The month of March and the Blackhawks go together like me and shaving. They’ve been losing and playing terribly against the kinds of teams they’re going to have to beat, eventually. They aren’t even fun to watch, at least ever since Patrick Kane stopped scoring at a ludicrous pace. The final straw was when team MVP (non-Kane division) Corey Crawford went down with a mysterious upper body injury.
We don’t know that he got hurt in a mosh pit after seventeen Bud Lights but he’s been out for long enough that people should no longer consider Scott Darling a viable starting goalie in this league.
That said, there are legitimate reasons to be concerned. Most of us have been guilty of the “they do this every March” trope and it’s lazy. I admit I’ve done it. It’s no longer a cute little joke.
Adam Gretz from CBS Sports wrote a nice story on why the Hawks should be concerned about how they’re playing, not just the poor results. He’s right. Even before Crawford went down there seems to be a noticeable difference in this year’s team. The numbers show it. The eyes see it. It’s bad.
Whether it has to do with Marian Hossa and Brent Seabrook looking every bit their age and in the latter’s instance, his weight or teams bearing down on Kane’s line because Jonathan Toews just isn’t having his usual effect on games this season – or all those things combined remains to be seen.
It’s been said that Marcus Kruger’s imminent return will help shore things up. It’s going to take a lot more than that. The hope is that the rest of the roster figures some of those things out right now. The only similarities between this year and last is they had a chance to win the division outright and didn’t just fall asleep at the wheel but actively steered the family station wagon into a ravine. Now they’re playing to avoid a wild card spot.
The only clue that something is just plain rotten in Denmark is the dispersion of minutes among defensemen, like Trevor van Riemsdyk’s 28 minute outing against Minnesota. I’ve also seen a lot of people saying Christian Ehrhoff is better than at least two of the guys they dress on any given night and yet he’s been a late, cheap signing and waived and traded for Rob Scuderi. So how is it that we’re so sure he’s good when most NHL teams don’t agree?
That doesn’t even begin to dig into the rest of the team. The forward group is nowhere near settled with nightly line changes and bottom six shuffling. Dale Weise has barely made any impact at all since arriving from Montreal. Andrew Ladd is a lot older and less assertive than he was last time he was here.
Frankly, I’m not the only person who thought Weise would be the best part of that trade with Montreal. Thankfully there’s still time and we all remember how Joel Quenneville treated Antoine Vermette when he first arrived followed by Vermette’s sweet playoff redemption.
Still, as many times as we’ve felt like the Hawks have pissed and crapped themselves down the stretch like a Leafs fan after any transaction, they’ve proven us wrong weeks later.
Sure they look horrible *now* but they’ll be fine isn’t really analysis. That’s just being a fan. Every bit of evidence including the terrifying lack of depth on the blueline says this time they’re probably not going to just on-switch their way out of it.
I hope I’m wrong.