Blackhawks Joke: Assessing the Past and Predicting the Future
As we prepare for Episode 40, which will include a full schedule of topics, I have chosen this specific question for our team to cover in this preview of what’s to come. My name is Shaun Filippelli and joining me on this week’s show will be Gail Kauchak, Brooke LoFurno and Greg Boysen.
Be sure to tune in when the episode drops on Tuesday to hear even more of what we have to say. In the meantime, let us know what you think of ours. We invite you to comment below and engage with us on social media.
Chicago Game Ranking
Given the abundance of roster moves for the Blackhawks so far this offseason, what we do know for sure is that we’ll see a drastically different lineup to start 2021-22 than we’ve seen through until. 2020-21. What is not yet determined, however, is how this new group will perform as a collective.
They recruited a future Hall of Fame goaltender, acquired a Highly coveted leading defender, infused depth into every inch of the roster and teased a potential return from their captain. Needless to say, the Blackhawks gave fans reason to be optimistic.
Let’s dive into a few year-over-year forecasts. With an area of the Chicago game assigned to each of us, we’ll alphabetically grade our section’s overall performance through 2020-21 and predict the grade we expect from them by the end of 2021-22.
Gail – Coaches
Ha you would like Give me the coaching, because I was the most optimistic of the four about Coach Colliton and company. Can you imagine if Greg was in charge of this? MDR!
All right, there you go. My coaching grade for the 2020-21 Blackhawks season is a C. Head Coach Jeremy Colliton is known to work well with young people. He communicates with them, gives them feedback, lets them know where they stand and how they can improve. Many players were delighted with his advice. He also took on a mishmash team, one that was missing their two best crosses, unproven in goals, weak in defense; yet led them to some unexpected success last season.
Yes, they dried up at the end of the season. And it was a shortened season to begin with. Colliton also struggled with his consistency as he experimented to find the optimal formation. This has left players like Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome, to name a few, without the best chance of success. Not to mention his stubbornness in sticking to his man-and-a-half defensive system when he really didn’t have the staff to do it.
So where will the 2021-22 season take us? As Shaun mentioned above, the Blackhawks are a much better team than they were last season. This will likely be the year of Colliton’s “success or failure”. But for my part, I think he will live up to the occasion.
The 36-year-old Chicago bench boss will have a lot more options on his front lines, with depth up and down the roster. He will have improved defense; one with enough talent to hopefully thrive within his system. Goalkeeper, well hello! A Vezina winner helping a promising keeper find his way ?! It is an ideal situation.
In addition to these improvements, Colliton will have one more season of experience and experimentation under his belt. It will be up to him to put everything in place and lead the Blackhawks to the playoffs. I expect a 2021-22 final score of a B. And it will have to be a solid B as we wait for further improvement to come. Anything less will result in Colliton’s ticket out of Chicago.
Brooke – Forwards
C. I give this rating to the advanced group because there were a lot of aspects that were “average” on their part. Besides the brilliance of the rating of Patrick kane and Alex DeBrincat, the list itself left a lot to be desired. They struggled in the faceoff point. Their scoring average was ranked 21st in the NHL. And the two-way play of the attacking group was practically nonexistent. There wasn’t a lot of versatility.
Forwards appeared to be very one-dimensional and could only produce in one way, like hits or front failures. By the end of the 2021-22 season, I expect them to be a “B” because they’ve made improvements in center and scoring, so those elements should work in their favor.
Greg – Defenders
For starters, defense is the most improved aspect of the team this offseason. But the bar was set very low last season. The Blackhawks have allowed 184 goals in 2020-21, the seventh most goals against in the NHL, averaging 3.29 goals against per game. They allowed 33.7 shots per game, tied with the Buffalo Sabers for most in the league. Their collective of 45.9 Corsi for percentage (CF%) was the second lowest behind the Detroit Red Wings.
When you look at these numbers, you have to give the defense a failing rating for the 2020-21 season. If there hadn’t been some excellent goalkeeper for much of the season, the team would have finished much further in the standings than they did. It was obvious that Stan bowman wanted to improve his defense, and that’s exactly what he did. Finished Adam Boqvist, Duncan Keith and Nikita Zadorov, and are Caleb and Seth jones and Jake mccabe.
The Blackhawks have gotten better, more athletic and more responsible from the back. Yes Calvin de Haan stay with the team, you have a proven veteran on all three pairs. The probable new top duo of Seth Jones and Connor murphy should be good enough. Plus guys like Nicolas beaudin and Ian mitchell will be able to spend more time with the Rockford IceHogs, which they probably should have had last season.
The trick to improving defense will be how it fits into Colliton’s system and how he deploys them during the match. On paper the blue line is much better, but we’ll see if that translates to real results on the ice. If so, they should be able to increase their grade to a C by the end of the season.
Shaun – Goalkeepers
First of all, it is relevant to reflect on and celebrate the impressive recruiting campaign that Kevin lankinen was able to pull together, especially after starting the season as a third in line for the role. What he’s accomplished, both in helping the Blackhawks fight for a playoff berth and in regards to be among the best recruits presented last season, was just amazing. Its counterparts, on the other hand, have not done so well.
Collin Délia and Malcolm subban were both sidelined at the start of the campaign after a difficult start that saw their numbers swell. While everyone would find some sense of redemption by the end of the season, Lankinen’s stat line balanced out the other way as their collective effort landed them in 17.e for the percentage of saving (SV%) and 25e for the average goals against (GAA). It was a roller coaster ride for the whole team – goalkeepers included. Overall, they got a C.
As for what to expect until 2021-2022, you have to assume that good things are on the way when you infuse the most recent winner of the Vézina trophy in the mix.
Marc-André Fleury alone improves the outlook for this range. He’s expected to see the majority of playing time, which means his career incorporation .913 SV% and 2.55 GAA will help adjust the team’s averages in both of these areas.
Whether they can achieve enough success to qualify for the playoffs remains to be seen, but that will be the result of the efforts of the whole team. As far as what rests on the goalkeepers’ shoulders, I predict they will have a higher score by the end of the season and I foreshadow a B.
Make the note
Collectively, our team gave the Blackhawks a C for attackers, a C for attackers, an F for defense and a C for goalies. Given the the movements that this organization has already made this offseason, it’s no surprise that we expected each of these brands to increase by the end of 2021-2022.
If our predictions hold true, it would mean that their training, offense, defense and goalkeepers are all on the cusp of improving to become B, B, C and B respectively. With ratings like that, one would suspect they will be fighting for a playoff spot.
Time will tell if they can make this their reality. What we can say for sure, however, is that the Blackhawks have positioned themselves to be a lot more competitive next season than they were last.
Tune in on Tuesday, as we deepen this discussion and add even more information on Blackhawks Banter Episode 40.
Did you miss last week’s debate? Catch up, below.