Should we feel bad for Blackhawk fans? In the last 12 years, they have not only witnessed their team lift the Stanley Cup, something many fanbases could any dream about, but they’ve done it three times in that frame. But that 2010 team has already been tainted by disturbing sexual assault allegations, something that the team is trying hard to make us forget about. Unfortunately, the product on the ice won’t do that. New GM Kyle Davidson purged the roster, leaving franchise icons Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in a tough spot. Entering a contract year, could they be traded, and will it be sooner rather than later?
Offseason additions: F Max Domi, F Andreas Athanasiou, F Colin Blackwell, D Jack Johnson, G Petr Mrazek, G Alex Stalock.
Offseason subtractions: F Alex DeBrincat, F Dylan Strome, F Dominik Kubalik, F Kirby Dach, D Erik Gustafsson, D Calvin de Haan, F Henrik Borgstrom, F Brett Connolly, G Kevin Lankinen.
Patrick Kane’s main linemates last year were Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, and Kirby Dach. Assuming he stays with the Blackhawks, he will be playing with some completely different guys. Kane isn’t a great expected goals player, as he was sixth on the team in xGF/60. But he never stopped producing. In 78 games, Kane scored 26 goals with 66 assists for 92 points, tied for 14th in the league. All of Chicago’s free agent signings are obvious candidates to be traded at the deadline. That happened to Max Domi last season, when Carolina added him for their playoff run. Domi had six points in 14 playoff games, with 39 in the regular season. Drafted 17th overall in 2020, Lukas Reichel got some time with Kane last year, when he had one assist in 11 NHL games. He was much better in the AHL, scoring 21 goals with 57 points in 56 games.
After missing all of the 2020-21 season, Jonathan Toews returned and played in 71 games. 2019-20 was the first time that he didn’t score 20 goals, but he set a new career-low with 12 in 2021-22. Toews also had 37 points, marking the second time in his career that he had under 50. The other time was when he had 48 in the 48-game 2012-13 season. The Blackhawks are not trying to win this year at all, but they definitely expect more out of Toews. The Kings only got 28 games out of Andreas Athanasiou last year, but he still gave them 11 goals, for an 82-game pace of 32. Scoring thirty goals is something that he has done before, albeit the results since 2018-19 have not been great. He is known for his speed and also weak defense. After coming over from Tampa Bay for Brandon Hagel, Taylor Raddysh received a boost in ice-time and scored six goals with four assists in 21 games. Add in his Lightning numbers, and he had an eleven-goal rookie season.
Along with Mark Giordano, the Maple Leafs brought in Colin Blackwell from Seattle, but the forward was not as successful with three points in 19 games. He still scored 10 goals on the season, a year after netting 12 in 47 games with the Rangers. Even at five-foot-nine, Blackwell had 91 hits in 58 games. Another short king is Tyler Johnson, a former 72-point scorer who feels a lot older than 32. Injuries limited him to just 26 games last year, as he had seven points. He had a GF% of just 36.4 percent. In his second season, Philipp Kurashev had 21 points in 67 games. He suffered from a low on-ice shooting percentage of 6.46. The fact that there were many other forwards on the team lower than that reflects the situation that Chicago had last season.
Along with Raddysh, Chicago also brought in Boris Katchouk from Tampa Bay, although he didn’t have as much success. He had just one point, a goal, in 21 games. In 2020-21, Katchouk had 34 points in 29 AHL games, so there is potential. Of the 379 NHL forwards with at least 500 minutes of ice time, Mackenzie Entwistle’s shots for per 60 was last, as he was the only one under 20. Taking just 34 shots in 55 games, Entwistle isn’t on the team for offensive production. He laid 129 hits while only getting about ten minutes of ice time per game. The Blackhawks shipped out former first-rounder Alex Nylander to Pittsburgh last year for Sam Lafferty, who had 11 points in 46 games. The only returning Blackhawk with a better xGF% at five-on-five is Toews. His GF% was a putrid 30.6 percent, thanks to a 95.9 PDO. Jujhar Khaira missed time last year with a back injury and got into just 27 games. With 285 games played under his belt, he is the veteran of the group competing to be on the fourth-line. Reese Johnson is also in the mix, but his first season was a struggle, as he had an xGF% just under 37.
Seth Jones got a ton of hate in Chicago because of the huge cost to both acquire and extended him. While former GM Stan Bowman did give up too much in both instances, Jones responded with a very good first season on a bad team. He had a rough PDO, but still managed 51 points, 19 of which were on the power play. Jones blocked 155 shots with 99 hits while playing over 26 minutes a game. Along with Erik Gustafsson, Jones was on the ice for the most shots for his team. Both Gustafsson and Calvin de Haan have left, leaving Jake McCabe as the most suitable option next to Jones. After missing almost all of the 2020-21 season, McCabe responded with a career-high 22 points with having over 160 blocked shots and hits each.
The brother of Seth, Caleb Jones, came over last year for franchise icon Duncan Keith. The younger Jones had 15 points in 51 games. His 2.54 GA/60 was the best among regular Blackhawk defenders. Jones and his partner, Connor Murphy, were the top-two in xGA/60. Murphy is a pure defensive defender, with just 1.84 xGF/60. He hasn’t played in 60 games in a season since 2017-18, his first as a Blackhawk, albeit a shortened season prevented it in 2020-21.
It was no secret that the Avalanche were a juggernaut last year, and Jack Johnson was a part of their Stanley Cup-winning defense. He appeared in 13 playoff games and 74 regular season games. Sure, Johnson is by no means a star defenseman. You can almost guarantee that the underlying numbers will be ugly this year. But he has the veteran presence that the Blackhawks are yearning for. After 32 games at Boston University, Alex Vlasic went directly to the NHL and played 15 games. His numbers were surprisingly very good, as he had a 55.5 xGF%, and his xGF/60 and xGA/60 were better than any regular Blackhawk defender. Of course, sample size matters, but it was an encouraging step for the rookie. Riley Stillman played in 52 games last season, but could be the one to fall into a seventh defender role in 2022-23. He recorded 12 points with 122 hits in 2021-22.
Chicago moved back up into the first round in this year’s draft for taking on the contract of Petr Mrazek, who will be their starter now. All the team needs is two bodies to play goalie, which is what they are going to get. Mrazek had a .923 save percentage in 12 games in 2020-21 before signing with Toronto. Up north, he had a 3.34 GAA and .888 save percentage. The backup is veteran Alex Stalock, who came back from myocarditis to play one game for the Sharks last year. Before that, he had a .910 save percentage with the Wild in 2019-20.
Lukas Reichel – Max Domi – Patrick Kane
Andreas Athanasiou – Jonathan Toews – Taylor Raddysh
Philipp Kurashev – Tyler Johnson – Colin Blackwell
Boris Katchouk – Sam Lafferty – Mackenzie Entwistle
Scratched: Jujhar Khaira, Reese Johnson
Jake McCabe – Seth Jones
Caleb Jones – Connor Murphy
Alex Vlasic – Jack Johnson
Scratched: Riley Stillman