The Blackhawks Are Caught In A Dilemma When It Comes To Choosing A Path To Follow In NHL

The Blackhawks Are Caught In A Dilemma When It Comes To Choosing A Path To Follow In NHL

The Blackhawks are caught between chasing a playoff spot and solidifying better odds in the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery.

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The Chicago Blackhawks came into the 2018-19 NHL season with little expectations after a disappointing 2017-18 campaign where they finished with 76 points, 19 points out of a playoff spot, and their first playoff miss since 2008. After a relatively good October to start the season, the Blackhawks have been mostly abysmal, including separate seven and eight-game losing streaks.

Three-time Stanley Cup-winning coach Joel Quenneville was axed in early November during the eight-game slide. To put insult to injury, starting goaltender and two-time Stanley Cup winner Corey Crawford has been out with another concussion since being injured against San Jose on December 16th.

The current stretch has given fans hope of a turnaround and faint playoff hopes. The Hawks are currently on a five-game winning streak with wins over Washington, the New York Islanders, Buffalo, Minnesota, and Edmonton bringing their record to 21-24-9. At 51 points, they are tied with Edmonton, Anaheim, and Arizona, while sitting one point behind Colorado and two behind St. Louis, and only three behind the second Western Conference Wild Card Playoff team in Vancouver.

With the exception of Vancouver, the Blackhawks have played at least one more game than everyone else, making it harder to jump past those teams in the playoff race.

With the recent run, Chicago sits sixth in the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery, giving them a 7.5% chance of selecting first overall, and a 23.3% chance of selecting in the top 3. They are only four points ahead of the second-best odds in the lottery for the top pick and for a top three selection, but just three behind the 13th best odds.

If they continue to go on this run, they could find themselves still out of the playoffs (depending on how other teams fare), but most likely selecting between 11th and 13th, which would be detrimental towards adding a near NHL ready talent to boost the franchise's rebuild while superstar forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are still productive in their early 30s.

Even if the Blackhawks somehow make the playoffs, they would most likely lose in the first round to Calgary or Winnipeg in a mere four or five games, dropping them outside of the lottery to the 16th pick. Typically, middle of the first-round draft selections are two to three years from playing at the NHL level, unlike in the NFL and NBA Draft where those athletes are playing or are at least on the roster in their first pro year.

Adding a top draft pick to the roster next year like forwards Jack Hughes, Kaapo Kakko, Vasili Podkolzin, who are projected to be NHL ready, or even Kirby Dach or Dylan Cozens, who might break a roster, could help push the red and black to being a consistent winning club sooner than if they draft outside of the top 5, which is much more likely if the team keeps winning.

The NHL Trade Deadline is February 25, meaning General Manager Stan Bowman will have to make some tough decisions about whether or not he will trade anyone from the existing roster (such as 30-year-old forward Artem Anisimov who makes $4.55 million until 2021) in order to gain draft picks and clear cap space for the 2019 Free Agency this summer.

The draft lottery could fall the Blackhawks' way even if their odds are quite slim, but it is obviously unlikely. As a fan of the team, it is nice to see them playing well, but it is clear from results earlier in the year that they need more help to lessen the offensive loads of Kane and Toews. In contrast, trading roster players in order to help the team lose more only promote a losing culture that is toxic in the players' dressing room. Amidst the current streak, the Chicago Blackhawks management will have to look towards the future when making the team better.

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To The Coach Who Took Away My Confidence

You had me playing in fear.
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"The road to athletic greatness is not marked by perfection, but the ability to constantly overcome adversity and failure."

As a coach, you have a wide variety of players. You have your slow players, your fast players. You have the ones that are good at defense. You have the ones that are good at offense. You have the ones who would choose to drive and dish and you have the ones that would rather shoot the three. You have the people who set up the plays and you have the people who finish them. You are in charge of getting these types of players to work together and get the job done.

Sure, a coach can put together a pretty set of plays. A coach can scream their head off in a game and try and get their players motivated. A coach can make you run for punishment, or they can make you run to get more in shape. The most important role of a coach, however, is to make the players on their team better. To hopefully help them to reach their fullest potential. Players do make mistakes, but it is from those mistakes that you learn and grow.

To the coach the destroyed my confidence,

You wanted to win, and there was nothing wrong with that. I saw it in your eyes if I made a mistake, you were not too happy, which is normal for a coach. Turnovers happen. Players miss shots. Sometimes the girl you are defending gets past you. Sometimes your serve is not in bounds. Sometimes someone beats you in a race. Sometimes things happen. Players make mistakes. It is when you have players scared to move that more mistakes happen.

I came on to your team very confident in the way that I played the game. Confident, but not cocky. I knew my role on the team and I knew that there were things that I could improve on, but overall, I was an asset that could've been made into an extremely great player.

