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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Everything The Student Athlete Loses When They Move On From Sports

Enjoy it while it lasts.

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We used to call it "flipping the switch." You would go through eight hours of school (somehow) and then your mentality would automatically change. The worries and stress from the school day would dwindle as you put on your cleats and begin to warm up. Anything that was going on in your life didn't matter when you hit the dirt. You create lifelong friendships with the girls you spent every day with for months at a time. Teammates who see you susceptible after a bad game and on cloud nine after one of your bests.

You develop a routine and superstitions. Hitting your bat on the inside of your cleat before you hit, chewing a certain type of gum on the volleyball court, how many times you spin the ball before you shoot a free throw, whatever your quirk was, you 100% believed it would make you play better. You practice in your free time with your dad, devote three to five months of your school year to a team, and play all summer long with your travel team as you live off hotel breakfast. Then one day, it's all over.

It is a feeling that nobody can prepare you for. They say enjoy it while it lasts but you never really understand what you'll be walking away from when you play your last game and hang it up for good. You lose a part of yourself when you're no longer an athlete. I forgot what it feels like to be competitive and be a part of something that is bigger than myself. It has been two years since I've played my last softball game and not a day goes by when I don't miss it. I didn't play because I wanted to go pro or even to the collegiate level, but I played because it was an escape and helped me become who I am.

You begin to forget what it felt like to hit the sweet spot on a bat, what it sounded like to have an audience cheer for you as you stand alone on second base and see your family in the stands, to hear the metal spikes of your cleats on concrete when walking in the dugout. It's simple things about the game you love that brought you pure joy and an escape from the world and the thoughts in your head. Batting practice was always mine. Focusing on nothing but the next pitch and how hard I could hit it.

When you have to watch the game from the other side of the fence, you realize how much pressure you put on yourself when you played. It's just a game. Make as many memories as you can and enjoy every inning because when you leave sports behind you have to find your inner athlete in other things. Create a workout routine, joining a club sport or intramurals, or even becoming a coach. As much as I miss the sport, I am thankful for everything it brought me. It taught me how to be a good friend, respect others around me, and to push myself to discover what I was capable of.

So, enjoy it while it lasts.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo And Christian Yelich Have Put Milwaukee Back On The Map

Two small market teams making sure the world knows who they are

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"MVP" is currently being chanted around the city of Milwaukee and the people of Milwaukee aren't just talking about one person. Giannis Antetokounmpo, a forward for the Milwaukee Bucks and Christian Yelich, an outfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers. Giannis is on the path to winning this year's NBA MVP and Yelich, who happened to win the NL MVP last year, is showing no doubts on potentially becoming this year's MVP as well.

Both the Bucks and the Brewers have struggled in the past few years. The Bucks finished their 2013-2014 season with a record of 15-67. On top of that, they have been playing in the BMO Harris Bradley Center for the past couple of decades. The Bradley Center was intentionally built for hockey and not basketball so attending games for the Bucks sometimes had you in the nosebleeds barely seeing what was going on on the court. The Bucks struggled after their 2013-2014 season with records of 41-41 (2014-2015) and 33-49 (2015-2016). Now, the Bucks have recently finished their regular season and moved to the playoffs. From 15-67 just five years ago, to now 60-22 which gave them the best record in the NBA, the number one seed in the East and home-court advantage, Giannis has proved himself as potentially one of the greatest players the NBA and the Bucks franchise will ever see.

The Bucks now have a new arena that opened this season, Fiserv Forum, which is built specifically for the Bucks (and Marquette) instead of hockey. Looking back on the Bucks in their previous years compared to now, the Bucks have sold out every single game this season. Something Milwaukee never thought they would see from being a small market team. From my experience, while working for the Bucks, you can see the difference in the crowd and feel their enthusiasm and excitement radiating off of the fans. And this is all thanks to Mr. Antetokounmpo who is making his mark here in Milwaukee. Giannis has won Eastern Conference Player of the Month for October/November, December, February and March/April and even earned his spot as Eastern Conference captain for the All-Star game this year. Giannis may be considered in his prime right now, but he is only 24-years-old which means he has plenty of time to only make himself better.

The Brewers had won the NL Central Divison back in 2011 but lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series. After that, they struggled a bit and haven't won the title since until last year in 2018. He brought the Brewers to the NLCS last season, but unfortunately, they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Yelich had 36 home runs last season and already has eight (as of 4/16/19) this season. He happens to be a great right fielder as well. In last night's (4/15/19) game against the Cardinals, Yelich alone scored three home runs.

Miller Park has been filling up more and more each game of Brewers fans. Being a small market team like their cross-city friends, the Bucks, bringing home an MVP title as well as a division title, it makes everyone aware of their greatness and dedication. The season may have just started back up again, but there is no doubt, if Yelich and his teammates keep playing like they are right now, they will have another shot of making it to the World Series.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Christian Yelich have brought and will continue to bring excitement and greatness to Milwaukee which is something the city hasn't seen in a while. This era of sports will surely be remembered for a long time by the people of Milwaukee and Wisconsin.

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