Turns out Blackhawks are awful enough to contend for top draft pick, after all

The Hawks’ surprisingly hot start has become a distant memory. Seventeen losses in their last 20 games have dropped them into second-to-last place in the NHL, ahead of only the miserable Ducks.

SHARE Turns out Blackhawks are awful enough to contend for top draft pick, after all
Blackhawks defend the Islanders.

The Blackhawks have lost 17 of their last 20 games.

AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez

After the Blackhawks’ surprisingly hot start through their first eight games, general manager Kyle Davidson — asked if he’d alter his plans if the team’s success continued — essentially kicked that question down the road.

“I don’t think we’re going to change our course at all,” he said. “We’ll see where we’re at and go from there. How we handle it, we’ll see, but we’ll get there first.”

Well, the Hawks are now a few miles down the road, and Davidson’s lack of early concern about them potentially being better than planned has been completely justified. He has consistently insisted he does want them to win, but there’s no denying a top draft pick helps the organization long-term.

They’ve lost 17 of their last 20 games, falling to 7-15-4 on the season. They have a minus-32 goal differential. Their five-on-five ratios all sit around 40%, among the league’s worst.

They’re struggling to defend the slot defensively, struggling to stop conceding odd-man rushes and struggling to actually shoot during their offensive opportunities. Even their penalty kill, an October bright spot, no longer looks unique.

They’ve conceded the first goal in 12 of their last 13 games, and they don’t have the necessary neutral-zone speed and playmaking to break through a team protecting a lead. The past three losses — against the stout Islanders, Devils and Jets — in which they’ve scored just one goal (off an offensive-zone takeaway, not a rush or sustained possession) exemplify that.

Patrick Kane, with 20 points in 26 games, entered Sunday tied for 109th in the NHL in scoring and on track for the least productive full season of his career — and he’s still the Hawks’ leading scorer this season. Every other team’s leading scorer has more points; the Stars have six players with more points.

Jonathan Toews, with just four points in his last 12 games, has cooled off after his strong start. Max Domi and Andreas Athanasiou have been fine, but aren’t significantly altering the course of the season (and the forward depth chart will look even uglier once they’re traded). The Hawks still haven’t had a defenseman score a power-play goal since May 2021.

Indeed, the tank appears right on track after all.

The biggest obstacle at the moment appears to — strangely enough — be the Ducks, who have managed to be even more disastrous than the Hawks.

The Ducks are 7-18-3, earning 17 points in 28 games, the only team worse than the Hawks’ 18 points through 26 games. They have, somehow, won only once in regulation. They have a minus-50 goal differential and an abysmal .892 team save percentage.

The Hawks are on pace for 57 points this season, which wouldn’t have been bad enough to finish in last place last season (the Canadiens finished with 55) but would have been three of the previous four full seasons.

Finishing in last place gives them only a 25.5% chance of winning the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery, but it does guarantee a top-three pick. They’re definitely exhibiting the necessary incompetence to wind up in that conversation.

The Ducks, however, are on pace for just 50 points, which would make them the NHL’s second-worst team since the 2005 lockout. They might be historically awful.

The Coyotes, the preseason favorite to finish in last place, are barely ahead of the Hawks at the moment — with 20 points in 25 games entering Sunday. The Sharks and Flyers, the preseason dark horses to slip into the tanking competition, aren’t far off pace with 23 and 24 points, respectively, entering Sunday. The Blue Jackets have also been surprisingly poor, with 20 points in 26 games and a minus-32 goal differential of their own.

Regardless, there’s still two-thirds of the season left to play.

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