What This Team Isn’t and What They Need To Be
None of us are surprised anymore with the type of weekend the Blackhawks just had. A comeback win vs. the Kings on Saturday showed that they had a little fight in them, only to be followed up by a poor performance vs. the Ducks yesterday. Their inconsistency has become… wait for it Q… “predictable”.
It’s refreshing to hear from the talking heads that this is not acceptable for this organization. It gives me hope that things will get better and the expectations of winning is still very much there from the top down.
Adam Burish, Jamal Mayers, Steve Konroyd and Pat Boyle were not holding anything back during intermissions yesterday, which included a “locker room issue” line by former-Hawk, Burish.
Now, I’m not going to get into what’s going on off the ice because I haven’t heard anything specific, although it’s fairly evident that something is not right.
What I want to do today is look at the current on-ice product.
Here’s what this team isn’t:
Tough – I’m not talking about smashing-guys-through-the-boards toughness that this team is lacking, but they are in serious need of physical and mental pushback.
Bowman wanted this team to be “tougher to play against” which, to me, meant a little more aggressiveness on the body and a lot more on the forecheck.
The Hawks had a different look earlier in the season with the BANGER line of Bouma-Wingels-Hayden. As you know, 2 of those guys are now in Rockford and 1 has been traded.
So, why the change of heart, Stan? Those guys were effective in their roles and it wasn’t their fault that the team was mediocre.
I think you see Hayden back in a full-time role next year, as well as the possibility of Wingels coming back. I think that’s a good start, but adding skaters with quickness, smarts and a gritty side (like Wingels provided) is needed (again) in the off-season.
This team is 29th in the NHL in hits. I know, I know, that’s never been their M.O., but keep in mind it was also because “we always have the puck so we don’t need to hit”. Well, they don’t always have the puck anymore.
Also, I would love to see the addition of a couple veteran defencemen that will jump in front of a puck and block some shots. The Hawks sit 24th in the league in this category and give up the 13th most amount of shots per game, so sometimes it’s not always the goalies fault if you know what I mean.
This toughness needs to be improved on mental side as well. The Hawks are not a confident team right now (duh!), but they need to regain that competitive strength that fueled them for years. With Toews, Kane, Seabrook and Keith still here, they need to be championing this day #1 of training camp.
“This group doesn’t give up. The belief in this room is unbelievable” <- does this sound familiar? Well, this is what newcomers used to say about the Hawks and their leadership. Now, that’s Ryan Hartman speaking about his 1st impression of his new team, the Predators.
Good Defensively – this Hawks team hasn’t been good defensively for a couple years now and I think a lot of it has to do with the system they play. They could get away with playing a high-tempo, run-and-gun style for years because they had the horses to do so. Now, they need to adjust and play smarter.
I’m not suggesting that they poach Guy Boucher and roll a 1-3-1 style out there. However, they need to re-evaluate the skillset of this team now and this team moving forward.
However, as mentioned above, the Hawks need to improve the tire-fire of a defence and put guys in a position to succeed.
Being realistic with who the Hawks own, as well as contract status, I would bring back Keith, Seabrook, Murphy, Forsling. Then trade for/sign a couple mobile and strong defensive-minded defenders to round out the top 6. Then you have Oesterle, Rutta and whatever spare parts kicking around fighting for the 7th spot.
This isn’t all on the defence though, the forwards have a big responsibility in this. The good news is the younger guys are looking really strong on both ends of the ice; guys like Schmaltz, Debrincat, Kampf, Hinostroza have the ability to elevate their overall game even more and could really thrive in an improve system.
Deep – looking at this roster today, it’s scary when you try to compare it to a contender like Tampa Bay. Good news is on the way though in the form of newly acquired picks (long-term plan) and cap space this summer (short-term).
FINALLY, the Hawks have a little room to add this summer and they need to do so wisely. They need to improve their depth in almost ever position, and I would start on defence. I know I sound like a broken record here and maybe I still have visions of Jordan Oesterle or Carl Dahlstrom out there yesterday looking like they belong in a summer rec skate with their friends, but they really need to upgrade here. I believe the younger guys upfront can keep them afloat (heck, look no further than that tic-tac-toe goal finished by Schmaltz yesterday).
With that being said, I don’t think going out and drop $5M/year each on Ian Cole and Calvin De Haan is the wisest move, but there is a strategic way to go about this.
I guess the question is if it will be Stan and Joel leading the charge back to success?
The Hawks take on the Avalanche tomorrow night. I’ll be back with more tomorrow on that.
See ya out there!