Let’s take a departure from the normal wrap here. Because you know what all the bullets would be. We could point out who was a killer in Corsi, but that wouldn’t really matter. There are nights when that doesn’t tell the story, and this is one of them. We could reduce it to Fenwick, but that would still be along the same line. We know the drill here.
I don’t really get the impression that most Hawks fans are losing their minds. Yeah, losing three of four sucks. Getting shutout in consecutive games at home isn’t much better. Constantly struggling to score? Right in the pocket there. Why is this happening? And what really matters about it?
That can be tough to suss out. You’ll hear a lot of theories. All of them could be partially true. But at the root of this, the Hawks passing and breakouts are just awful right now. While she hasn’t compiled all the numbers yet, Jen has referenced on Twitter how the Hawks zone exits have been truly sloppy recently, and basically for most of the season. And they have been. Some of it is having two forwards waiting at the other blue line for reasons we still don’t know. Some of it is just passing gone awry. But how many times have you seen a pass just miss a teammate or needing to be received off the boards instead of directly? Or just mishandled until the opponent is upon them?
We complained constantly last year about the Hawks’ breakouts. Having one forward come back to his d-men with the other two simply sitting on a park bench eying pretty girls with bad intents at the other blue line has many bad consequences. One, it doesn’t leave the d-men a lot of options. So when the other team closes off the one forward coming back, you get kind of a hope pass through the neutral zone that has barely any hope of finding a fellow Hawks’ tape. That doesn’t keep possession. Two, even if the Hawks do find a teammate coming out of their own zone, it leaves someone having to weave through the neutral zone on their own without any passing options. And if they manage to do that, they’re either carrying it in or dumping it in while they’re the only one moving. The other two forwards are standing still. You want to know why the Hawks get jammed up on the wall in the offensive zone so much lately? There you go. It’s easy for the other team to keep them up against the boards when they can’t hit the line with speed.
It’s not that simple, of course. The Hawks passing sucks partly because they have a new linemate every shift. Chemistry on the ice is a thing. Does it explain it all away? No. It’s only a part of it. Maybe a small part. But we can’t ignore it.
And some of this is probably that it’s the first week of November, and the a lot of the Hawks might not give a shit. Or a total shit. And why should they? They’ve already proven they don’t need to win the division in the regular season to get out of it in the spring. The Kings have proven you don’t need to do that to get out of the conference altogether.
Some of it is that their confidence has been humped into submission. Brandon Saad doesn’t know what to do. What was his crime, exactly? Bryan Bickell can barely get on the ice. Brad Richards must be so confused, signing here, having his first child, missing some practice time, and watching his role and linemates bounced every five minutes. Don’t need to get started on Morin, do I?
How much matters? Really, only the workload that Toews, Sharp, Kane, Keith, and Seabrook are being asked to carry. But let me defend Q here a bit. It’s easy to call him “Joel Thibodeau.” I do it because I enjoy it. But the usual pattern for the Hawks under Q is for them to blitz the first three months, and then the gas comes off a bit in February and March. Establish position in the conference or division, and then kind of stay there. I’ll go into this more tomorrow.
The problem is that when the Hawks don’t get out in front in the season’s opening throes, the pedal gets pushed down even more. And that’s what worries you about what might come in April and May, whether anyone is going to have legs left. We saw it back in ’10-’11, though with a much more deficient roster.
Anyway, things will look better when the Hawks tighten their game. When that’s coming, I can’t tell you. But it certainly doesn’t have to be now, as much as you might not enjoy watching it.