On the eve of the 2022 Entry Level Draft, the National Hockey League released the 2022-23 schedules for all 32 teams. This means the Chicago Blackhawks schedule for next season is officially official. But since then, Blackhawks fans have endured this year’s draft and the start of free agency. Needless to say, we now know this won’t be the same Blackhawks team moving forward. This will be the first full campaign since management has confirmed an aggressive rebuild is the necessary path back to eventual contention. It’s going to be a rough few years. With this in mind, let’s look at some reasons to watch (there really are some!), and games to circle on the calendar for the 2022-23 season.
Season Opener in Colorado: Enduring the Stanley Cup Banner Raising
I know, this isn’t exactly the best place to start. But here we are. On Oct. 12, the Blackhawks will begin their season on the road against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Colorado Avalanche. Before the game, the Avalanche will celebrate their 2021-22 Cup win by raising a commemorative banner to the rafters.
Blackhawks will open the 2022-23 regular season at Colorado on Oct. 12, watching them hoist the Stanley Cup banner.— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) July 6, 2022
Home opener Oct. 21 against Detroit.
Full schedule: pic.twitter.com/5itE9jqrgC
I’m sure it’s never fun to be the team on the other side of this celebration, but perhaps the Blackhawks can use this to their advantage. If I’m new head coach Luke Richardson, I’d be imparting to my numerous young players that this is the ultimate goal. Soak it in; imagine what it will be like when you get to have this same ceremony in the coming years! It could make for some good motivation for the newbies.
All signs point towards three-time Cup champions Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane being with the team to start the season. How will they take this celebration from an opposing team? It could be quite discouraging from where they currently stand as members of the Blackhawks. Will it push them over the edge as they get that taste in their mouths for another championship? At the very least, it will be a bittersweet experience.
But this is all before the game even starts! Come on; aren’t you just a little bit curious what the Blackhawks will look like on opening night?! Sure, they’re expected to be bad, but it’s always kinda fun to root for the underdogs. Especially if they’re the scrappy, gritty team general manager Kyle Davidson is envisioning. What will the forward lines and defensive pairings look like? Which young prospects will make the team? Will new Blackhawks’ goaltender Petr Mrazek hold his own against the Colorado powerhouse? Will the defense protect him or hang him out to dry?
We won’t know unless we watch.
Blackhawks Home Opener Versus Red Wings
After facing the Avalanche, the Vegas Golden Knights and the San Jose Sharks on the road, the Blackhawks welcome the Detroit Red Wings to the United Center for their first home game of the season on Oct. 21. Now, no game is a given. But taking on the Red Wings could potentially be just what the doctor ordered for the team’s first contest at home.
While the Blackhawks finished 27th in the league last season, the Red Wings finished just slightly ahead of them at 25th. Detroit is dealing with their own struggles, and a rebuild as well. If the Blackhawks play their cards right, this could be a nice first victory at the United Center.
Don’t forget, this will also be Dominik Kubalik’s first game against his former club. The Red Wings took a flyer on Kubalik after his disappointing 2021-22 campaign in Chicago. The Blackhawks didn’t tender the 26-year-old his $4 million qualifying offer, and the Red Wings signed him to a two-year deal with a $2.5 million cap hit. Will this be Kuby’s revenge tour? He’s best known for his wicked shot; oh the irony of him notching a goal or two!
Dach Debuts as a Canadien
On Nov. 25 the Blackhawks welcome the Montreal Canadiens to the United Center, and it will mark Kirby Dach’s first time back to his former home arena. The 21-year-old was traded by the Blackhawks to Montreal on Day 1 of the 2022 Draft for a first (13th overall) and third (66th) round pick.
Ironically, Dach was the third overall pick by the Blackhawks in the 2019 Draft. But he since hasn’t lived up to this pedigree. The Blackhawks’ brass decided it was time to move on from their young prospect. Many thought Dach’s development was stunted in Chicago by being forced into the NHL too soon and rushed back from injuries.
Either way, the Alberta native is with the Canadiens now. Will he be able to resurrect his career there? Time will tell, but it will be interesting to see where he fits in the Habs lineup, and where his confidence is at when he faces the team that drafted him.
3 Former Blackhawks Suit up With the Capitals
The Washington Capitals come to Chicago on Dec. 13, and they will bring with them three ex-Blackhawks. Dylan Strome signed with the Capitals after the Blackhawks didn’t give him a qualifying offer. Erik Gustafsson inked a deal when the Blackhawks let him walk in free agency, and Henrik Borgstrom signed on after Chicago bought him out. All three players are on one-year deals.
Obviously, it will be most interesting to see how Strome is faring. Considered washed up by the old Blackhawks’ regime, the 25-year-old had a chance to redeem himself last season when then head coach Derek King put him on the top line with Kane and Alex DeBrincat. The three went on a tear, and Strome himself put up 19 goals and 41 points in the last four months of the season. But we know from past production that Strome has to play with highly skilled players, and preferably at the center position to make the most impact. Will he find that in Washington?
Defenseman Gustafsson has a lot of holes in his game, yet he always seems to find a landing spot. Borgstrom was a dud in Chicago, as he was with the Florida Panthers before that. Will he find any success with the Capitals? Either way, it should be fun to check in on three familiar faces.
