The worst place to be in the NHL is hovering around the middle of the pack, and that's exactly where the Blackhawks found themselves at the end of the 2018-19 season: Just outside the playoff picture, but not low enough in the standings to put themselves in a favorable position to land a high draft pick and add a potential franchise-altering player immediately.
But for the third straight year, a team jumped inside the Top 3 from outside the Top 10 as the Blackhawks moved up nine spots to No. 3 overall in the 2019 NHL Draft. Perhaps this is the hockey gods' way of saying they've had enough of the whole tanking theory.
"I just believe that's the only way it works is you've got to try to win the games," GM Stan Bowman said. "I never believed in trying to lose games. I've said that before, and honestly, our guys want to win. And we owe it to our fans to try and win as many games as we can. Athletes are competitive. We pushed our team all year. Don't try to worry about the draft, those things have a way of working themselves out. Obviously I didn't know it work out this way. ... There's no question that we're in a different category now picking in the Top 3. It's sort of poetic justice that it worked out that way."
It doesn't matter how the Blackhawks got there. It only matters that they did.
While the draft positioning may not change the overall approach this offseason, it certainly speeds up the retooling process in a significant way. The Blackhawks were already going into this summer with lots of money to spend in free agency and a chance to turn things around quickly with the right moves. Now they might be getting a bonus game-breaker that could step into the lineup as soon as next season and for many years to come.