Finishing the season at 23rd in the league with a 32-30-8 record, 2019-20 did not include a lot of successful storylines for the Chicago Blackhawks. As the organization tries to figure out whether they are rebuilding or still poised to battle, they just can’t seem to find the type of consistency recently enjoyed as the franchise of the decade through the 2010s. However, not all was lost this past year as there were some highlights that deserve recognition.
Despite their lack of results, this roster is full of talent. Most of their proven players are nearing the end of their current contract terms and they are inevitably getting older, too. It’s not as straightforward as correlating age with effectiveness, but there’s no denying that the same athlete is typically at a more peak level of performance in their younger years as a professional.
They also have a rich selection of potential stars who are quickly illustrating that they’re ready to pick up where this franchise’s winning ways left off. Chicago has an interesting mix amongst its player pool at the moment. It is not yet a fully aged team at the end of their primes, nor is it all rookies working to develop into the next stage of their careers. It’s both.
Always Working to Win
Chicago hasn’t been experiencing the type of winning they or their fanbase became accustomed to. Likely, it’s because their lineup is comprised of players who could be at either end of the career progression spectrum, or those that make it up simply aren’t yet as cohesive as is necessary for team success.
Yet, the Blackhawks organization has also proven that it’s not one to throw in the towel early and let a season slip by without at least putting forth as much as they can muster. They pride themselves on being competitive – they just haven’t been as of late.
With that said, and to further illustrate that this is a franchise that continues to put in the work for furthered results, let’s take a look at some of the positives they achieved this past season. If Chicago can build off of these celebratory moments, their future could brighten in a quicker fashion.
Kane Achieves Another Milestone
Patrick Kane is no stranger to the scoresheet and is already considered one of the best US-born players ever. He currently sits in ninth place amongst American born players and is fourth in Blackhawks’ history for all-time points. With more hockey left in him to play, the likelihood is high that he’ll continue to climb both lists.
This past campaign may not have included much team success for the Blackhawks, but that didn’t stop Kane from keeping the spotlight shining on his achievements. He accumulated his 1,000th point in the NHL in January, joining an elite group of fewer than 100 stars who have accomplished the feat.
In 2019-20, Kane once again led the Blackhawks with 84 points (33 goals, 51 assists). He now sits in 83rd for overall production in league history and is amongst only seven active players who have earned more than 1,000 points in their careers.
Kubalik’s First Impression
Although a rookie in the NHL, Dominik Kubalik is not new to professional hockey. He was a pro in Europe since 2014-15, in the Czech Extraliga and Switzerland National League A, producing at more than a point per game pace in his five most recent seasons overseas.
That said, North America presents a different challenge for all levels of athletes that make it into its top league. Recognized as the best hockey in the world, even elite stars take time to mature into the performers they eventually become. All hope to reach that status, while some simply never meet expectations.
Kubalik, on the other hand, joined the Blackhawks as a 24-year-old. This was a team that was far from cohesive, yet he found a way to put up 30 goals and 16 assists, for 46 points in 68 games this past season. That put him in first for rookie goalscoring, 10 goals ahead of second place, and earned Kubalik a Calder Memorial Trophy nomination as rookie of the year.
Blackhawks’ Unlikely Playoff Run
Finishing the season in 12th place within the Western Conference doesn’t often permit that respective team to find their way into the postseason. However, the unique scenario that ended the 2019-20 campaign provided the Blackhawks with an unlikely and welcomed opportunity to rewrite its conclusion.
Before reaching the 16-team playoffs, Chicago would have to persevere through the league’s top two point producers, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and beat the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Chicago was victorious, and in convincing fashion, as they made their way towards a much more daunting challenge. Unfortunately, the Vegas Golden Knights got the better of the Blackhawks in the first round.
With that said, the fact that Chicago was there to begin with is a building block that no one would have predicted they’d lay this year. They were fortunate to have been provided with such an opportunity, but it was far from luck that they were able to do something with it. They worked hard to elevate beyond expectations.
Although it’s too early to assess this team’s fate through 2020-21, the fact that they were able to enjoy such achievements during an otherwise less than successful year promotes optimism. Not only is it good for the organization’s morale, but it is momentum the roster can now use to propel next season to further heights.
Freelance thinker, paying too much attention to digital aesthetic. Oxford comma enthusiast. Spider-Man supporter. Sports fan, with two favourite hockey teams. If the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs ever meet in the Stanley Cup Final, you can find me wherever they’re playing that night.
Check out more of my work at mralwayswrite.com.