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Blackhawks Column: As Losses Mount, Is Confidence A Concern?

Is it as bad as it seems–or is it merely just part of the process?

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Now there’s a perfectly good explanation for the latest Chicago Blackhawks losing streak. The roster itself has a handful of veterans to cocoon the youngsters brought along for another rebuild season.

But when those veterans were hurt, or off the team, well, the steam started to collect on the L side of the chart. As the younger players are asked to step up, there’s a tougher call for head coach Luke Richardson to balance expectations while also having as competitive as a team as possible.

It’s certainly not easy. But at 9-18-1, the Blackhawks are right in line with last season at 7-18-4 through 29 games. They’re just one point ahead of last season, and are 2-5-1 in December. In their last 15 games, it’s a 4-10-1 mark.

So is confidence, especially with the younger players really taking the bulk of the ice time now, an issue as the rebuild goes forward?

Blackhawks Bench Boss Not Concerned

Head coach Luke Richardson said post game on NBC Sports Chicago that he’s not worried about Arvid Soderblom’s confidence. But Richardson is hardly one to overreact or under react. He truly is the right person to be at the helm with the team wobbling right now.

But what about guys like Lukas Reichel, who’s already been benched one this year and seen his ice time diminish in previous games, too.

Reichel is likely the one to watch most as what had been preseason hopes of  someone counted on to drive the Blackhawks out of a rebuild with Connor Bedard. It’s dimmed now into “bust” questions (unfair, by the way) along with the occasional demure of him never being that good to begin with.

It’s hardly fair. He’s still just 21-years-old and is playing on a roster designed to ride the season out for another shot at a high draft pick. Perhaps judgements are best reserved until there’s a little more talent surrounding him.

After all, like any job, youth often tries to overcompensate when things are not going according to the plan. Experience and likely more skill on that roster will help down the road.

But right now, as Richardson as mentioned before, it’s about being mentally tough and gutting through the lows.

So Confidence Shouldn’t be a Concern?

I go back to the days when I played on a beer league softball team and we were the doormat of the league. There were a few of us who could hold our own but the beatings we took were often humilating, where I’m still surprised the league didn’t relegate us to a t-ball squad.

Once–we cursed my brother after he blasted a home run, avoiding the slaughter rule. That’s how bad it could get.

Joking aside, there’s something to be said that the losing still got into your head–even in a recreational softball league. By the fifth week of games, I was already looking ahead to the Fall League where we might finally have a chance. As my family would be the first to tell you, I hate losing more than I like winning.

Which of course I knew it’d be wash-rinse-repeat. But you held out that hope that maybe, just maybe, it would turn. But even our calmest, most consistent player–our pitcher aptly named Conor, would let out a few muffled curses and groans as someone bungled a sure out.

Losing sucks and yes, confidence can get chipped away at for sure. Whether it’s C league softball, or NHL hockey.

The Blackhawks certainly are building something but there’s a handful of guys on the current roster who will be playing on what should be a contending team down the road.

If it all goes right.

But losing does have an effect on confidence, and while it can be explained for now, it’s fair for there to be concern. But it’s the long game, and not the short one, that Chicago is playing for.

That’s what will have to be remembered as lopsided scores, as seen last night against Seattle, happen again.

Maybe the only consolation is knowing the Blackhawks biggest win could come again in the NHL Draft. It’ll be what keeps a fan warm during another long winter of losses.

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