Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

They got farther than they should have. Some of the kids showed flashes of brilliance. Others looked everything from odious to unusable. We got a couple more classic games from one of our favorite guys. And all the while a coach. My oh my, a coach.

Jeremy Colliton is so revolutionary and paradigm shifting that even the things he does right he does wrong. Waiting until Game 5 of a Quarterfinal you didn’t belong in to scratch Alex Nylander had all urgency and foresight of cleaning out a toilet full of shit only after you’ve begun suffering from ambient sepsis. But given how exceedingly low he has set the bar for himself, that he scratched him at all is praiseworthy.

But then, he didn’t stop at dressing John Quenneville, oh no. He started him on the first line with Toews and Kubalik in an elimination game. Yeah, alright, make your point, whatever it is. But then he kept putting Quenneville out there. On purpose. In an elimination game. That line ended up with a 30 CF%. And a goal against. And Jeremy Colliton kept running it out there. On purpose. In an elimination game.

Fucking check THIS shit out. At the end of the second period, Brandon Saad shared the ice with Jonathan Toews for 16 seconds. In that time, they had a 3 CF, 0 CA, and a goal. In seven seconds—7 fucking seconds, dear reader—with Dominik Kubalik, they had a 2 CF, 0 CA, and a goal.

In what incomprehensible galaxy is it acceptable to skate John Quenneville over Brandon Saad on the first line? In an elimination game. If the very point of this experience was to get younger guys playoff experience, how does skating John Quenneville over Sikura, Hagel, Kurashev, or even Mackenzie THE OX Entwistle accomplish this? Please note that I cannot possibly care fucking less that John Quenneville is 24. He is a nice fourth liner if you are being generous. Fuck, Sikura can at least possess the puck at a better than 30+% rate. What has Sikura done to deserve such a ratfucking?

They aren’t going to fire Jeremy Colliton, but they should. He’s not the coach this team needs, and given their overall performance this year, he’s not the coach this team wants, either.

– The Saad–Strome–DeBrincat line was strong tonight. They dominated possession to the tune of a 61+ CF%. They also played the least of any of the four lines. Goddamn it, can’t you just feel the MINDBRAINS pulsing through your fucking skull? In an elimination game. This fuckin guy.

– We will miss Corey Crawford most of all. We will have tons to say, and it’ll all be a roundabout way of getting at thank you. If this was it, it was a wonderful ride.

– Watching Connor Murphy pull off a spin-o-rama and have an all-around good game was nice. Probably worth more to me than Alexis Lafreniere.

Kirby Dach said hello several times these playoffs. We like what we saw all year. Could stand to shoot more. But we’ll have thoughts on that later.

Adam Boqvist was bad these playoffs. Yeah, he’s barely 20, coached by some guy, and had no reliable backstop to build his puck moving around. And yeah, he went up against an overpowering Vegas team right after two of hockey’s best forwards. But even so, he was totally helpless on defense. Overpowered, outskated, and constantly out of position. You bet your ass we’re putting a lot of that on the clown’s funeral that is this coaching staff. But you get a sense that Boqvist was fundamentally lost out there these playoffs. We didn’t even get a flash of offensive prowess worth writing about. This is our concern dude.

The Hawks would be foolish to give up on him. Still too young, still needs to grow, and any number of excuses. They traded Henri Jokiharju in part because of how much they believed in him. To give up now would be absurd, albeit in Boqvist’s best interest. And yet, you worry.

I think that’s enough of that for now.

Thank you for reading and sticking with us in these unprecedented times. It was fun to have a taste of meaningful hockey, if only for a few weeks and entirely undeserved. We’ll keep doing this shit as long as you all keep reading it, because you’re all alright as a lot.

We’ll probably have some podcasts coming up. Hockey might take a little time off, but we’ll get you your player and coaching reviews. We may have a stray thought or two about the goings on in the bubble. Follow our Sox stuff and our football stuff. And we’ll always be at the forefront of arriving late, drinking all the wine, and throwing up in the misused bidet that is Blackhawks breaking news.

Until then, stay safe and do what you can.