Seeing DeBrincat With the Senators
Perhaps the sting will have faded a little by this time…although I doubt it. The biggest, most aggressive move Davidson has made this offseason was trading DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators for the 7th and 39th picks in this year’s draft, plus a 3rd-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft.
A superstar in the making, lost in the name of future progress. It was certainly tough to swallow, and we won’t know for many years whether it was the right move to make. In the meantime, the Senators inherit a darn good hockey player. The Hawks and the Sens meet up in Ottawa on Feb. 17 and in Chicago on Mar. 6.
It’s going to be rough to see DeBrincat in a different sweater. Especially because I have no doubt he will make his mark with his new team. Sure, he benefited from having Kane as his linemate. But by no means was he just riding on Kane’s coattails. One could argue in a lot of ways it was the other way around.
I guess we’ll find out more about DeBrincat’s trajectory come February.
Who Will Stand Out With the Blackhawks?
You know what?! I’m tired of reminiscing about the old Blackhawks. At some point we’re going to have to embrace this new Blackhawks’ team; rag-tag of bunch as they may be.
By design, the team as a whole isn’t set up to win. The Blackhawks let most of the above-mentioned players go because they’re tearing it down and starting over again from scratch. But there are some talented young faces coming up in the ranks that should be fun to watch.
Will the 17th overall 2020 draft pick Lukas Reichel suit up with the big club this season? He got a taste of the NHL last season, and looks to complement Kane really well. It would be highly entertaining to see Kane take another young player under his wing. MacKenzie Entwistle is a player who made some good strides last season; can he continue to do so? And then there’s Philipp Kurashev, one of the few free agents the Blackhawks committed to. Will he find his way into the top-six forwards on this less-skilled team?
Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk got off to good starts with the Blackhawks last season. Both came from the Tampa Bay Lightning at last year’s trade deadline in the Brandon Hagel trade. Raddysh fits the bill of a top-six forward, while Katchouk is more of a hard-to-play-against, depth forward. Can they pick up where they left off?
Andreas Athanasiou and Max Domi were picked up in free agency this offseason from the LA Kings and the Carolina Hurricanes, respectively. Athanasiou brings speed, while Domi brings grit. We shall soon see where they fit in on their new team.
Moving on to defense. Let’s face it, it’s kinda fun to have a sibling duo in Seth Jones and Caleb Jones. Last season they were in a race to see who could score the most goals, with both notching five tallies. It’s unlikely they will be paired together as Seth is the team’s best defenseman and Caleb is more of a bottom-pairing guy. But who knows, stranger things have happened. Maybe Coach Richardson will throw them together and they’ll find some chemistry.
Beyond that, there are a plethora of defensive prospects with a real chance to prove themselves this season. Alex Vlasic and Alex Regula both received extended looks at the end of last season, and did quite well for themselves. Other names to keep an eye on include Ian Mitchell, Nicolas Beaudin, Isaak Phillips and Jakub Galvas.
First Season With Richardson as Head Coach
He’s been an assistant coach in the NHL for close to 10 years, most recently with the Canadiens. But this will be Richardson’s first gig as an NHL head coach. He also played for 21 seasons in the league as a defenseman, so he brings some broad knowledge and experience to the table.
Make no mistake, Richardson is NOT stepping into a good team. He will have a big challenge in front of him, with the main focus on development. The 53-year-old will also be tasked with keeping the players on track with the right attitude, even when they will probably be doing a whole lot of losing.
This is going to be a tough assignment; no doubt about it. But the Blackhawks thought Richardson was the right man for the job. On a side note, the new bench boss has indicated he plans to run a zone defense instead of man-on-man system. This should be music the Blackhawks’ fans ears after former head coach Jeremy Colliton insisted his players go with the more complicated system (with very little success).
I’m super excited to get to know Richardson in his new role. It will be very interesting to see how he handles these challenges moving forward.
Last Hoorah With Kane and Toews
Rumors have been swirling of late about superstars Kane and Toews, and how they feel about this aggressive rebuild. TSN analyst Pierre LeBrun tweeted out a statement from the players’ mutual agent, Pat Brisson.
Update on Kane/Toews/S. Jones ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/pXKYJDxLDR— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) July 13, 2022
It appears Kane and Toews are both testing the waters and seeing how the season unfolds. Neither seems to want out just yet. But that could easily change as the trade deadline approaches. Both might not have the stomach for the rebuild by this time. Or they might not exactly feel welcome anymore.
They will be free agents after this season. Both will obviously be taking pay cuts from their matching $10.5 million cap hits. Who knows what, or even if, the Blackhawks will want to offer them. Quite honestly, the Blackhawks probably see them as assets for what they can get in return for them than they see them as future members of the club.
So, we might as well enjoy the remaining time with these two legends in a Blackhawks’ sweater. This will likely be their last hoorah with the team they started their careers with. Let’s soak it up while we can.
It’s going to be a long 82-game season, especially because the Blackhawks aren’t going to be very good. But we’ll have some old faces to check in with along the way. We’ll also be able to watch new, young players develop and grow individually, and as a team. The Blackhawks will have a brand-new head coach at the helm that will add his stamp to the team’s identity. And we could be watching some Blackhawks’ legends wear the red, white and black sweater for the last time.
For this writer, there are lots of reasons to tune in for the Blackhawks 2022-23 season. What will be your reasons?