This was not on a list of sentences expected to appear at this hockey site during the 2022-23 NHL season but here it is anyway:
OK, perhaps this is drawing conclusions too large from a sample that’s too small but, have you watched the Sabres this season? They’re an absolute delight. They have two No. 1 picks (Rasmus Dahlin in 2018 and Owner Power in 2021) skating on the blue line. They have top-ten picks all over the forward lines (Casey Mittelstadt, No. 8 in 2018; Dylan Cozens, No. 7 in 2019; Jack Quinn, No. 8 in 2020) and 2020 second-rounder JJ Peterka is finding his footing as well. The massive Tage Thompson has been around for a while but is finding another gear this season. Some veterans are chipping in, like Alex Tuch (11 points in 12 games) and Jeff Skinner (also 11 in 12) and Victor Olofsson (10 in 12). Basically, it’s a group of youngsters with a few veterans sprinkled in that have come together for a pair of three-game winning streaks not even a month into the season. And so much of what’s making it a fun team to watch is that the foundation upon which future successes could be built is being assembled right now. Maybe it’ll all come together in the next year or two and Buffalo will emerge from its decade-long slumber as a legitimate NHL powerhouse or maybe this is just a brief breach of the surface for a quick breath before the Sabres are drowning in the NHL standings once again. Right now, though, there’s hope.
That’s the season that I’m waiting for with the Blackhawks current state of affairs: the season when a significant chunk of the youngsters arrive and immediately begin raising eyebrows across the league. Feels like next season is probably too soon, given how far away some of the Hawks major draft picks are from the NHL (and the injury to Frank Nazar really hurts here). Perhaps it shows up in the 2024-25 season, though. If not by the following season, then something may have gone terribly wrong.
We’ve had that season around here before, of course, going back to the rookie seasons of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in ‘07-08. It might be happening right now with a certain lakefront football team and its unstoppable force of nature behind center. It’s the season devoid of expectations that turns into immediate bliss as glimpses of what those players and that team is going to resemble in the future. It’ll be the one when some combination of prospects like the aforementioned Nazar and Kevin Korchinski and Sam Rinzel and Paul Ludwinski and Ryan Greene and Nolan Allan and Colton Dach and Drew Commesso and a slew of others arrive, transitioning from unknown prospects to certified NHL-level players.
Don’t know when — or, to be honest, if — that season will arrive in the next few years. But that’s one hell of a fun time to be a sports fan.
The Week That Was
This was an extremely boring hockey game.
This one was not much better, save for the result.
Hockey games should not be played on Saturday afternoons in November.
Here’s a tweet to ruin a weekend, courtesy of Ben Pope from the Sun-Times:
Ex-Blackhawks are thriving around the NHL early this season:— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) November 6, 2022
Kubalik: 14 pts in 11 GP for DET
Strome: 9 pts in 13 GP for WSH
Dach: 10 pts in 12 GP for MTL
DeBrincat: 9 pts in 11 GP for OTT
Hagel: 10 pts in 12 GP for TBL
Not much fun to see all of that. And that was before Kubalik scored the game-winner on Sunday to move to 15 points (6 G, 9 A) in 12 games.
For some context, though: the departures of Dach, DeBrincat and Hagel all resulted in pieces coming back to the Blackhawks in trades. The first two players netted high first-round picks that could become long-term fixtures here. If that’s the case, the sting of losing those players won’t feel as painful.
It’s the Kubalik and Strome situations that stand out the most to these eyes, though. Those who watched those two players while they were in Chicago should not be surprised at the ability of each player to flourish when placed into the right situation, and both Kubalik and Strome are getting top-six minutes with their new teams. They’re certainly capable of top-six production, because each player has demonstrated that in their careers.
But it remains unfathomable that no one wanted either player at the trade deadline last season. How was there no market for either player? The Blackhawks traded away the aforementioned Hagel and Marc-Andre Fleury, so it’s not like they prevented the transactions from happening. If a deal was there, it’s fair to conclude that Kyle Davidson would’ve went for it. But it just seemed like the rest of the NHL hung its “not interested” sign, meaning that Kubalik and Strome played out the rest of the season in Chicago. No one thought those two players could help their teams, though? Really?
Sometimes this league just doesn’t make any sense.
The Week That Will Be
Thursday, Nov. 10 at Los Angeles Kings
A trip to the west coast just a few days after the daylight savings time change is really going to test our sleep schedules.
Saturday, Nov. 12 at Anaheim Ducks
This one could have significant ramifications on a certain draft lottery coming up next year.