In 2022-23, the Winnipeg Jets have 26 tilts against fellow Central Division teams — four games apiece against the Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues and three games apiece against the Arizona Coyotes and Dallas Stars. In anticipation of the campaign to come, our THW Jets team’s “Opponents Preview” Series takes a look at each Central Division foe.
“Chicago of the North” versus actual Chicago — how will it pan out this season?
Winnipeg, at the turn of the 20th Century, was known as Chicago of the North because it was the fastest-growing city in North America; rivalled Chicago when it came to finance, industry, and transportation; and had similar architecture.
More than 100 years later, Winnipeg and Chicago aren’t rival cities anymore, with Chicago being just slightly more famous. Their hockey teams, have been rivals to a degree, however. In 48 games since the Jets relocated from Atlanta, the teams have battled hard and the all-time series is tight, with the Blackhawks winning 25 games and the Jets winning 23.
Last season, the Jets and Blackhawks played three times, and the Jets won twice — 5-1 in early November and 6-4 in late March — and lost once — 3-1 in late February.
|Chicago versus Winnipeg 2021-22 game log
|Nov. 5, 2021 @ Winnipeg: Winnipeg 5, Chicago 1
|Feb. 24, 2022 @ Winnipeg: Chicago 3, Winnipeg 1
|March 20, 2022 @ Chicago: Winnipeg 6, Chicago 4
This season, the teams face each other four times. While the Jets will be pretty much the same team, player personnel-wise, after a very quiet offseason, the Blackhawks team they’ll see will be quite different.
Blackhawks In a Rebuild After Dynastic 2010s
Gone are the days, at least for now, of the Blackhawks being one of the NHL’s most feared teams and a perennial Stanley Cup contender. They are set to be one of the Central Division’s weakest teams, alongside the Arizona Coyotes.
GM Kyle Davidson is conducting nothing less than a foundational rebuild and was in full fire-sale mode this offseason after his team finished seventh in the Central with a 28-42-10 record.
Many of the Blackhawks’ stars from last season are gone. Davidson divested of both Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach before the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, sending the 40-goal-scoring DeBrincat to the Ottawa Senators and the promising centre Dach to the Montreal Canadiens. DeBrincat had one goal and one assist against the Jets last season, while Dach had three assists.
He also also let forwards Dominic Kubalik (32 points) and Dylan Strome (48 points) walk to unrestricted free agency.
Forwards Kurtis Gabriel and Andrew Shaw are also gone, as are defensemen Erik Gustafsson and Calvin De Haan, and goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury, Colin Delia and Kevin Lankinen.
The Jets will glad Fleury’s gone. The Vezina-winning goaltender has given them fits throughout the years, especially during the 2018 Western Conference Final when he was a member of the Vegas Golden Knights.
Like the Jets in Rick Bowness, the Blackhawks have a new head coach. In 70 games, interim head coach Derek King — who took over a day after the early-November loss against the Jets was the last straw and cost Jeremy Colliton his job — helped the team to a 27-33-10 record.
That wasn’t good enough to land him the permanent gig. In late June, the Blackhawks announced former Montreal Canadiens assistant and longtime NHL defenseman Luke Richardson as the franchise’s 40th head coach.
Finally, the Blackhawks have a new goaltending tandem — 35-year-old goaltender Alex Stalock and 30-year-old Petr Mrazek.
Blackhawks’ Youngsters Will Lead the Way
In front of those veteran goaltenders will be a bevy of youngsters.
Some newcomers that Richardson and company will have at their disposal are the well-traveled but useful middle-six Max Domi and former Los Angeles King Andreas Athanasiou, who both signed one-year deals. Both are still on the right side of 30 have achieved offensive success in the past, with Domi having recorded as many as 72 points in a season and Athanasiou as many as 54.
Even younger are top prospects Philipp Kurashev, Ian Mitchell, Taylor Raddyish, and Lukas Reichel. They are all poised to take on bigger roles and the Jets should expect to see them all regularly.
The Blackhawks’ hope is that providing meaningful playing time for them now will acclimate them to the NHL and move the organization closer to being a contender again.
Blackhawks Still Have Veteran Talent to Contend With
The Jets will have deal with the youngsters, but they’ll also still have to deal with some veterans. Either of their “big two” remaining — Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews — can singlehandedly will their team to victory.
Kane, 33-years-old, had 92 points last season and shows no signs of regression. Toews, the long-time captain and Winnipegger, has seen his best years slip him and has struggled since missing the entire 2020-21 season due to Chronic Immune Response Syndrome, but still put up 37 points in 71 games last season.
Jack Johnson, Caleb Jones, Seth Jones, and Jake McCabe (once healthy after recovering from a recent surgery) will feature on the blue line, with prospects Riley Stillman, Alec Regula, and Alex Vlasic also in the mix.
Overall, while Blackhawks aren’t expected to be particularly competitive, they cannot be taken lightly by a team such as the Jets who are trying to become relevant again. The hope is that Bowness and company can get much more out of a talented-but-flawed group than the previous regime and can oversee return to the playoffs.
If the Jets want to qualify for the postseason, they’ll have to make hay against beatable opponents such as the Blackhawks.
|Chicago versus Winnipeg 2022-23 game log
|Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022 @ Winnipeg — 2 p.m. Central
|Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022 @ Chicago — 6 p.m. Central
|Friday, Dec. 9, 2022 @ Chicago — 7:30 p.m. Central
|Saturday, Feb. 11 @ Winnipeg — 9 p.m. Central
Check out more of THW’s Jets’ 2022-23 season preview content below.
- Winnipeg Jets 5 Must-Watch Games in 2022-23
- Jets’ Wheeler Has Much to Prove in 2022-23
- 3 Winnipeg Jets Hot Takes for 2022-23 Season
- 3 Jets Who Could Be X-Factors in 2022-23
- 3 Jets Who Will Be Under the Microscope for 2022-23
- 3 Biggest Challenges Facing Jets Head Coach Rick Bowness
- 3 Winnipeg Jets Bounce-Back Candidates for 2022-23
- Winnipeg Jets’ 4 Best Contracts for 2022-23
- Winnipeg Jets’ 3 Worst Contracts for 2022-23
- 3 Moose Players Who Could Play a Role for Jets in 2022-23
- Manitoba Moose 2022-23 Season Preview