RECORDS: Hawks 24-23-8 Coyotes 13-32-10
PUCK DROP: 8pm
TV: NBCSN Chicago
BY THE TIME THEY GOT TO ARIZONA: Five For Howling
It’s been a long time since the Hawks played a game totally in the dark, or one you’d definitely file under “scalper’s night off.” This will harken back to the long-forgotten Bad Old Days, with two last place teams duking it out in front of a probably half-full and indifferent arena. It might feel oddly familiar to you. You may think that you remember such times and that you may have even been at a few of these. Yes, you were. A decade can feel like a long time, but that’s all it was. You may wonder why you’re even bothering now, and then you’ll recall you wondered why you even bothered then. And here we are. Life is nothing but a cycle.
At least the Coyotes will be playing the role of “it could always be worse.” They’re in year 38 of their rebuild, or at least it seems that way. It was six years ago that the Coyotes Mike Smith’d their way to a conference final, and you probably haven’t thought about them since. Neither have they, at least that’s how it looks.
What must be so frustrating for Coyotes fans is that if the Yotes have a plan, it still looks to be in stage one. And they’ve been there for a few years now. And it doesn’t show great potential to get out of there soon. Before the year, the hope must’ve been to see what Domi, Keller, Duclair, Dvorak, and soon the call-up of Chychrun on the back end would portend to the future. Well, Duclair is here now, Domi is apparently on the trade block with his three goals, Dvorak has flattened out, and Keller and Chychrun do look like the real deal but they need a ton of help. Christian Fischer looks like he might be something, but Brendan Perlini and Tobias Rieder haven’t taken the next step. So as of right now, the Yotes might have two tothree pieces to build around. After six years of sucking. That’s not how this works, that’s not how any of this works.
A huge part of the problem, other than lack of talent, is that Rick Tocchet might not have any idea what he’s doing. Really the only claim he has in his coaching career, other than being his own sportsbook, is that he was a step up from Barry Melrose in Tampa Bay. Which is saying just about the bare minimum about anyone. He was quickly dumped there for Guy Boucher, which tells you all you need to know. It’s not clear that Tocchet has a defined system that he wants these guys playing, or that he has a deft hand at improving young players. Which should be the main goal right now of any Coyotes coach. Considering the players that have looked to stall out…
Usually when a team sucks you can point to goaltending, but Antti Raanta has been fine. Not great, but fine, though he’s missed some time with injury. Since Hjalmarsson and Demers returned from injury, the Yotes even have a decent top four with Chychrun and OEL. They just have nothing up front. It’s not a surprise they’re last in the league in goals. And even with that top four and Raanta they’re second-worst in goals against. They deserve to be adrift at the foot of the standings.
All of this lines them up for Rasmus Dahlin of course, which would lead young hot thing John Chayka some decisions to make. One of those could be made for him if Ekman-Larsson decides he deserves better. There would be markets for both Demers and Hjalmarsson, though someone has to remain behind to babysit Dahlin and Chychrun, should the former arrive. Or he Yotes could try and find a #1 center which quite frankly they’ve never had since Keith Tkachuk couldn’t put down the fork. But years of high picks have got them… this. See, it could be worse.
As for the Hawks… well, I’m not sure anyone cares anymore. Anton Forsberg should regain the net, Corey Crawford is at least with the team but one wonders if it’s even worth bringing him back now. We’ll find out a lot about the Hawks and how they think if he plays again this season or not. Carl Dahlstrom will remain in to do whatever it is he does. He’ll be in for either Kempny or Murphy, which will suck because at this point I don’t see why Jordan Oesterle can’t park himself in the pressbox for a night. Oh right, he needs to QB a critical 5-on-3. Head meet oven.
At this point it should be about professional pride for the Hawks. Yes, things are bad. Yes, the season is almost certainly lost. But if you go into Arizona and spit it, that means you don’t care and everyone is thinking about golf times already. Wouldn’t say much for the leadership of this team. So let’s not do that. And don’t give me the whole “draft position!” spiel. The Hawks aren’t going to be bad enough to get into the bottom five on record and if the NHL is going to rig the bouncing balls to get the #1 pick to the Hawks they can do that from anywhere.
Boy these last two months are going to be fun.
Game $56 Preview