4 Things Blackhawks Fans Should Be Thankful For in 2022

Losers of four straight, it’s easy to dwell on the negatives as the Chicago Blackhawks approach the quarter mark of the 2022-23 season. But with Thanksgiving approaching, it’s also a good time to reflect on what Blackhawks fans can be thankful for.

Despite a less-than-stellar 6-9-3 record, there are many things the Blackhawks and their fans should appreciate. Here are four things fans should be thankful for in celebration of the holiday.

Luke Richardson

When Blackhawks general manager (GM) Kyle Davidson introduced Luke Richardson as head coach back in June, he said he hoped Richardson could be a long-term solution and remain at the helm when Chicago is competitive again. Over a month into the season, that’s looking like a good possibility.

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For a rebuilding squad, Richardson is exactly the type of coach you want. He doesn’t have an ego and keeps calm under pressure but also has shown honesty when needed. More importantly, he’s a players’ coach and strong communicator, which could pay dividends once Chicago begins winning.

Granted, he isn’t perfect. A few of his decisions, such as utilizing a five-forward power play, have yet to result in much success. That said, he’s clearly getting the best out of his players, and they are responding well. We didn’t see that under Jeremy Colliton and even Derek King to some degree, despite that this season’s group is far inferior to that of previous seasons.

Patrick Kane & Jonathan Toews

It could be a matter of months before they’re gone, but for now, Blackhawks fans should be thankful for two of the team’s most iconic players. No matter how they perform in a given game, Chicago is lucky to still have Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews around. Despite playing on a flawed club, they remain invaluable mentors for their teammates, which is a luxury not all rebuilding clubs have.

Jonathan Toews Chicago Blackhawks
Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With 14 points through 18 games, Kane hasn’t exactly had the best start for his standards. But he’s always fun to watch. He remained a bright spot throughout the Blackhawks’ downfall, and it’s been awesome to see him embrace this year’s team. Toews, on the other hand, might not be the player he was during the early-to-mid-2010s. However, he’s looked the best and healthiest he has in years while deservedly keeping the captaincy.

Blackhawks fans should soak in what could be Kane and Toews’ final days in Chicago. Ultimately, rumors are just that, and neither one has openly expressed interest in being moved. One or both staying after this season can’t be ruled out either, as contrary as it may be to the rebuild. Yet, it’s hard to predict their future, giving fans even more reason to celebrate their recent success.

Blackhawks’ Prospects

This time last season, the Blackhawks hadn’t yet committed to a rebuild. Despite having young players like Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach, the team had one of the NHL’s worst prospect pipelines. While they still have a way to go, the organization looks very different this year.

Given this is the first season of the rebuild, we can’t project who will be on the next contending Blackhawks club. After the 2022 Draft and through development, though, there are some encouraging pieces. With 14 points in 14 games for the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Rockford IceHogs, 2020 first-round pick Lukas Reichel has shown the potential to become a solid top-six forward. Kevin Korchinski and Frank Nazar, 2022 first-round picks, could make an impact when they’re NHL-ready, based on their junior careers.

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We also can’t forget the goaltenders. Drew Commesso and Jaxson Stauber have shown potential at their respective levels, along with Arvid Söderblom, who has had a taste of NHL action this season. Ethan Del Mastro, Nolan Allan, and Sam Rinzel could all become above-average NHL defensemen, too.

Essentially, Chicago’s prospect pipeline is much improved compared to last year. Prospects aren’t sure things, but it’s hard not to be encouraged. With what will likely be a high first-round pick in next year’s draft, fans should be thankful to watch these prospects grow.

A Blackhawks New Era

I get it. Rebuilds aren’t easy, and they aren’t fun. There’s no guarantee this becomes a success either; just look at the Buffalo Sabres of the mid-to-late 2010s or the Ottawa Senators’ recent struggles, who looked poised to contend this season after years of rebuilding.

However, after last year’s Jenner & Block investigation and failed attempts to compete since their last normal playoff appearance in 2017, Chicago simply needed to go in a new direction. That began in 2020 when Danny Wirtz and Jaime Faulkner here hired and continued into this season, bringing in Davidson and Richardson. It’s early, but all have said the right things so far while displaying servant leadership, which has been nothing but encouraging.

Kyle Davidson Chicago Blackhawks
Kyle Davidson Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)

Yes, there have been some tough pills to swallow, from trading DeBrincat to Eddie Olczyk’s departure. There will almost certainly be more to come, too. But there have also been some encouraging signs, both on and off the ice, from a revamped prospect pipeline to enhancing support with Native American communities to bringing in Chris Vosters as TV play-by-play announcer.

Why should fans be thankful for the team’s rebuild? It’s simple: the Blackhawks weren’t finding success under the old regime, and they needed to pivot. Be it trades, draft picks, or front-office decisions, not all these changes will be successful. However, improvement often only comes with change, and Chicago finally has a direction after years of being stuck in the mushy middle. Hopefully, it’ll result in another great era, no matter how long it takes.

Chicago fans have a lot to be thankful for. Sunday’s (Nov. 20) retirement ceremony for Marián Hossa was an excellent reminder of how good they had it for so many years. While this season’s club doesn’t resemble what the Blackhawks had during their dynasty-era days, the organization is moving in the right direction. As flawed as they are, there are many silver linings right now.

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