By every projection and statistical model available, the Chicago Blackhawks are not going to be a good hockey team in the 2022-23 season.
Of course, that appears to be part of the long-term plan currently in place by GM Kyle Davidson, for reasons that don’t need to be explored here because that’s not the point of this article. And we’re not going to come up with any dumb phrase or awful alliteration for this season, because that may imply approval of what the Blackhawks are doing and, well ... you should know this by now. But, once again, it is the reality of the situation, so here we are.
The Blackhawks finished with 68 points last season, which was certainly bad but not even the worst in their own division — that dubious distinction belonged to the Arizona Coyotes and their 57 points.
To gain an idea of what kind of point total the Blackhawks may be flirting with this season, here are the bottom-feeders from the last five NHL seasons that featured a full 82-game schedule:
2021-22: Montreal, 55 points
2018-19: Ottawa, 64 points
2017-18: Buffalo, 62 points
2016-17: Colorado, 48 points
2015-16: Toronto, 69 points
With those figures in mind, here are six teams that we’ll be watching this season as the Hawks biggest threat for the bottom spot in the NHL standings and the best odds at landing Connor Bedard in the 2023 NHL Draft.
The teams are presented in alphabetical order:
Last season: 25-50-7, (57 points)
Threat level: Very high
And that alphabetical order starts with the biggest threat to Chicago’s draft lottery odds.
Clayton Keller led this team in scoring last season with just 63 points (28 G, 35 A) in 67 games. Behind him Nick Schmaltz checked in at 59 (23 G, 36 A) in 63 games. And now Phil Kessel — who was third with 52 points last season — is off to Sin City, Arizona’s offense could struggle even more after scoring the fewest goals in the league last season. The Coyotes also surrendered the second-most goals last season, yet they’ll be trotting out Karel Vejmelka (13-32-3, .898 SV%, 3.68 GAA) once again.
This team is going to explore the depths of the word “miserable” and do not have any player in the realm of a Patrick Kane to steal a handful of games throughout the season.
Last season: 32-39-11, (75 points)
Threat level: Medium
Buffalo is only here because of how awful it’s been in the last decade, having not made the playoffs since the 2010-11 season. With 2021 No. 1 overall pick Owen Power set for a full NHL season after an 8-game stint in the spring, the Sabres should not be in the discussion of worst teams in the league this season.
But precious little has gone according to plan with the Sabres for some time now.
Last season: 22-49-11, (55 points)
Threat level: Medium
The Canadiens may have been a year early in having the league-worst record, landing the 2022 No. 1 overall pick and selecting Juraj Slafkovsky. He may end up as a solid NHL player but he does not project the way Bedard has. Along with Slafkovsky, Montreal does have some blossoming young talent in captain Nick Suzuki and sniper Cole Caufield. It’ll also be the second team to participate in the Kirby Dach experience, with results yet to be determined. On the blue line, Joel Edmundson is back from an injury that limited him to just 24 games last season. Carey Price is not expected to play this season so the net belongs to Jake Allen, who is far removed from whatever the moments of strong play he had with the St. Louis Blues.
If that young talent progresses, Montreal probably won’t be a problem. If not ... look out.
Last season: 25-46-11, (61 points)
Threat level: High
Before training camp started, things started heading south for Philly as veterans Sean Couturier and Ryan Ellis continued to be hampered by injuries. Anthony DeAngelo joined the blue line via trade, but there’s still nowhere near enough depth there. Carter Hart was better in net last season but still nowhere near as good his first two seasons.
And on top of all this is the powder keg behind the bench in John Tortorella, who was hired during the offseason. It seems like this season can only have two possible results for the Flyers. Either the team buys in to Tortorella’s notoriously red-assed philosophies and grinds its way up to mediocrity, or the team revolts and this entire thing explodes.
If the latter unfolds, we’ll see the Flyers in or near the league basement.
Last season: 32-37-13, (77 points)
Threat level: Low
There are plenty of familiar names here, like forwards Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier along with defenseman Erik Karlsson. But San Jose’s salary cap situation is completely fucked because of long-term deals to numerous veterans, leaving the Sharks incapable of adding enough quality depth. The injury bug has been another sore spot for San Jose for several seasons, and the goalie duo this season is Kaapo Kahkonen and James Reimer, which shouldn’t inspire any confidence.
The Sharks veterans may keep this team from the league’s deepest depths but it shouldn’t be wholly ignored. And they have a headstart on everyone because they went to Europe and dropped the first two games of the 2022-23 regular season.
Last season: 27-49-6, (60 points)
Threat level: Low-to-medium
If Seattle wasn’t an expansion team, it probably wouldn’t be on this list. The Kraken added some quality forwards in Oliver Bjorkstrand and Andre Burakovsky during the offseason and landed Shane Wright at No. 4 in the draft — the player who was once the consensus No. 1 overall pick. Matty Beniers, the No. 2 overall pick from 2021, will also be along for the ride this season.
The Kraken should be better than last season’s third-from-the-bottom finish, but they’ll have to prove that on the ice first, which is why a watchful eye should be cast towards the Pacific Northwest during the early stages of this season.