The Blackhawks have finally reached the half-way point in their race for last place. Even though the season is certainly lost (currently riding a 1.6% playoff probability) the Blackhawks have a lot of work ahead of them.
Lucky the Blackhawks are in much better shape than a lot of other last place teams. The salary cap issues are quickly fading and the Blackhawks have a competent GM guiding them towards the future. As far as entertainment value goes the Blackhawks have managed to be exciting to watch, mostly because of Patrick Kane’s career year.
What are some realistic expectations the Blackhawks can fulfill in the second half?
The most important thing the Blackhawks can do is trade non-essential players at the deadline where their value can be at it’s highest.
According to Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts,some teams (specifically Calgary) are interested in Chris Kunitz. John Hayden’s name has also been thrown around. Friedman points out that the acquisition of Drake Caggiula has made Kunitz and Hayden expendable.
Kruger would be a good player for the Blackhawks to shop around to playoff teams interested in adding some depth. With Kruger’s contract up after this season and minimal use of shutdown roles this year, it would make sense for the Blackhawks to get what they can for him. David Kampf can easily replace Kruger
Cam Ward can be an interesting option for teams looking for a solid backup goalie (Colorado and Toronto come to mind). With a good team in front of him, Ward can give starting goalies some rest. Anton Forsberg could use some starts in the NHL to see if he’s improved at all.
With the Blackhawks trading for Dylan Strome, Artem Anisimov’s role has been severely diminished. At this point, he’s been relegated to 3rd line wing and at times the 4th line. It’s clear Anisimov doesn’t fit in this new system, with Colliton deploying Kruger and Kampf in more situations. I really don’t think the Blackhawks can get much for Anisimov, but moving his cap off the books would help a lot this offseason.
Kane should continue his career season and shot at the Art Ross trophy. Kane is currently on pace for 115 points and has been as dominant as ever. This kind of comes as a surprise, especially with the Blackhawks being as bad as they are.
Colliton, Brookbank, and Granato will finally be given the reigns to the Blackhawks with Barry Smith returning to the front office. Despite the Blackhawks’ struggles, the new coaching staff has really shown some good progress. The powerplay has been exciting to watch, scoring in 9 straight games.
Colliton looks to have created a healthy culture that the Blackhawks can build off. There were plenty of questions after Colliton took over if he could get the veterans to conform to his system, It’s been smooth sailing so far and I think almost everyone has bought into Colliton’s coaching style.
I would like to see the Blackhawks give Koekkoek and Perlini more ice time to see if they truly are first round busts. Bowman is giving former first-round picks another shot after they have fallen out of favor with their draft teams. It’s low risk, high reward and it has already paid off with Dylan Strome.
Finally, the Blackhawks will start preparing for the 2019 NHL draft. This year Bowman and company will have a chance to land an elite player and fast track this little rebuild.
The Blackhawks are actually in a pretty good spot when you take a look at other last place teams. Don’t give up on the Blackhawks just yet, if everything works out the playoffs will be back in Chicago in no time.