Friedman: Blackhawks Now “On the Clock” To Get Better
To the surprise of what I hope would be almost nobody, the topic of the draft lottery results and the assumed summer arrival of Connor Bedard in Chicago came up on Wednesday’s edition of the “32 Thoughts” Podcast with Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek. As always, this episode is a must listen, but there’s some really good talk about both the lottery itself and the ramifications of the Blackhawks winning the lottery.
I’ll start with the Blackhawks-specific portion of the podcast and what Friedman said his initial reaction was to learning Chicago had won the lottery. This is something I’ve had texted to me by a few people in the industry since Monday.
“My reaction to Bedard going to Chicago was probably the same as a lot of others: I’m really happy for Luke Richardson,” Friedman said. “So badly he wanted an NHL head coaching job. And when he got that job he knew it was built to lose. The odds were really stacked against him being successful there. And now all of a sudden his generational player ends up in his lap. I’m very happy for Richardson.”
Both Friedman and Marek did acknowledge that they understand and appreciate that there are those out there who are not and will not be comfortable with the idea of Chicago landing a generational player this summer in the wake of the Kyle Beach scandal, which came to a point less than two full seasons ago. But they’re both happy for Richardson.
Friedman also noted that this puts a lot — A LOT — more pressure on Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson. Marek asked this question, which is framed in an excellent way when you consider the path forward for Davidson and the organization:
“What do you think that Kyle Davidson does now around Connor Bedard? Because as you well know and everybody knows, every move he makes will be to service Connor Bedard and his career with the Hawks.”
The way Marek asked that question really hit me. Remember, Davidson is a second-year general manager entering his second NHL Draft. A few members of his front office are relatively young as well. So while landing the top pick is an enormous home run for the him and the organization, he and the rest of the front office might not have the… luxury?… of patience for the entire collection of prospects to mature at their own pace any longer.
In short: it’s go time for the Blackhawks when they take the stage to announce Bedard’s name.
And two pieces of Friedman’s response(s) were on point as well.
“One player can rejuvenate your franchise and excite your fan base — and we’re seeing it here — but one player can’t win you a Stanley Cup,” he said. “The Chicago Blackhawks – does it accelerate it a little bit? Yeah, it does. But look at the roster. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done here.
What I do think is, is it puts you on the clock to – you better make sure that your plan is good for getting players. The thing about the Blackhawks is, they were under no real pressure to get real players quickly. Now they’re under pressure to find good players quicker.”
Marek not only agreed, but noted that with the roughly $40 million in available cap space the Blackhawks have this summer in a modest free agent class, trades might be the more likely route for roster improvement in the short-term for Davidson.
“I think [the] trade deadline… next year is going to be a fascinating one for Kyle Davidson.”
I would also encourage you to listen to the portion of the podcast during which they discuss the ridiculous conspiracy theories that the draft lottery is somehow “rigged,” and the reaction from a couple insiders to the slip-up of Kevin Weekes during the ESPN broadcast of the lottery results.