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Blackhawks Week That Was and Will Be, 11/28: Zero fun, sir

Here is where the positive thoughts would go — if they existed.

Winnipeg Jets v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

We’re now 21 games into this Chicago Blackhawks season — and what an absolute delight it has (not) been!

Trends tend to emerge for teams once that 20-game mark is reached, and that brief opening spurt of wins from the Blackhawks now appears to be the exception rather than the rule of what the rest of this 82-game season is going to be like.

With virtually the entire roster apparently not here for the long haul, it’s felt pointless to make any definitive conclusions on players who won’t be around in a season or two or three. But the guy behind the bench — Luke Richardson — might be, and that’s where the attention is going to shift for right now.

One of the thoughts here is that a different (aka better) system would lead to at least some level of improved team play under Richardson’s guidance. Based on the team possession stats from Natural Stat Trick, though, that isn’t happening.

Here are five key statistics along with where the Blackhawks sit in those categories, all during 5-on-5 play:

  • 41.23 percent shot attempt share (CF%), 32nd
  • 41.49 expected goal share (xGF%), 31st
  • 41.42 percent shot share (SF%), 32nd
  • 40.27 percent scoring chance share (SCF%), 32nd
  • 42.03 percent high-danger chance share (HDCF%), 30th

The Blackhawks have a minus-21 goal differential at 5-on-5, with only the Columbus Blue Jackets (minus-22) below them. Once again, they’re among the worst teams in the league — if not the worst — at 5-on-5 hockey, which is roughly 75-80 percent of the game.

For comparison’s sake, here’s what the Blackhawks looked like in the abbreviated 2021 season when the team committed to playing its younger players under former coach Jeremy Colliton:

  • 45.85 CF%, 30th
  • 43.97 xGF%, 31st
  • 45.60 SF%, 31st
  • 44.47 SCF%, 30th
  • 42.60 HDCF%, 31st

Keep in mind that the Seattle Kraken did not play that season, so there were only 31 teams in the league. So, with a team that was similarly not concerned with winning games in the present, the 2021 Blackhawks were ranked about the same as the current Blackhawks in those categories.

Making a definitive conclusion on Richardson after 20 games seems absurd, so that’s not the point here. But it is a touch worrying to see that the Blackhawks haven’t made any progress in these areas, where the tops of the columns are typically occupied by the league’s better teams. At the same time, though, Richardson has been dealt a terrible hand with the roster he was given, so dismissing his coaching ability because of these 20 games — or this entire season, really — seems premature.

It feels like the overall point here is that any searches for signs of progress or positivity from the ‘22-23 Blackhawks continue to come up empty and may not be arriving until the draft lottery next spring. The most optimistic viewpoint I could offer before this season started was that improved structure from the coach meant that some of those numbers above would trend northward as the season continued — and there’s still time for that to happen. But even that low, low bar feels too high to be cleared in the present.

The Week That Was

Wednesday, Nov. 23: Stars 6, Blackhawks 4

Much of this season is being resigned to the Blackhawks fate but I’d be lying if I wasn’t getting my hopes up for a pre-Thanksgiving upset when they went up 4-1 in the third period.

And then all that happened.

Friday, Nov. 25: Canadiens 3, Blackhawks 2

More on this result in a second.

Sunday, Nov. 27: Jets 7, Blackhawks 2

Team Twitter accounts are getting silly:

Cold Cash and Colder Hearts

The Blackhawks did not do Kirby Dach any favors. They rushed him to the NHL. They saddled him with a bad coach. They tried to make him the focal point of a rebuild-on-the-fly or whatever that didn’t go anywhere. So it shouldn’t be too surprising that the former No. 3 overall pick didn’t exactly flourish with the Blackhawks. At the same time, though, there have been multiple references in articles at The Athletic and elsewhere that there were questions related to Dach’s work ethic and how much effort he was going to put into becoming a better player.

And then this happened on Friday:

Montreal Canadiens v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Now, I’m not going to fault him for getting wrapped up in the moment here. Getting booed at your former home stadium and then scoring the winner in the shootout? Yeah, that’s a pretty swift and decisive middle finger cast back at the people who were just booing.

But hockey legends are not written from shootouts in late November.

And part of me sees a player getting so wrapped up in a meaningless exercise to award a second pity point in the standings as another sign of the relative immaturity compared to Dach and other high draft picks. Look at what the Blackhawks last No. 3 pick was doing in the season when he turned 22, as Dach will in January. It sure as hell wasn’t showing up a visiting crowd about a freaking shootout win.

It may not be entirely fair to compare Dach to Jonathan Toews because Toews was placed in a situation miles ahead of the one Dach entered in Chicago. But it felt like that moment was a little insight into the the mind of Dach, one that’s appears too focused on smaller victories like a shootout winner scored on the day after Thanksgiving against a goalie in his rookie season. There’s a bigger picture here and it doesn’t quite seem like Dach sees it.

Even if he can be forgiven for getting wrapped up in that moment, Dach later doubled down with these Instagram comments, calling it “Business.”

There’s better “business” to be explored in this industry, Dach.

The Week That Will Be

Wednesday, Nov. 30 vs. Edmonton Oilers

And into town comes Connor McDavid as a reminder of what the Blackhawks are pursuing while putting us through this collective misery.

Saturday, Dec. 3 at New York Rangers

I’m sure the Kane-to-the-Rangers rumors will be nice and quiet ahead of this game.

Sunday, Dec. 4 at New York Islanders

For those too young to remember the Islanders’ dynasties of the early 1980s, do you have any sort of emotional response to the Islanders? They’ve always felt like an NHL team that just ... exists.

This series will be taking a one-week hiatus before returning on Monday, Dec. 12. Prepare your Monday procrastination plans accordingly.