5 things we learned as the Chicago Blackhawks ended a 23-53-6 season: ‘Everyone is going into the summer a little pissed off’

LOS ANGELES — Hours before the Chicago Blackhawks season finale against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night, several players reflected on the year that was — and each had a common demeanor.


For Connor Bedard, it was the fact the season — his first — is ending.

“It’s a strange feeling, ending off the year,” the rookie center said before the Kings’ 5-4 overtime win left the Hawks with a 23-53-6 final record. “We’re sad but nothing crazy. … It’s been a frustrating year, too, with the record.”

Left wing Taylor Hall is crestfallen about what could have been — how a right knee injury in November cost him the rest of the season and the chance to keep mentoring Bedard.

“It’s been a difficult year,” said Hall, who participated in the morning skate Thursday but wasn’t cleared to play. “I wanted to really contribute. I had high hopes for me individually this year and for our team to take a better step than we did. That didn’t happen.”

Win or lose against the Kings, the Hawks were locked in to the league’s second-worst record. They nearly pulled off an upset of the playoff-bound Kings.

Lukas Reichel scored the opening goal on a breakaway, and the Hawks rallied from a two-goal deficit with three goals within five minutes in the third period.

But about two minutes from a win, Philipp Kurashev accidentally flipped the puck over the glass and Viktor Arvidsson scored on the delay-of-game penalty. Adrian Kempe then flushed the game-winner six seconds into overtime.

“I don’t want to talk about (how it) encapsulates the season,” Nick Foligno said, “because it’s a disappointing finish to a disappointing year. I just wanted something to hang your hat on. I was proud of the way we battled back and got back in the game, and we’ve got some work ahead of us in this offseason and into next year.

“We are a team that needs to make some changes here. This isn’t good enough. This can’t be good enough. This has to change drastically over the summer and we need to find a way to, as individuals that have been here, come back and have the mindset of getting this thing turned around.”

For Seth Jones, the Hawks’ next-to-last-place finish compounded the disappointment — not what he bargained for when he signed a $9.5 million annual contract in 2021 to help the Hawks become a contender.

That season fell flat, and the Hawks, under new management, scrapped a lot of the roster and greenlit a rebuild.

“I’ve just tried to be positive to the media and understand the situation we’re in as an organization,” Jones said before the game. “But I have not been happy by any stretch of the imagination.

“I understand what the organization wanted to do and kind of turn the page on a new chapter, on what we can be, and try to get back to where we were when we’re winning Stanley Cups. And I think everyone in here is on board with that.”

But with each day and each loss, “it takes a toll on you, and no one likes losing,” Jones said. “But you have to look at the big picture, I think, and where this thing could go. I think our young guys took a step this year in the right direction, and that’s really what we’re most concerned about.”

Here’s what we learned from players about the season and where the team needs to go from here.

1. The kids are all right.

Hawks rookies entered the finale with an eerily identical stat line to the Minnesota Wild rookies: 33 goals, 70 assists and 103 points.

But no team has been more dependent on rookie production than the Hawks (21.8%) — the next closest is the Anaheim Ducks at 16%.

The Hawks got a taste of the next wave, signing Landon Slaggert and Frank Nazar late in the season.

Ten rookies played at least two games for the Hawks: forwards Bedard, Nazar, Slaggert and Cole Guttman and defensemen Kevin Korchinski, Wyatt Kaiser, Isaak Phillips, Louis Crevier, Ethan Del Mastro and Filip Roos.

“You want these young guys to play well, you want them to develop,” Jones said. “You understand there’s going to be mistakes along the way that everyone in here made when they were 18, 19, 20 years old.

“So patience is obviously a big, big factor in that and just teaching them every day.”

Paramount is the development of Bedard, 18, who led all NHL rookies with 61 points.

“I think I was OK a lot but not maybe as good as I hoped,” he said. “But that’s part of it. Just learning. I feel like I improved throughout the year, which is big, but for this summer I’ve got a lot of areas to improve. That’s a positive to be able to go in knowing you feel you can get better.”

2. How do you get better?

The Hawks have finished sixth, third and now second from the bottom of the standings over the last three seasons. They were last in goals per game (2.15) and allowed the fourth-most goals (3.51).

