round of the 2022 NHL Draft with the second pick they received from Montreal in the Kirby Dach trade. In 31 games for Flint in the OHL this season, Hayes has 18 goals and 15 assists. He scored 19 times in 65 games for Flint last year.
  • David Gust is playing with the IceHogs on an AHL contract this season, but — depending on how the trade deadline goes — he might be playing himself into a shot at the NHL later this season. The 28-year-old forward is having a magnificent season in Rockford and is going to blow away his personal professional career bests. He’s already at 17 goals in 29 games (his career high is 18) and his 34 points is two shy of his career-best 36, which he established in 64 games with the Wolves last year. He produced his second career hat trick last night and was named the AHL’s No. 1 star of the night.
  • There’s been a lot of talk in our comments sections that is pretty pessimistic about the Blackhawks’ plan to start over from scratch. And I understand why — this year’s team is really hard to watch at times. But something I keep coming back to is an appreciation for Kyle Davidson’s transparency about what his plan is and the apparent commitment the organization has to doing it. Making a team great isn’t an easy process. Staying great is even harder.
  • There’s a lot of blame going around for the Blackhawks’ failures this season. There’s also a lot of folks giving credit to former GMs for their roles in building the dynasty. So I went back over the past two decades of GMs for the Blackhawks with a crash course in what they did well and where they created headaches. And… what can we take away from Davidson’s predecessors that we can apply to what we’re all going through now.

At the end of the day, the Kyle Davidson took over a broken, bloated, top-heavy franchise that has some intriguing prospects coming on the blue line but very little to write home about at forward. They want to win again at some point, but that was never going to happen drafting in the early- to mid-teens every year while maxing out against the salary cap. It was time for things to get burned down, and the new front office has been given the grace to go with it…

The moral of the story here is there is a lot of good and bad on the ledger of any general manager. Cam Barker was a bust who was taken third overall by the Blackhawks; he was traded for Leddy and that worked out great. But other deals (cough, Danault to Montreal, cough) backfired like an ’87 Camaro. And that happened far too many times over the past seven years.

  • Finally, Grayson Allen has established himself as one of the most unlikeable players in recent memory in the NBA. And more than a few of his cheap shots have come at the expense of Bulls players. Last night he was at it again.


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