The title of this blog is my way of acknowledging what are certain to be some of the board comments and Twitter pushback on this blog.
Duly noted. All teams have flaws.
But not all teams win Stanley Cups, in fact all but one don't. And all but two make the Cup Finals. And all but 4 make the Conference finals, and all but 8 make it out of the first round.
So ask yourself, as a Hawk fan, what is your metric of success? And never lose sight of what the team's stated metric is.
No, this is not the worst team in the NHL, far from it. In fact, arguably, in the game preceding last night's (ehhhh) mild humiliation(?) at the hands of an expansion team, the Hawks beat what is arguably the worst team in the league: Arizona. Not incredibly convincingly, but good enough.
But as the lustre of a blazing first two games of the season fades to "what the hell is that on my car," it's becoming more and more apparent that this Hawk team—although it has moments (like John Hayden's shorthanded goal to open scoring last night)—also seems to be missing something. Or some "things."
Miserable power play. Anemic, no traffic in front of the net, minimal player movement, the puck circling the perimeter.
Horrible zone exits.
Careless with the puck, too many turnovers in bad areas.
The defensive pairings don't look right. Probably because there's too much reliance on inexperienced players. Just as Gustav Forsling starts to show a little consistency, Jan Rutta turns back into a pumpkin. And vice versa.
Skill forwards (particularly Nick Schmaltz and Alex DeBrincat) are being rendered ineffective, or less effective, because they are being targeted. I know some think that doesn't go on in the modern Gary Bettman NHL, where it's all speed and sizzle. It does. It is. And it affects the game.
Some scoffed when I shared a rumor this past summer that the Hawks were eyeing a move for one of the NHL's highest profile whipping boys—Evander Kane. Thing is, I trust the source who has provided solid information more times than I can count over the years, who also told me that the interest was at the behest of another wing named Kane (hint, he wears "88") who wanted a linemate who could play at his level offensively, and discourage miscreants like, say, Deryk Engelland, from trying to take his head off.
As we drink our morning coffee, after 10 games, the Hawks have 4 skaters with positive Corsi: Richard Panik, Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Schmaltz (who is probably still benefiting from the aberrant first two games of the season, where he was off the charts).
Duncan Keith is close at 49.6%, followed close behind by none other than Lance Bouma.
Looking at both Corsi and Fenwick, the third line of Patrick Sharp (who looks more and more like the 13th forward most of us thought he was), Artem Anisimov and DeBrincat are basically the worst on the team. In fairness, they are accompanied by Andrew Shaw 2.0, Ryan Hartman.
So, those seem to be the "problems." What are the possible solutions? Just my .02.
1) Don't panic, but don't bury your head in the sand either.
As the game by game evidence piles up, it's becoming more and more apparent this is a team with some flaws. Still, coaching and time can address some of them, heck, maybe all of them. But I wouldn't bet on that last part.
2) The Rockford Shuttle
In recent years, there wasn't much to rely on coming down I-90. This year's Ice Hog club is competitive and stocked with players who appear to have some NHL future.
That said, I'm not sure likely NHL bottom 6 guys like Alex Fortin or Laurent Dauphin are really the answer right now—the Hawk PK, while not great last night, has been pretty good all season thus far. The 4th line is pretty good in its role.
A guy I would look at giving a shot—perhaps even swapping him out for DeBrincat (there I said it)—is Matthew Highmore. Highmore is a kid I pointed out in the Hawks' first exhibition game as always being around the puck and creating havoc around the net. He's small but fast and plays big. And he produces.
3) Don't forget Kempny
I'm not completely sold on Forsling or even Jordan Oesterle right now. Forsling was way underwater yet again last night. Kempny isn't always pretty but he's athletic, plays heavy and can skate the puck out of trouble.
4) A bigger move
Is it another defenseman (maybe the long-missing power play QB) that's needed? A legit power winger to play with Schmaltz and Kane? Another center?
Yes, we can all point to no trade clauses and cap hits and cap space, but there are a lot of ways to skin a cat for any good GM.
That's all I have. The season is far from over and last night was just one game. But, and this is just my opinion, it's kind of silly to assume all the malaise we've seen in most of the Hawk effort of late is going to just disappear on its own.
Back with more as I hear it.