Are The Blackhawks Really Ruining Their Lottery Odds?

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Are The Blackhawks Really Ruining Their Lottery Odds? Should We Be Upset They’re Winning Games?

Chicago Blackhawks

It’s impossible to not praise the work Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson is doing in his first season in Chicago. The roster he’s been given was purposefully designed to give the team a high pick in the heralded 2023 NHL Draft, and the moves they made before the trade deadline have left the roster barren of any stars.

I’ve had fans in other cities hit me up on Twitter asking “who the heck are these guys?” recently after the Blackhawks have taken big hits on the playoff chances of the Senators and Predators and upset the league’s best team from Boston.

They keep playing hard every single night for Richardson, and the team continues to win games they’re supposed to lose — in the eyes of pundits, gamblers, and even Blackhawks fans who are understandably longing for Connor Bedard.

If you are on Twitter or Facebook around any wins at this stage in the season, lots of people are saying things like “they’re screwing this thing up” and “it’s a shame they won that game.”

Well, how bad is it that the Blackhawks are now effectively fourth in the draft lottery standings? As we asked and discussed back when the team got off to a surprisingly competitive start to the season in October, are the Blackhawks playing too well to “appropriately tank“?

And, more importantly, should we be concerned that they’re ruining their chances of securing an elite player in the upcoming draft?

The answer to that should be no. And there’s history to support the idea that the NHL’s Draft Lottery, though heavily benefitting the absolute worst team in the league, has given teams better picks than they “earned” almost every year.

Consider the last decade of the NHL Draft Lottery:

  • 2022: New Jersey moved up from 5th to 2nd
  • 2021: Seattle moved up from 3rd to 2nd
  • 2020: the Rangers moved up from the bubble playoffs to No. 1 and the Kings moved from 4 to 2
  • 2019: New Jersey moved from 3 to 1, the Rangers moved from 6 to 2 and the Blackhawks moved from 12 to 3
  • 2018: Carolina moved from 11 to 2 and Montreal moved from 4 to 3
  • 2017: New Jersey moved from 5 to 1, Philadelphia moved from 13 to 2 and Dallas moved from 8 to 3
  • 2016: Winnipeg moved from 6 to 2 and Columbus moved from 4 to 3
  • 2015: Edmonton moved from 3 to 1 (Connor McDavid)
  • 2014: Florida moved from 2 to 1
  • 2013: Colorado moved from 2 to 1

In six of the last ten draft lotteries, the top overall pick wound up with a team that wasn’t the worst team in the league. Heck, the Blackhawks had the fifth-best odds (8.1 percent) of winning the draft lottery in 2007 when they landed No. 1 and selected Patrick Kane.

And the Buffalo Sabres did everything humanly possible to be the worst team in the league during the 2014-15 season to land the last Connor who was labeled a generational talent — McDavid — and they still lost the lottery and “settled” for Jack Eichel.

My humble opinion is that what we’re seeing from the Blackhawks organization right now is more important in two regards than losing our minds about the possibility that they don’t have the best odds of winning the Connor Bedard Sweepstakes.

First, to the point made by Mark Lazerus in the tweet above: the Blackhawks’ new front office has shown an ability to identify talent in the professional scouting department and make smart trades to help the hockey club. For years we all lost our minds because Stan Bowman’s regime traded for guys who didn’t fit. The Kyle Davidson Era has begun with the polar opposite being evident. From Sam Lafferty to Joey Anderson, the Blackhawks have found players who play a certain way and give them an opportunity to show what they can do — and they’ve taken advantage.

Second, and more importantly, the Blackhawks’ front office and coaches have spoken since June about establishing the right culture of how to play in the organization. Now, without Patrick Kane or Max Domi or Jake McCabe or Lafferty in the room anymore and Jonathan Toews not playing games, the Blackhawks are still competing every night and beating teams they “shouldn’t” to the surprise of many and the disdain of fans.

The lottery balls are going to do what they do. The Blackhawks are going to lose some more games this season. But my focus continues to be on the players they have, the way they’re playing for Richardson, and what that might look like when the organization weaponizes their ridiculous amount of cap space in the coming two summers to bring in more skill to surround the young talent they’re drafting and developing.

Is Connor Bedard worth being awful for a year? Absolutely. Will the Blackhawks be better if they end up with any of the top four picks over the long term? Heck yeah. But, if the foundation isn’t there, that doesn’t matter (see Eichel in Buffalo).

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