We are getting into the final stretch of the 2022-2023 season, and with just 16 games to go, things are once again getting interesting for the Hawks. In better days, we would be focused on playoff position and battling it out for home-ice advantage. Nowadays, we are still battling it out for positioning, just this time for draft position. Through 66 games this year, the Hawks are now 30th in the league with a 22-38-6 record, losing the tiebreaker to the Sharks for 31st. They also have a game in hand on the Sharks, and unfortunately for us, the Jackets have a game in hand on us. It is really starting to feel like this is the Jackets to lose at this point, but the main goal is still the same: finish in the bottom two and get a top-three pick.
Despite all this and considering what’s at stake, I am continuing to see the competitiveness this team shows each and every night. It was touched on a bit in the last blog about how, as a fan, I just want to watch fun hockey; I don’t want this team getting blown out each and every game. If they can keep it close, then let up a few empty netters like Saturday against the Lightning, than that’s absolutely fine by me. By staying in these games that they have zero business being in, I think that says a lot about the bigger picture for this franchise and should make this fanbase excited for when it is time to be a contender once again. To me, it shows that they have the right coach in place with Luke Richardson; he clearly is making an impression on this team and is getting more than all of us expected from this land of misfit roster. Since day one, he talked about how this team may not win a lot, but they sure as hell are going to make these teams fight and earn their wins against them, and I truly believe that he has stuck to his word. I have noticed this team getting more physical in each zone of the rink; they are battling for pucks on the forecheck and laying hits in the defensive zone. While it hasn’t been pretty all year, I do appreciate the effort that has gone into establishing systems and just getting an identity once again after it felt like there was zero of that in the Colliton Era.
Heading into the last few weeks of Hawks hockey for the year, it's going to be interesting as the schedule is filled with teams battling it out for playoff positioning. Tomorrow will be an interesting one as the already playoff-clinched Boston Bruins come to town. The last time these two teams met was back in November, and it was one of the handful of games that the Hawks were blown out in as they lost 6-1. This Boston team has just been on a whole other level this year as they have their eyes set on the 1995-1996 Detroit Red Wings, who hold the best record in NHL history at 62-13-7. They need to finish the season with at least a 13-4 record to break that, and I’m sure they are going to take full advantage of this much weaker Hawks team.
The Hawks announced today that they will be shutting down forward Cole Guttman for the remainder of the season as he is en route to Los Angeles to have shoulder surgery. He suffered the injury back in November and has been playing with it for as long as he could. Personally, I have been very impressed with the 23-year-old in the small sample size this season. He put up four goals and two assists in his six games with the Hawks and always seemed to be an energetic guy out there. If this is the type of play he shows when injured, I am very excited to see what he does when healthy. They expect him to be ready for training camp this fall.
The team announced that they have signed forward Ryder Rolston to a three-year entry-level contract that will carry a cap hit of $895,000. If the name sounds familiar, it is because he is the son of former NHLer Brian Rolston. The 21-year-old appeared in 27 games this year for Notre Dame and finished the year with 7 goals and 13 assists. In 93 collegiate games, he put up 53 total points. He will be joining the Rockford Ice Hogs.
That’s all for now, puck drop is tomorrow at 730pm Central time and lets just hope it doesn’t get too out of hand.