Coranon silaria ozoo mahoke.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

I don’t mean to be too defeatist, nor to absolutist, but if the Hawks are to have any shot at winning this series, they need to win games like tonight. We’ll dig into the details shortly, but the TL;DR of it to lead with here is that if you’re going to let a team like Vegas control the play for most the play over three periods and still be opportunistic enough to take them OT, you have to cash in and win the game. That is easier said than done, obviously, but I think if things are to go the same way from a possession/shot-share standpoint in more games moving forward, the Hawks won’t be in them like they were in this one. Let’s dig in:

THE BULLETS

– So yeah, it’s probably not a good idea to let your opponent control 71.43% of the shot attempts in the third period of a tie game. Unfortunately that is what CCYP’s team did. The especially discouraging aspect of that number is that it came right after a second period that the Hawks controlled for the most part, with a 57.58% CF themselves, and three goals in that frame to show for it. So to come out of a period like that and turn in the effort they did in the third period and then the OT (more in a moment) is not exactly inspiring. Then again, when your coach is about as intelligent and inspiring as a dead tree, it is probably hard to find inspiration.

– More of the same in the OT – Vegas had an impressive 64.71% CF in the extra frame, thought a good chunk of that might be buoyed by the flurry they had at the end just before scoring the winning goal. The Hawks did have some decent chances in the frame, so I am not going to act like that Corsi number is especially damning, but it is further evidence of my original point that Colliton is not getting this team ready to A) show up when they need to, nor B) build off any positive momentum they may create in spite of him.

– I am in love with Kirby Dach. Never been so happy to eat my words on a draft pick in my life. His goal today was nothing special, but it was the direct result of making the smart play and being in the right spot, which is a strong foundation for a young player with his skill to build on. On top of that, the kid is so good in transition to the point that he could be lethal there, and soon. Unfortunately, Dach’s learning curve in these playoffs and flashy moments didn’t do enough to save him from getting absolutely shelled in shot attempts (33.33 CF%). It be that way sometime.

– Scratching Adam Boqvist against a team that moves the puck and skates so much faster than you is a move so smooth brained and stupid that I am simply too intelligent to even consider how Coach Bowling Ball Brain came up with it. I am not going to act like Boqvist has been some type of world beater in this postseason, but he hasn’t been downright awful either, in my opinion. And the main silver lining to the Hawks being in this series, which everyone and their mother knows is not going to last more than 5 games, is to get players like Boqvist meaningful experience playing meaningful games. Colliton scratched him but kept Olli Maatta in the lineup. I just…. I actually cannot think of a worthy justification for such a thing.

– I know it’s an easy and defensible card to pull, but it’s still incredible that the only ace up Colliton’s sleeve now two years into the job is to just throw Kane onto the ice as much as physically possible. So the summation of these last two points comes to this – Hey Jeremy, maybe try switching up some tactics. Or maybe just do the honorable thing by hopping on the next plane out of Edmonton and resigning.

– Next game is Saturday. Until then.

– One more time: Fire Jeremy Colliton.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Absolutely fucking terrible. Until the last 10 minutes of this game, the Hawks were out-possessed and outclassed by the worst NHL team of the 21st century in the middle of a run that they’re calling a playoff push. A completely botched circumcision of an effort.

– The big story of the night is Adam Boqvist’s scratch. He was having trouble with his right wrist, which forced Dennis fucking Gilbert into the lineup to expected results. It’s the right call to play it safe with him, although based on the pre-game skate it looked like Boqvist had to take himself out rather than his absolute embarrassment of a coach doing it for him.

If you’re an optimist, you look at Boqvist’s absence and the fact that the Hawks had no drive whatsoever without him as portending to a good future for the kid. If you’re a pessimist, you look at Boqvist’s absence and the fact that the Hawks had no drive whatsoever without a 19-year-old defenseman who’s actively being bridled by his complete fraud of a coach as comprehensive proof that this fucking coach and this fucking front office have absolutely no fucking idea what the fuck they’re doing. Take a wild fucking guess where we land.

– You can talk about how the Hawks beat the Lightning and Oilers recently and use that as proof that this is a team THAT DOESN’T QUIT and HAS A LOT OF MOXIE, which is exactly what Coach Nerdlinger wants you to think. You can also eat the shit end of my ass with that horseshit. Beating playoff-entrenched teams at the end of February, when they have no reason to give a full effort, is smoke and mirrors. Beating the Panthers and Ducks should be a fucking given. But losing to literally the worst NHL team of the 21st century in an absolute must-have game is inexcusable for a team with so-called playoff aspirations.

Slater Koekkoek, Nick Seeler, and Dennis Gilbert all played real, meaningful minutes tonight. If we weren’t 100% convinced that Colliton and Bowman are pants-shitting morons in terms of blue line signings and favoritism already, tonight would hammer that nail into each and every one of our skulls. Fuck your injuries and excuses. This is unacceptable at a professional level.

