Blackhawks likely to be one of NHL’s worst teams again, even with Connor Bedard

Optimism for the future shouldn’t be confused with contention in the present. The Blackhawks likely will learn that lesson this season.

The long-term outlook indeed looks bright, thanks to Connor Bedard and the rest of a prospect pool now considered one of the deepest and strongest in the NHL.

But the Hawks’ short-term outlook hasn’t changed much. They’re likely to be one of the league’s worst teams again in 2023-24. The hype around Bedard seems to have distracted many fans from that reality.

After all, the Hawks lost their top two scorers (Max Domi and Patrick Kane), second-best defenseman (Jake McCabe) and best goaltender (Alex Stalock) from last season’s team, which finished with 59 points, tying the mark for the franchise’s worst full-season point total since 1958.

Sure, Bedard is a good bet to produce 60 to 70 points as a rookie, which easily would exceed Domi’s and Kane’s production last year (neither reached 50 points before being traded). Sure, Taylor Hall will help the offense, too. And sure, an influx of young talent with Lukas Reichel, Alex Vlasic, Wyatt Kaiser, Arvid Soderblom and potentially Kevin Korchinski graduating into full-time NHL players will be exciting.

But it’ll take all of those players (sans Hall) time to adjust to this level and to each other, and the results might not be particularly pretty at first.

The Hawks would love for that group to grow into a core comparable to the Avalanche’s core, for example, but when those two Central Division rivals meet Oct. 19 to wrap up the Hawks’ season-opening road trip, they’ll be far from an even match.

Sportsbooks reflect the expectation that the Hawks will be better in 2023-24 than they were in 2022-23 — it would be quite difficult to be worse — but not too much better.

FanDuel set the over-under for the Hawks’ point total at 71.5 points, tied with the Canadiens for the third-lowest in the league. Only the Sharks’ (65.5) and Ducks’ (68.5) totals are lower. The rest of the bottom tier includes the Blue Jackets (73.5), Flyers (73.5) and Coyotes (76.5). Above them, there’s a huge gap.

The Sharks’ decision to trade Erik Karlsson from a team that totaled just 60 points last season (with Karlsson scoring or assisting on 43.2% of its goals) makes them the preseason favorite in the tank race. Beyond locked-in star Tomas Hertl, things look bleak in San Jose.

It’s telling, however, that the Hawks are projected to earn only six more points than the Sharks. General manager Kyle Davidson and his front office aren’t intentionally designing the team to lose anymore, but it still will lose plenty — even if Luke Richardson repeats his impressive rookie coaching performance and finds ways to keep the Hawks semi-competitive in most games.

Davidson, it’s worth noting, also won’t be upset about the…

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Read More: Blackhawks likely to be one of NHL’s worst teams again, even with Connor Bedard 2023-09-17 00:11:00

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