In a Way, the First-Half of the Season Has Actually Been a Success for the Blackhawks
Last year, with a roster that fans thought could potentially take the Blackhawks places at some point, the Blackhawks finished with 68 points — good for 27th in the NHL. They sold at the deadline when it became painfully clear the wheels were never on, much less falling off. The front office turned over completely, and the roster transformation began before the trade deadline.
With the major trades facilitated by general manager Kyle Davidson at the draft, it was clear that the Blackhawks were banking on tanking; they were in it to win it — and, by win it, I mean the draft lottery and Connor Bedard.
So… how bad are things? Sure, the Blackhawks are second-to-last in the NHL in point percentage heading to the break. But there are a few silver linings in this season’s numbers that indicate the sell-off didn’t hurt the team’s performance as much as we might think.
The Blackhawks are No. 1 in the NHL in faceoffs as a team, winning 55.7 percent. Last year, the Blackhawks finished the season at 49.6 percent as a team, good for 16th in the league.
Among individual centers who have taken at least 600 faceoffs to date, Jonathan Toews leads the NHL (63.3) and Max Domi ranks 15th in the league at 55.5 percent. The improvement has certainly been led by Toews, but Jason Dickinson and Sam Lafferty have been terrific all year, too.
Last season, the Blackhawks had five skaters score at least 15 goals: Alex DeBrincat, Patrick Kane, Dylan Strome, Brandon Hagel and Dominik Kubalik. Entering the All-Star Break, the Blackhawks have three players tied for the team lead with 14 goals (Toews, Domi and Taylor Raddysh). Andreas Athanasiou (10), Kane (9) and Sam Lafferty (8) are next on the roster. Will someone score 41 like DeBrincat did? No. Has it made a difference in the team’s offense? Not really.
Last year — with DeBrincat, Kubalik, Strome and Kirby Dach — the Blackhawks averaged 2.60 goals per game — ranked 29th in the NHL. Without those four “important” forwards, the Hawks are averaging 2.46 goals per game, which ranks 31st in the league. So the whopping OMG offensive casualties of the summer sell-off cost the Blackhawks 0.14 goals per game offensively.
The Blackhawks are putting 26.4 shots on goal per game, which ranks 31st in the league. Last year, the Blackhawks averaged 28.8 shots on goal per game, which also ranked 31st in the league.
The Blackhawks hit the All-Star Break allowing 3.63 goals per game (27th in the NHL) and 33.9 shots on goal per game (also 27th in the league). Last year, the Blackhawks allowed 3.52 goals per game (26th in the NHL) and 33.0 shots on goal per game (24th).
When we consider the injuries the Blackhawks have dealt with on the blue line — Seth Jones and Jarred Tinordi have both missed significant time — and the changes in system, the Blackhawks haven’t regressed as much as we might think. It’s also worth remembering the Blackhawks went from Marc-André Fleury appearing in 45 games to a revolving door of Petr Mrazek, Alex Stalock, Arvid Söderblom and Jaxson Stauber in net during the first half, the drop-off makes more sense.
So what? The Blackhawks haven’t performed much worse than last year despite turning over a huge portion of the roster. And they’re doing exactly what they were supposed to: work hard, play their best and end up with strong odds of winning the draft lottery.
Overall, the first half (well, 48 games) has been a relative success.
And, of course, there’s really only one thing that matters right now, and his name is Connor Bedard.