Who's to blame?
Many want to blame general manager Stan Bowman, many want to blame head coach Jeremy Colliton, and many want to blame both. But what if it really is on the players and them only as suggested in recent post-game interviews by veterans Jonathan Toews, Calvin de Haan, and Seth Jones.
Based on what's been stated publicly -- and if taken at face value -- is there dissension within the rank and file of the Blackhawks roster? And is that turmoil enough to rattle the team to the point where they can't execute on the ice whether defensively or offensively?
A closed session for players to hash things out isn't uncommon in sports. The proof will be in the pudding, though, after said session even if coaches were part of the conversation or at least were flies on the wall. Can this be pivotal to reverse the team's fortune?
Whether players like each other or not really shouldn't matter. What is more important, however, is being able to operate within the systems being taught, apply basic fundamentals, and play with intelligence, motivation, and drive to be a force for a full 60 minutes.
Part of the solution is to become a well oiled machine so they can bang on all cylinders as designed roster-wise and strategy-wise. On paper, they should be competitive to make games exciting regardless of the outcome. If you're going to lose, make the opponent fight for the win.
But another part of the solution is to hold players accountable when mistakes are made, particularly egregious ones. In team sports, it's nice for teammates to get on one another's case if someone isn't pulling their weight or committing detrimental errors.
But wrath from the coach done in a way that provides teachable moments is what may be lacking in the locker room and on the bench. This is where Colliton is like a teacher who has been too lax and now needs to be strict but lost control of the class by not doing the opposite.
The teacher also needs to adjust the pedagogy to meet the students where they're at as far as varied learning styles. The curriculum doesn't need to change but customizing lessons for each student can make a lasting impact for confidence building and development.
This is where Colliton needs to take a step back more to realize his current pedagogy isn't working. The players need to play their part to right the ship but so does the coach. As these soundbytes illustrate, the players are doing just that. Now it's Colliton's turn.
* Patrick Kane, Right Wing
* Jujhar Khaira, Left Wing
* Riley Stillman, Defenseman
* Marc Crawford, Assistant Coach
* Tomas Mitell, Assistant Coach
* Jimmy Waite, Goaltending Coach
Out of protocol:
(Ryan Carpenter and Erik Gustafsson exited protocol on Sunday)
Even though Ryan Carpenter has been out of COVID protocol since Sunday, at some point it may be worth a look at a kid trio on the 4th line featuring Mike Hardman, MacKenzie Entwistle, and Reese Johnson at least until Jujhar Khaira is cleared to get out of protocol.
If they play up to potential and are allowed to play their game, Hardman, Entwistle, and Johnson could be a handful for other teams with their size, ruggedness, and relentlessness. While they may make rookie mistakes on defense, it may be good to let them learn and grow together.
That youthful 4th line may not last all but a few games yet could be enough to give a glimpse of what could be in store next season and beyond. There are other options coming up in the system who may also be in the mix like Andrei Altybarmakian, Evan Barratt, and Josiah Slavin.
Many fans may have zero interest in a prospect like Jalen Luypen who is essentially a double whammy as a 5'10" 157 pound winger taken in the 7th round of the 2021 draft. Sure he can light up juniors but no way he does that in the pros, right? His size alone could keep him out.
Luypen as well as 2020 6th rounder Chad Yetman and undrafted free agent D.J. Busdeker are on the small side but you couldn't tell by the manner in which they play by bringing the energy every shift, taking the game to the tough areas, and attacking in waves up and down the ice.
Players like them wouldn't be long-term fixtures on a team but could have sufficient compete level, grit, and courage to state their case for steady NHL employment as journeymen. Who knows if they can stick around like a Vincent Hinostroza or a Drake Caggiula.
In yesterday's blog was a feature on goalie prospect Dominic Basse
and what his future could hold within the Blackhawks organization once he graduates from Colorado College. This accolade may not mean much in the long run but it could be something for him to build upon.
See you on the boards!