On Detroit’s first goal—and please remember that going into this game the Wings had a -121 goal differential as a team—we got to see Slater Koekkoek show us why Jeremy Colliton should not be coaching a fucking professional hockey team. He did that thing that Colliton tells them to do and went onto the far boards to cover Trevor Daley. Yes, THAT Trevor Daley. You know, the one who if you give him enough room and time will fuck up on his own because he fucking sucks? Koekkoek’s by-design coverage led to a wide-open Tyler Bertuzzi in the slot, with Olli Maatta screening Crawford just cuz. Outstanding. Playoff caliber.

On the second goal, Dennis Gilbert did Dennis Gilbert things, such as picking his ass in the crease and wondering which mix of rocks he’d have for dinner on his bus ride back to Rockford, God willing. By the time he had all the synapses firing to lay out on the ice, Fabbry Robbi or Robby Fabbri had picked his spot and potted his shot. But boy was Eddie quick to blame Crawford, because of fucking course he was.

And though Nick Seeler wasn’t directly responsible for any goals, when your presence makes the question “Is Dennis Gilbert not the worst defenseman on the ice?” one worth asking, well.

– Everyone on the broadcast made sure that you knew that the Hawks got in late last night and that the scheduling was rough and that the Hawks really had something to overcome. Fuck you. Jonathan Bernier had a .906 SV% going into this game. Detroit has allowed the most goals of all teams, with the next closest, Ottawa, allowing 26 fewer goals on the year. And again, -121 goal differential going into tonight. Playoff teams do not lose games to teams like this, especially not when it matters as much as it did tonight.

Connor Murphy did not have a good game. Two penalties, one of which turned into a PK goal against. But babysitting Nick Seeler might do that to you.

– And as much as we love Murphy, we absolutely do not need to see him on the ice in a 6-on-5 situation at the end of a game with the goalie pulled. As if we needed even more evidence that Jeremy Colliton should be fucking up someone’s taxes on purpose and getting rewarded by his boss for “accessing a new revenue stream” instead of doing whatever it is he calls what he’s doing behind the bench, not having Dominik Kubalik, who you may know as the Blackhawks’s top goal scorer along with Kane going into this game, on the ice in a situation where you need a motherfucking goal might be the dumbest fucking thing anyone has done since Stan Bowman hired Jeremy Colliton to coach this team.

The 2019–20 Detroit Red Wings will go down as the worst team of the 21st century thus far. And the Hawks—in the midst of a playoff run they’re just prematurely ejaculating over to tell you about—lost to them in a must-win game. It always sucked losing to them when they were the better team. But this?

Fucking pathetic.

Until Sunday.

Beer du Jour: Evan Williams and Miller High Life

Line of the Night: “Force Detroit to come out of their comfort zone.” –Eddie O describing how the Hawks could overcome the worst statistical team in almost every single category in hockey.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

It got a little more itchy than it needed to, but the Hawks were ultimately able to hang onto what was a comfortable lead tonight against the Oilers, and grab their fourth win a row to keep their minuscule-but-still-existent playoff chances alive. Let’s discuss:

ADAM BOQVIST AND KIRBY DACH ARE GOOD

– The first period was an encouraging and entertaining frame, as the Hawks did a nice job trading possession and chances with the Oilers, and ultimately netting the first goal of the game. While I loathe agreeing with anything Pat Foley ever has to say at this point, he was correct in pointing out after that period that the shot total from the two teams was a lot lower than it felt it should have been. But with that said, the Hawks were able to escape with a lead after a beautiful play by Dylan Strome set up Patrick Kane for a great scoring chance that he converted after showing some nice patience.

– The second period was all Blackhawks, as they notched a 76.67 (!!!) CF% in the middle frame and out-chanced the Oilers 12-4. It all started right away when Drake Caggiula went into full on hustle-play mode to win a rush and gain possession before a little kerfuffle in front of the net led to a Jonathan Toews wraparound chance that went in off a skate. Later on, Alex DeBrincat was able to cash in on two excellent chances with a little help from Caggiula parking his husky ass in front of Mike Smith, who was promptly pulled from the game after DeBrincat’s second and the Hawks fourth, only to throw a huge pissbaby tantrum while his paraded down the tunnel. In other news, I will be uploading the video of that tantrum to every adult video site known to man for your pleasure. I am a man of the people, after all.

