Blackhawks down: A look at why things have unraveled so badly this season

As training camp was coming to an end, I asked numerous beat writers to predict how many standings points the Blackhawks would amass by season's end.

Every answer was in an unbelievably tight range: 68, 69 or 70.

Nobody thought this would be a breakout year where the Hawks shocked the world with 80 or 85 points.

Conversely, nobody believed they'd fall flat on their collective faces. Yet, this is exactly what has transpired, with the Hawks on pace for an almost comically low 49 points.

The Hawks, who don't play again until Feb. 7, are tied with San Jose for the fewest goals per game (2.08), 28th in goals allowed (3.52) and just set a franchise record by losing a 20th straight road game.

So why have things unraveled so badly? Let's take a look:

∎ When the season began, the Hawks were expecting solid contributions from off-season additions Taylor Hall, Corey Perry and Nick Foligno.

Only Foligno (9 goals, 9 assists in 43 games) has delivered. Hall was in and out of the lineup before being shut down with a knee injury after playing in only 10 games.

Perry was a force, bringing his hard-nosed style and even adding a fair amount of offense (4G, 5A in 16 games), but then an ugly off-ice incident abruptly ended his tenure in Chicago.

Chicago Blackhawks center Andreas Athanasiou, center, collides with Anaheim Ducks goaltender Anthony Stolarz, left, and defenseman Dmitry Kulikov during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo) AP

If this trio had contributed the way GM Kyle Davidson had hoped, things would be much different.

∎ Losing Hall was a big blow, but let's not forget how much the Hawks miss Andreas Athanasiou. A 20-goal scorer a year ago, the 29-year-old has been out since Nov. 9 with a groin injury. There's still no timetable for his return.

∎ Lukas Reichel was expected to be a major force but has instead been a major disappointment. He flashed a bit at Calgary on Saturday, drawing praise from some on social media. But, c'mon. Until Reichel — who has a measly 3 goals and 6 assists in 47 games — starts converting, there's no reason to change the narrative.

∎ Let's not absolve other forwards for their lack of production. Philipp Kurashev has had some nice moments over the last month, but he still has no goals in the last 10 games and 2 in the last 22. Taylor Raddysh, who scored 20 goals last season, has only 10 points. He has 1 goal in the last 22 games. Ryan Donato, who racked up 30 goals with the Kraken the last two seasons, has no goals and 1 assist in the last 16 games.

∎ Hawks blue-liners have just 8 goals, with 1 coming from Seth Jones. What's incredible is that Jones is second on the team in shots on goal per game at 2.26. He just can't get them to go in.

∎ The offense has really tanked since Connor Bedard broke his jaw at New Jersey on Jan. 5. Since then, the Hawks are 3-8-0 and have scored just 14 goals — 8 of which actually came in wins over the Flames and Islanders. So that's 6 goals in the other nine games. Yikes.

∎ Petr Mrazek is having one of the finest seasons of his career, but backup Arvid Soderblom — who was expected to share time equally in net and possibly be the goalie of the future — has been a mess. Soderblom is 2-15-1 with an .873 save percentage and 4.07 goals-against average, numbers that rank 66th and 67th, respectively, out of 67 goalies with 10 or more appearances.

So, depressed yet?

Don't be. While some veterans like Foligno told reporters over and over that this squad could surprise, the bottom line is it wasn't built to exceed most of our rather low expectations.

If you want to look on the bright side, know that the Hawks play solid team defense nightly. Rookie Alex Vlasic has looked fantastic and should be in Chicago for 10-plus years.

Mrazek, Foligno and Jason Dickinson are three blue-collar veterans who earned extensions for their play on the ice and their leadership off of it.

When the rebuild hits Years 3 and 4, the Hawks will add more young talent up and down the lineup.

So, yes, it's still painful for fans to watch right now. But — if all goes according to play — that pain should soon turn to much rejoicing.

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