I hate to be a naysayer but it’s time to turn the lights out on the current NHL season and start thinking about the next phase of the Blackhawks’ rebuilding program. It’s only mid-March but it’s not too soon to be thinking about the next training camp in six months. Okay, there’s still some hockey to be played and the Blackhawks are deep in the “Bad for Bedard Sweepstakes” competition but the reality is that this franchise is playing for pride and for draft picks right now. Anyone getting excited about the upcoming NHL draft? Maybe you should – it could be the bright spot for the Blackhawks as an organization this year.
Where do the Blackhawks stand right now?
If the season ended today, the Blackhawks wouldn’t be the worst team in the NHL. That dubious distinction would go to the Columbus Blue Jackets who sit at 20-38-7 with 47 points and a .362 win percentage. The San Jose Sharks have slightly moved past the Blackhawks and while both have 50 total points (the Sharks have a 19-36-12 record while Chicago sits at 22-38-6) the Sharks have played one more game so their .373 win percentage is slightly worse than the Blackhawks’ .379 winning record.
This of course is splitting hairs at this point. The only real race for these three teams is the race to the absolute bottom to claim the biggest prize of all – drafting Connor Bedard. The hope here is that winning a Stanley Cup is great and wonderful, but winning a contract with Connor Bedard may be a key step in building a Stanley Cup-winning dynasty. At least that’s what’s predicted but that other Connor guy in Edmonton hasn’t won one yet for the Oilers either despite being apparently superhuman on the ice. No doubt the Blackhawks’ front office has evaluated other prospects besides Connor Bedard because the NHL draft brings no guarantees.
The end of the season means new faces in the lineup.
I’ve talked earlier about Lukas Reichel and a number of other Blackhawk prospects and the potential timeline for their arrival in Chicago. Right now, the Rockford IceHogs have been loaded with talent and it looks like it may be time to move some of this talent up to the United Center. Forward Luke Philp and goalie Anton Khudobin have been recalled from Rockford and may well just finish out the season with the big club. Philp is coming off a recent contract extension and Khudobin came over from Dallas in the Max Domi trade recently. Khudobin is an NHL veteran who brings a lot of experience to defending the pipes and has a 114-91-33 career record with a 2.50 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.
Blackhawk fans could expect more callups in the coming days as these promotions are more tryouts than anything else for next season. Let the rebuilding begin – it’s going to be a long road ahead for this organization.