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The Blackhawks Are Plumbing The Depths

WINNIPEG, CANADA - JANUARY 11: MacKenzie Entwistle #58 and Lukas Reichel #27 of the Chicago Blackhawks get set at the bench prior to puck drop against the Winnipeg Jets at the Canada Life Centre on January 11, 2024 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)
Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

Anthony Rendon isn't wrong when he says that seasons are too long. True, he is hardly the ideal messenger on this, but, yeah, regular seasons go on seemingly forever, and the things you absolutely knew were true a month ago are now arguable at best and DFW at worst. Example: The Detroit Pistons now have a longer current winning streak than the Detroit Lions.

We bring this up, though, not to toss a knee into the Lions’ kidneys in their hours of agony but to point out that the Chicago Blackhawks are now the worst team in the National Hockey League and striving for true Pistonhood— just as the Pistons are now finding a measure of dignity in the odd victory, albeit in a different sport. Indeed, the Pistons, the shame of the Motor City, are now only 2.5 games worse than the Washington Wizards and almost certainly won't end up with the worst record in NBA history, or maybe even this year. Maybe the lure of Nikola Topic as the No. 1 pick in the draft isn't quite as compelling as he seemed a few minutes back.

The NHL has no such uncertainty, though. Mock-draft wise, there is only Macklin Celebrini, the Boston University center who punditoexperts across the continent believe is well worth the shame of tanking. For the first three and a half months, that shameful team was indisputably the San Jose Sharks, whose apparent gumption in pursuit of Celebrini included separate losing streaks of 12 and 11 games in the first half of the season.

But as we said (and the Pistons are proving), it's hard to be terrible night in and night out for an entire season. Eventually, success stalks even the most odious, and the task of being the worst becomes too great to bear. And when we say "great," of course we mean "really hideous."

Enter the Blackhawks, who have turbocharged their reverse gear and become even worse than San Jose. The have entered the all-star break on a 20-game road losing streak and an equally appalling run that includes scoring one goal or fewer in 10 of their last 15 games, and four shutout losses in their last six. They have won only two games in regulation in the last seven weeks, and are 3-8 since Bedard, the franchise savior, was lost to a fractured jaw. Their chances of reinventing themselves between now and season's end are beyond unlikely, and they are not in position to use the bad team's get-out-of-jail-free card by firing coach Luke Richardson and taking a flyer on an interim coach who can coax blood out of this particular turnip.

No, their fallback position is to continue at their present pace, which given that they had the second-worst record with Bedard as their best player should not be too difficult given that he is still the goals and assists leader on the team, and hope for a similar dose of luck in this year's lottery. This is the path Edmonton took a decade ago when they picked first four times in six years and in the top 10 for eight consecutive seasons, which landed them Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid.

But even at that, they had to fire their last heroic interim coach, Jay Woodcroft, and replace him with this year's heroic interim coach, Kris Knoblauch, to spark their current run of 24 wins in 27 games including the last 16 in a row. In other words, the greatest lottery run in continental history has been a mixed blessing for the Oilers, because all those wins still have them sixth in their conference.

Still, the Blackhawks have visions of Celebrini in their heads, and catching the Sharks for those extra few ping pong balls is an achievement in which they can take a level of pride. I mean, they've scored 19 goals in their last 15 games, and never mind what that would be over a full season—that's horrible right now, and with Bedard still at least five weeks away from playing again, the Hawks could become uncatchable, even by San Jose.

Some folks might consider this karma given their shameful organizational behavior. Since the Brad Aldrich scandal broke four years ago, the Blackhawks have the third-worst record of any team, their owner died, and they have been reduced to grubbing for draft position. Which, it would seem, they are becoming increasingly adept at.

But as we say, every season is long. The Hawks could still straighten themselves out, reintroduce themselves to the other team's goal, and maybe even rise to the lofty perch of 28th, ahead of not only the Sharks but Anaheim, Ottawa, and even Columbus. They would still be in the running for Celebrini, but even then they may need a lot more high lottery picks in the next several years to become … well, not this, anyway.

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