I’ll give you the normal intro to a wrap here, but it won’t be the normal wrap. And before I go any farther, I know there are some who think I’m always negative for the sake of it. That’s fine, I like to think I’m just realistic. And what I’m about to write I’ve only done so once in the seven years we’ve been doing this. It was also after a late-season loss at home to a Jackets team the Hawks had no business losing to. And they laughed that off and the prospect that they could miss the playoffs, except for Brian Campbell, until they did actually miss the playoffs in 2011 and had a Minnesota Wild team save them at the last possible moment. So don’t think I take it lightly.
The 2014-2015 Chicago Blackhawks are finished.
Let’s review. The Hawks were completely embarrassed at home by the Boston Bruins in February, and Joel Quenneville talked about hitting a “get attention” button. Since then, the Hawks have completely capitulated to Tampa, Dallas, Philadelphia, and arguably tonight. They tried to capitulate to the Oilers at home but Corey Crawford simply wouldn’t let them, and they figured while they were there they might as well pull it out.
That’s not all. Even though Patrick Kane got hurt, the management of this team went out and sent a message through their acquisitions that they still believed this team could go far enough for Kane to come back and the Hawks to take a serious run at another parade. They were all in on this season. And though it’s only my theory, the acquisition of Kimmo Timonen was something of a directive for the rest of the dressing room to cut out the happy horseshit that had been affecting it and focus on the task at hand. Here was a player who wanted one last run at a Cup after overcoming a life threatening condition. The management wanted the Hawks to respond to Timonen just as they had to Handzus and Rozsival in ’13 and Hossa in ’10. What does it look like to you?
On the front page of our gameday program the game after the Vermette and Timonen acquistions, I wrote that management had made it clear what they thought this team was capable of. If they didn’t snap into gear after that, we would know something is truly broken internally. I think we know now.
It usually felt like when the Hawks fell behind, even this year, there was at least a roar to come back even if it fell short. Did it feel like there was a roar tonight? There certainly wasn’t against Tampa, Dallas and Philadelphia. Maybe you could argue there was tonight, but it’s not like we saw earlier in the year.
Most worrying, it’s the players the Hawks count on making all the mistakes. Marcus Kruger knows better than to put a risky saucer pass at Keith’s feet at the blue line, just like Marian Hossa knows better than trying to dangle two guys at his own line on Wednesday. Keith knows better than trying to fling a puck to any open space he can find as he did leading to the 2nd and 3rd Jackets’ goals tonight. But it keeps happening. The Hawks know what the issues are, but they keep happening. Toews may have scored tonight, but there’s a reason he can’t complete half his passes.
Fatigue? I’m sorry, I just don’t buy it. The Kings have played just as much hockey as the Hawks, and they’re just rounding into form now. If you want to use that as proof that management doesn’t know how to pace a regular season, that’s a discussion I will have.
Quite simply, the Hawks look like a team that doesn’t want to play for each other, and can’t wait for the season to end. They had an eight-game homestand, of a length never heard of, to get back into the division race. They borked it. Even after that, they had a chance. After shutting out the Rangers in MSG, the Hawks sat two points behind the Predators with two games in hand. It was all right there for them. Since, they spit up to the Stars, tried to against the Canes, did against the Flyers, and did again tonight. Does that sound like a team that’s ready for the fight come April 15th?
Cite Kane’s injury all you want, there’s still too much talent here to look this nonchalant and disinterested. They should have pulled out some if not all of these games.
And you know what? They could slip right out of the playoffs now. The Wild are only one point behind. The Jets only four, and the Hawks go there next. Do they seem like a team that’s ready to respond to that challenge? It’s the Kings, Canucks, a gimme against the Sabres, Blues, Wild, Blues, Avalanche after that. Is a 2-6 record through that so unthinkable? In this condition?
It would take that for the serious questions to get answered, maybe. There are serious questions about the locker room right now, and what management knew about it and what they did about it. I’m honestly shocked that I’m questioning this team’s heart right now, because this is basically the same team that laughed at playoff deficits the past two years. Right now, this looks like a team that will use a 1-0 or 2-0 deficit in the 1st round to pack it up. If they even get there.
What about the last month, the last two, the last three, do we have to think anything’s different? The coach has pushed what he thinks is his biggest button. So did management. And what they got was a team that let in four goals to the Jackets in 20 minutes.
I fully realize this could all come to bite me in the ass soon. If it does, I’ll happily accept it because that means things are going really well. But I don’t see it. Do you?