Training camp is here, but the rumor mill didn't stop churning all summer about 19 and 88. I feel bad for Davidson, Toews, and Kane at some level because this is going to be a question all season long and it's only going to intensify as the trade deadline approaches. For now though, it is good to hear that rumors of talks with Edmonton, Dallas, Colorado, and New York were bullshit. I've made it known many times that my preference is to keep both of them and have them re-sign and then retire having worn only one sweater. I also know that my dream scenario is just that and it's more likely that at least one of them moves on. I am going to watch them to the bitter end because I was there at the beginning too
It's weird going into a season with truly zero aspirations. This year is all about answering questions. Questions about coaching, questions about young players, questions about trading veterans, questions about culture, questions about the future. Since that is the theme I figured I'd do that here to start the 2022-23 Blackhawks coverage. My 10th season of doing just that. Thanks to everyone who has come to this website and my twitter for a decade. It's been quite the fucking roller coaster with this organization and now we start the climb again.
This is the big question about Reichel. At this stage, which league is better for his development? I understand the argument of giving him another year in the AHL. Let him get stronger, more disciplined, more confident, and maybe less likely to get a nice RFA contract down the road if he only has one year of NHL production.
I don't think that is best for his development. All development, in hockey or life, comes when you're uncomfortable. He was already pretty comfortable in the AHL last year. He played big minutes in all situations in multiple positions and got 57 points in 56 games. How much better can get playing at a level where he already proved he was one of the league's best players? I don't know the answer to that question, but my instincts say that he is better served learning how to be an NHL player every day and getting time with Patrick Kane against the best players in the world. If he has gotten stronger this off-season and is more physically ready then I think he should be given a chance. At some level your culture has to be a meritocracy and if Reichel is one of your best 9 forwards then he needs to be in the NHL. The Blackhawks need to evaluate him and determine if Reichel is a piece of the next core or just a replaceable guy. Let's start that evaluation now.
The losses will come whether I want them or not. This year is about development and culture. I was so sick and tired of watching Colliton teams. Players regressing individually and the same mistakes being made over and over and over. The only thing I want to see this year is the team playing the "right way". Smart and fiercely competitive. I want guys to know their assignments coming back. I want guys to win puck battles. I want good puck management. I want the other team to see Chicago on the schedule and know that they're going to need to battle for those two points. The other team will likely get those two points, I just don't want it to be easy. Losing 3-1 in a battle is fine. Losing 5-3 and playing undisciplined and lazy isn't.
I've been a fan of Max Domi since his days at the WJC for Canada where he and Anthony Duclair looked unstoppable. He's skilled, he's competitive, he's tough, he can skate. There's a lot to like there. I feel like I was alone in the media world saying that he'd be a good fit to play with Kane, but Richardson said basically that same thing yesterday in the press conference. I think that combo will work.
Having said all of that…his production has really fallen off since 2019. I can't say I watched a ton of Montreal or CBJ games in that time so I don't have a real answer for that other than injuries. I think Davidson nailed this signing. The hope is that he is healthy, motivated, and Kaner feeds him cookies all year long. 20 goals by the deadline and he's flipped to a team desperate for secondary scoring and playoff snarl in the top 6 for yet another 1st round pick.
I think the earliest would be 2025.
I don't think they'll finish with the worst record in the league. I think the culture will be good with Richardson and the Hawks have too many guys with pride and something to prove to just rollover. The Coyotes are worse on paper. I also think the East is a MUCH better conference top to bottom. Buffalo, Detroit, Ottawa, and New Jersey all may miss the playoffs, but those four teams are all looking pretty tough. If you're Montreal it's going to be a long year in the Atlantic.
I think the Blackhawks will need a little lottery luck to get Bedard. If they end up with Fantilli at #2 overall that is fine. Getting Michkov, given the state of the world and his contract in the KHL…not ideal.
Ian Mitchell is the first name that comes to mind. I think he has an NHL future. He can skate, he has puck skills, he's a very driven and smart kid. I think he has the right stuff as a right shot defenseman. The big questions with him at this point, in my opinion, are 1) is he strong enough physically? and 2) does he have bite to his game? I haven't seen the snarl from him at this point. If you look at truly successful undersized defensemen they almost all have a mean streak. Duncan Keith had it. McAvoy has it. If you're not a genius like Adam Fox or the twitchiest athlete in NHL history like Cale Makar, then you need other attributes to get by when you're undersized. Being mean helps. I am excited. I hope he gets a real chance this year. I believe he is one of the best 6 defensemen on the team right now.
Up front…I will be focused on Kurashev and Raddysh. Other than Reichel they are the only young players currently in the mix that have a chance to be here when the team is decent again. Kurashev took a brutal step backwards in year 2. Year 1 was "easy" for him because of the covid year. Fewer games, easier travel schedule, no away crowds, etc. He looked like a guy. Last year he looked like he had a future playing in Europe. With a real coach and a better understanding of the NHL grind I am hoping he can bounce back and play with consistent energy and effort and prove he can be an impact middle 6 player.
Raddysh looked good after coming over in the Hagel trade. Smart player. Great vision. The Blackhawks front office has said that they want guys who can play fast. That isn't Raddysh. He thinks fast, but his feet are never going be an advantage for him. If he can make the most of this opportunity this year where he will get some top 6 minutes and PP then perhaps the Blackhawks have some depth pieces for the rebuild. Reichel, Raddysh, and Kurashev as pieces of the top 9 in the future would be a good result of this coming miserable year.
It's going to be a long year in just about every way imaginable. This is a learning curve year. A learning year for the new players. For the new coach. The new GM. The broadcasters. The new President. The new owner. There will be missteps. There will be frustrations. There will no doubt be some sadness. There will also be some hope. I will do my best to find those moments of hope and highlight them. I think it's important to give everyone in the organization some room for growth and grace.
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