This has been a looooong year, Blackhawks fans. From the mid-point of a season filled with turmoil and change to a summer of historic moves and the full-on start of a painful rebuild, the Chicago Blackhawks have changed a great deal since we swapped out our 2021 calendars for a new year.
So which moments were the most important to the organization and its fans? Here are the moments that defined the Blackhawks in 2022 to me. I’m ranking these based on their significant, not in chronological order just in case you’re keeping track.
1. March 1 — Kyle Davidson named permanent general manager
Davidson was named the interim GM on Oct. 27 when Stan Bowman was run out of town, but he got the full-time gig on the first of March. The timing of the announcement meant he could maneuver his way through his first trade deadline with confidence that his vision for the team (rebuild) was what he could begin executing. And he got to work immediately.
2. June 27 — Luke Richardson named head coach
Of everything that Davidson has done as GM — including significant trades we’ll talk about as we continue — I submit the most important and best decision was to hire Richardson as his first head coach. Richardson knew coming into the job that it wasn’t going to be easy. And when two players many felt would be important pieces of the future were traded a couple weeks later, he had an idea of just how tough the job would be. But he’s been transparent with the media and fans from Day One on the job. And, in my humble opinion, is the right man to lead the team through some dark days and into a (hopefully) bright future.
3. November 20 — Marian Hossa’s jersey retirement
The Blackhawks signed Marian Hossa to a one-day contract so he could retire as a member of the organization. On Nov. 20, before they hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins (for Evgeni Malkin’s 1000th game), the Blackhawks retired Hossa’s No. 81 with a marvelous ceremony. Many of Hossa’s former teammates were in attendance, and Eddie Olczyk returned to emcee the event. This moment reminded us that at least the Blackhawks still know how to throw one helluva party.
4. July 7 — Three big trades change the future
5. July 7 — GMKD’s first draft class
I’m actually breaking the trades apart from the draft class for the purposes of this discussion because I think they should be viewed separately to an extend, but cannot be completely removed from each other.
The buzz going into the draft was that Alex DeBrincat was going to be available for trade. The speculation ran wild with potential destinations and hauls the Blackhawks might bring back for a young player who had multiple 40-goal seasons on his resume. When the dust settled (has it?), Davidson moved DeBrincat to Ottawa for a package of three picks: No. 7 overall in 2022, a second-round pick in 2022 and a third-round pick in 2024. He used the seventh overall pick on defenseman Kevin Korchinski and the 39th overall pick on forward Paul Ludwinski. Fans are still torn on the return in the deal, and we won’t be able to appropriately assess the completion of the deal until we get to see Korchinski, Ludwinski or the player selected in 2024 make it to the NHL. This one hurt a lot of us, including Patrick Kane.
The second big shoe to drop was a surprise: Davidson traded Kirby Dach to Montreal in what effectively worked out to be a three-team deal. For the former third overall pick, Davidson received the 13th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft (which had been the Islanders’ pick) and a third-round pick (No. 66 overall). Davidson selected forwards Frank Nazar and Gavin Hayes with the two picks he received in this deal. Again, we need to see how the careers of Dach, Nazar and Hayes play out before we can fully appreciate how this trade played out but selling a big, young center as early as Davidson did raised plenty of eyebrows.
Davidson made a third trade during the first day of the draft, and it was the one that I honestly struggled with the most. He did the Toronto Maple Leafs a huge favor and took goaltender Petr Mrazek off their books. To do so: he moved up from the 38th overall pick to No. 25, where he selected defenseman Sam Rinzel. Rinzel is a project who many felt the Blackhawks could have selected with one of their three picks in the second round (at the time they had Nos. 38, 39 and 57). I would have preferred the Blackhawks move up more than 13 spots to do the Leafs that kind of favor. The Blackhawks stayed at 57 (the pick from the Fleury trade) and picked Ryan Greene, who appears to be a legit prospect.
At the end of Davidson’s first draft, he had traded two young forwards many felt should have been cornerstones to the next generation in Chicago and made 11 selections. Nine of his 11 picks were used on forwards. In the months since the draft, many of the players the Blackhawks picked appear to be very good prospects. The one exception is Nazar, who hasn’t played at Michigan because of an injury. But, again, in time we’ll know if the dramatic start of the rebuild was worth the immediate emotional toll.
6. Dec. 18 — Kane and Toews play 1,000 together
In a season — heck, a year — that has been filled with so many negative, pessimistic moments for Blackhawks, fans, the night when we were able to celebrate and appreciate Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane appearing in their 1,000th game together was special. In the context of this being the final year of their historic contracts and the trade buzz that has followed both of them since the draft, it felt both surreal and nostalgic at the same time. The two icons have meant so much to the franchise, and it was fitting that they could share a moment together in front of their fans at the United Center. It was a damn shame they had to do it in the hideous reverse retro jerseys, however.
7. March 18-21 — GMKD’s first trade deadline
I’m making this a three-day window because the first big trade of Davidson’s tenure came before the deadline, when he traded forward Brandon Hagel to the Tampa Bay Lightning. This is when we got our first idea of what his plan for the future was going to be. He traded a young, effective, cost-controlled player for a couple players who had limited NHL experience and two first-round picks. His two subsequent trades on deadline day — Marc-André Fleury to Minnesota for a second round pick and Ryan Carpenter for a future fifth — again reiterated that Davidson wants picks to jump-start his rebuild with assets he chooses and develops from the get-go.
8. Dec. 13 — Alexander Ovechkin scores No. 800
The Washington Capitals came into the United Center earlier this month with the greatest player in their franchise history needing three goals to become the third player in NHL history to score 800 regular season goals. He got the hat trick that night, and was appropriately celebrated by the Blackhawks’ fans in attendance. It was a historic night I won’t soon forget.
9. Jan. 5 — Alex Nylander traded for Sam Lafferty
This was the first trade involving an NHL player executed by Davidson while he was still the interim GM. It was also the first move made by Davidson that clearly showed us he was willing and able to get rid of Stan Bowman’s mistakes as quickly as possible. In Lafferty, Davidson got a player who had struggled to crack the Penguins’ veteran lineup with any regularity. Since coming to Chicago, Lafferty has proven to be a solid bottom-six center/wing who can move. This trade was the first big win on Davidson’s ledger.
10. Oct. 7 — Blackhawks acquire Jason Dickinson, 2nd round pick
If the Nylander-Lafferty trade has worked out well, this trade looks even better. The Canucks were looking to dump salary; the Blackhawks had too many defensemen. So Davidson sent a depth defenseman (Riley Stillman) to Vancouver for Jason Dickinson (who two years at $2.65M left on his contract) and a second-round pick in 2024. Dickinson, a former first-round pick, didn’t work out in Vancouver; in Chicago he’s become an every night third-line center and has been a great addition. The second-round pick would be a bonus; the Blackhawks won this trade based on the NHL players that were swapped.
May 23 — Filip Roos becomes Davidson’s first European free agent signing
July 12 — Max Domi, Andreas Athanasiou, Alex Stalock headline Davidson’s first free agent class.
Aug. 10 — Blackhawks sign Korchinski, Davidson’s first draft pick.
July 10 — Blackhawks buyout Brett Connolly, Henrik Borgström.
July 12 — Duncan Keith announces his retirement.