Being on the outside looking in throughout these 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs certainly wasn’t part of the preseason plan for the 2021-22 Chicago Blackhawks. Yet, they have nothing else to blame but their lacklustre play throughout. With that said, it’s clear that there is a lot of work to be done if they expect to put themselves in a position to succeed next season.
This edition of Blackhawks News & Rumours will help encourage some optimism for the franchise, as it looks ahead to a fresh start and better fate in 2022-23.
Lafferty Found His Fit With Blackhawks
Back in January 2022, Sam Lafferty was traded to the Blackhawks from the Pittsburgh Penguins in a one-for-one exchange that saw Alex Nylander head the other way. Appearing like a move that would provide Nylander with a fresh start elsewhere, Lafferty decided to leverage the opportunity for his own good.
Safe to say this transaction left onlookers curious as to how it would benefit the Blackhawks. Nylander is younger with, seemingly, a much higher upside when it comes to potential production. Whereas Lafferty’s point totals didn’t suggest that his new team was upgrading in that respect.
However, one can provide impact outside of being looked to as a goal scorer and Lafferty did a masterful job proving that point. So much so that it not only landed him a spot on Team USA’s roster for the 2022 IIHF World Championship, it also earned him an extension in Chicago.
“Sam’s speed and up-tempo style is the brand of hockey we hope to see the team play over the coming years,” General Manager Kyle Davidson said. “He has showcased those skills since we acquired him. Sam adds a dynamic to our roster that allows him to fit seamlessly throughout the lineup and give our coaches a reliable forward that can be trusted in nearly every situation.”
Lafferty accumulated 103 hits in 46 contests with Chicago through 2021-22, averaging over 14:30 of ice time per night. Management recognizing the importance of the type of role Lafferty plays is a step in the right direction toward crafting a more complete rebuild strategy. This low-risk signing will work out well for all parties involved.
Jones Brothers Bolster Team USA Lineup
If finding their way into the same NHL locker room for the first time wasn’t enough for Caleb and Seth Jones, they can now add shared international experience to their family history as well.
Joining Lafferty, both Seth and Caleb have been named to Team USA’s lineup for the upcoming World Championship in Finland. All deserving in their own right, especially after standing out as bright spots during an otherwise dull Blackhawks campaign.
The more offensive defenseman between the two brothers, Seth performed as advertised. He collected 51 points and managed over 26:00 of ice time per game through 2021-22. Totals that had him at the top of Chicago’s rankings in both regards.
Caleb didn’t disappoint, either. With less NHL experience behind him, and not necessarily known for being as dynamic as his brother, Caleb showed up to play this past season. Averaging 16:43 per game, he set career highs in goals, assists, points, blocks, and hits.
Despite not finding much to celebrate together in Chicago this past year, the brothers now have a chance to help Team USA bounce back to a better finish than the bronze their nation captured at this tournament in 2021. It will be Seth’s third time at the World Championship, as Caleb prepares to make his debut.
Fleury Can Still Help Chicago’s Rebuild
Although Marc-André Fleury‘s stint as a Blackhawk was a short one, there is still a way in which he can help his now-former franchise’s future. Simply stated, playoff success with his new club will improve Chicago’s return from the trade deadline deal that sent him to the Minnesota Wild.
The conditional second-round pick that Chicago secured as part of that transaction can turn into a first. That is, if Fleury wins four or more games throughout Minnesota’s first two rounds in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs and if his team reaches the Western Conference Final. A scenario that seems more than plausible, given the future Hall of Famer’s consistency of success.
Professional organizations don’t typically put themselves in a position to cheer for their rivals. Yet, that’s exactly where the Blackhawks find themselves this postseason, as they hope to see the Wild progress far enough that it works to their benefit.
Once they’ve solidified that first-round pick, though, it’s safe to say that Chicago will then be content with Minnesota failing to progress any further.