You paid attention to the weaknesses that I had as a player, and you let me know about them every time I stepped onto the court. You wanted to turn me into a player I was not. I am fast, so let me fly. You didn't want that. You wanted me to be slow. I knew my role wasn't to drain threes. My role on the team was to get steals. My role was to draw the defense and pass. You got mad when I drove instead of shot. You wanted me to walk instead of run. You wanted me to become a player that I simply wasn't. You took away my strengths and got mad at me when I wasn't always successful with my weaknesses.

You did a lot more than just take away my strengths and force me to focus on my weaknesses. You took away my love for the game. You took away the freedom of just playing and being confident. I went from being a player that would take risks. I went from being a player that was not afraid to fail. Suddenly, I turned into a player that questioned every single move that I made. I questioned everything that I did. Every practice and game was a battle between my heart and my head. My heart would tell me to go to for it. My heart before every game would tell me to just not listen and be the player that I used to be. Something in my head stopped me every time. I started wondering, "What if I mess up?" and that's when my confidence completely disappeared.

Because of you, I was afraid to fail.

You took away my freedom of playing a game that I once loved. You took away the relaxation of going out and playing hard. Instead, I played in fear. You took away me looking forward to go to my games. I was now scared of messing up. I was sad because I knew that I was not playing to my fullest potential. I felt as if I was going backward and instead of trying to help me, you seemed to just drag me down. I'd walk up to shoot, thinking in my head, "What happens if I miss?" I would have an open lane and know that you'd yell at me if I took it, so I just wouldn't do it.

SEE ALSO: The Coach That Killed My Passion

The fight to get my confidence back was a tough one. It was something I wish I never would've had to do. Instead of becoming the best player that I could've been, I now had to fight to become the player that I used to be. You took away my freedom of playing a game that I loved. You took away my good memories in a basketball uniform, which is something I can never get back. You can be the greatest athlete in the world, but without confidence, you won't go very far.

Cover Image Credit: Christina Silies

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Andy Ruiz Jr. May Not Look Like The Typical Boxer, But It Doesn't Make His Victory Any Less Deserved

Andy Ruiz Jr. just proved that dreams can come true.

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On June 1, boxing fans witnessed something special as Andy 'Destroyer' Ruiz Jr. defeated Anthony Joshua via TKO after going seven rounds in the ring at Madison Square Garden in New York City to become the first ever Mexican-American heavyweight champion of the world. Ruiz Jr. (33-1) was a heavy underdog (+1100) heading into the match-up with Joshua (22-1) but ultimately flipped the script to hand the British fighter his first professional loss ever. Surely the fight will go down as one of the greatest moments in sports history.

Some members of the media and fans have been quick to label the fight as a 'fluke' and 'rigged' which in the end is no surprise to me. That always happens in the sports world. Many did not believe we would get this result yet failed to remember the one rule of sports -- expect the unexpected. Over the past week, I've been coming to the defense of Ruiz Jr. in the wake of others choosing to call him a joke.

I was shocked and surprised to hear two of my favorite sports analysts, Stephen A. Smith and Shannon Sharpe, make fun of Ruiz Jr. and frame him as just a guy that looked like 'Butterbean.' When I viewed their tweets on social media it honestly made me upset. Sure, Ruiz Jr. may not have fit the mold of what a professional boxer should look like, but they simply should not have just judged a book by its cover.

Personally, I thought it was disrespectful for Smith and Sharpe to throw shade at Ruiz Jr. in the way they did. I felt like they should have done a better job of acknowledging the winner considering the result of the match. Yet choosing to bash someone because of their physical composition appeared like a low blow. The very foundation of sports allows people of all shapes, sizes, genders, races, and backgrounds to compete -- that's why most people follow them in the first place.

Smith was open behind his reasoning for his tweets in which I'd like to shed some light on. Smith was upset about how boxing time after time contains elements of corruption with fans having to wait years until promoters schedule big fights. He along with other followers of the sport were looking forward to the highly anticipated yet potential future match-up between Joshua and fellow heavyweight Deontay Wilder. Smith believes that by Ruiz Jr. beating Joshua it essentially diminished the chances of that fight ever happening with the same amount of buildup, but that still doesn't provide any excuse for mocking the new heavyweight champ.

Ruiz Jr. was there for a reason and ultimately seized the opportunity that was right in front of him -- that's not his fault for getting the job done. Just because someone doesn't look like the part doesn't mean they don't possess the same qualities and characteristics as their counterparts. The following pair of videos display the amount of talent Ruiz Jr. does have in the ring. Even fellow boxer Canelo Alvarez and former UFC lightweight/featherweight champion Conor McGregor acknowledge that and have come out to say something on their behalf.

Unfortunately, I don't expect much to change because most will stand their ground and continue to behave the same way. All I'm saying is I did not enjoy some of the top figures within sports media stereotyping Ruiz Jr. based on his looks. I would think that we would be better than that and recognize that anyone can accomplish something great in this world. It all just starts with a simple dream.

I understand and respect other people's takes on this subject, maybe I'm looking into things deeper than what they are, but it struck a chord with me and I felt the need to say something about it.

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