A laundry list of injuries to players such as Andreas Athanasiou, Hall and Bedard accounts from some of the struggles but can’t explain all of it.

So the question was posed: How do the Hawks take the next step next season?

  • Coach Luke Richardson: “Definitely health is going to help. But as we get more depth, because the younger guys are coming in now, I think that’ll be key. And we’ll have to get some (free agent or trade) acquisitions in the summer to surround these young guys again, like they have done well the last two years.”

  • Bedard: “Everyone is going to go into the summer a little pissed off with how things went this year. All we can control is how much we get better throughout the summer and come back … motivated and trying to have a different result than we did this year.”

  • Hall: “The next step is to play meaningful games at the end of the season. I don’t think that realistically we’re looking at next year as being a (Stanley) Cup year or anything like that. … Maybe at the trade deadline we’re adding some pieces to make a playoff push. That type of thing would be a really positive thing for us next year and honestly realistic.”

  • Jones: “When you’re watching kids develop, you don’t want to see them continue to make the same mistakes game in and game out. There’s not one set timeline where if they make a mistake after two years in the league, they’re screwed. That’s not the case. You want to see them grow as kids, grow as players and teammates.”

3. A change is gonna come.

Tyler Johnson ended the season on a personal high — a power-play goal to spark a third-period rally — but he faces an uncertain future, like several of the Hawks who are either free agents or on the roster bubble. Taylor Raddysh, Jarred Tinordi, Jaycob Megna and MacKenzie Entwistle are among them.

Foligno reckoned with reality.

“Yeah, it’s tough,” he said. “You care a lot about these guys, you battle all year long with the group and you care a lot about every individual. But the reality is when you don’t win, changes are inevitable.

“Yeah, you’ll miss guys. In saying that, the business side of it — we have to change. I want to change. We can’t go through this again. And I certainly won’t allow it. Either the mindset changes from the group or personnel changes. That’s just the way it is in the NHL.”

4. It’s getting drafty.

The San Jose Sharks clinched the best lottery odds with a loss to the Wild, while the Hawks finished with the second-best odds. The Hawks beat the third-best odds last year and won the Bedard sweepstakes.

As it stands, the Sharks have a 25% chance of winning the No. 1 pick, which would give them the right to draft Boston University center Macklin Celebrini, ranked the No. 1 North American skater by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau.

The Hawks can’t finish worse than fourth in the draft order.

Depending on where they fall, the Hawks could have their pick of Russian forward Ivan Demidov or one of two monster defensemen: Michigan State’s Artyom Levshunov, the No. 2-ranked North American, and fast-rising Russian Anton Silayev, a 6-foot-7 presence who moved up a spot in the bureau’s final ranking to become the top-rated international skater.

Or it could be someone completely different, such as when the Hawks went against convention two years ago and selected Korchinski at No. 7.

And it doesn’t stop there. After two seasons of wheeling and dealing, the Hawks have nine picks, including two first-rounders, three seconds and two thirds.

In 2025, the Hawks potentially have two more first-round selections — the Toronto Maple Leafs’ pick is top-10 protected — and two second-rounders.

Richardson was asked about the pipeline and the picks to come and what it means.

“It gives the organization a chance moving forward with all the draft picks, what we need,” he said. “Seeing these guys play at this level, where they’re going to fit in and how they’re going to fit in and what we’re going to need to surround them, it’s great for us to see as coaches.

“We’re excited to work with young players, but I think the whole organization gets a really good feel of where everybody’s going to fit in.”

5. Final calling card for the Calder?

When defenseman Brock Faber faced off against Bedard on April 7 — and helped the Wild beat the Hawks 4-0 in Bedard’s house — it inflamed the debate over who should be rookie of the year.

In’s final poll of its writers, Bedard got the nod for the Calder Trophy with 72 points, including 12 of 15 first-place votes. Asked about the debate and whether he has made a strong enough case, Bedard showed he has some verbal dangles.

“I haven’t paid attention at all,” he said. “It’s a good rookie class and there’s a lot of guys that have been fun to watch come into the league and have success. Just trying to be the best I can be and not focus on stuff like that.”