– Let’s talk a bit about DeBrincat’s two goals, as I don’t have much to say about it but do want to touch on it specifically. Mostly I just want to say, damn it felt good to see the man get a pair tonight. It’s been a rough season for Top Cat due to getting hockey BABIP’d to high hell all year, but having those two go in had to feel good for the kid. If the Hawks do have any chance of going on a miracle run and making the playoffs, he is gonna have to get off his shnide a bit, so hopefully this was just the start to that.

– Staying with Top Cat but for a different reason, I cannot figure out for the life of me why he is still standing in front of the net on the PP1 unit. There is no way that is effective in the way it is intended to be, if Coach Smooth Brain is hoping that a few pucks bouncing off his legs and into the net are going to unlock his scoring touch, well that just confirms that his brain is smooth like a half melted piece of ice.

However, I have done Colliton’s job for him (someone has to) and developed a solution to this that is quite simple – swap Top Cat and Kirby Dach‘s respective roles on the PP1 and PP2 units. Put Dach on PP1 with Kane, Toews, Kubbly, and Keith, and let him park his big ass in front of the net where his size is actually useful but he still has the skill to actually make something of it. Then put DeBrincat on PP2 with Saad, Strome, Boqvist and whoever else, and let him work a half wall where is actually a legitimate threat with his quick release. Yes, I know this is too logical for Coach Gemstone, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t brilliant. You know it is.

– Overall, despite the itchiness of the third period, this was an encouraging performance from the Hawks against a team that is more than likely to be in the playoffs. Now all they have to do is string 10-12 more performances like this over their final 15 games. Easy enough, right?

– Hawks go next tomorrow night in Detroit, which should be a layup win. In some ways, that could be the real litmus test here – if they lose that one, you know they’re pretenders and should just pack it in for the draft pick. But winning, while it should be expected, would still mean they can be in because they are at least completing the bare minimum task of actually beating the teams they should. Until then.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

I have to admit that my expectations for this one were not high. Given the Hawks recent string of play, the fact that the Lightning are a far superior squad, and that they badly needed to get a win at home, I felt that this one could get ugly. In the second period, I thought I was being proven right, and then the final frame happened. I am happily surprised to be wrong. Let’s dig in:

IF KUBALIK LOSES THE CALDER WE RIOT

– Let’s start with our header, as Dominik Kubalik really spearheaded the offensive attack for the Hawks, outscoring the Bolts all on his own in the third period (okay, one was an empty netter but it counts all the same). Given the scouting reports about him and the Hawks’ success in finding some hidden gems in Europe over the years, there was little doubt that Kubalik was going to be a good NHL player, but I don’t think even the most optimistic Hawks fan expected this kind of season from him. He’s been riding a hot steak for damn near two months now with 18 goals in his last 22 games, and with his first career hat trick tonight he now sits just one goal shy of 30 for the year. With 18 games still to go and the hot hand he’s riding, he has a real nice chance at 35 goals and an outside chance at 40. Especially given how snake bitten Top Cat has been this year, that is very welcome.

– The real MVP of this one was probably Corey Crawford, though. Really, that shouldn’t surprise you anymore, but it’s true nonetheless. Crawford was great in the first period, as the game saw a lot of back and forth action and Crow went blow for blow on impressive saves with Curtis McElhinney. The second period was all Tampa, though, and Crow really stood on his head to keep the Hawks in it. Eventually the Hawks allowed a goal, but it took a nice play on a cycle by Brayden Point and a hell of a shot to beat Crow and give the Lightning the lead. On the second Bolts goal there was literally nothing Crawford could do to stop it, and we will get to that shortly. Overall, another great performance from Crow in a career and season full of them.

– As much as I admittedly dislike Jeremy Colliton and have fun making fun of the smoothness of his brain, I have to give credit where it is due – he made some nice adjustments on the power play tonight when it came to the strategy of the first unit. Early in the game it was evident that Tampa was going to pressure the absolute shit out of Patrick Kane every time he touched the puck on the PP, which Olzcyk called out on the broadcast. As the game went on, you could see the Hawks adjusting to try and use that aggressiveness to their advantage, and eventually they were able to do so – on Kubalik’s second goal, go back and watch the way Tampa defended it. The Hawks put Keith right in the middle of the ice on the umbrella with Kane on his left and Kubalik to the right. Tampa was so unwilling to leave Kane along, even on his weak side, that they left the forward on that side down low so he could pressure Kane if the puck went to him, forcing the other forward to skate way out of position to pressure Keith at the point. Duncs just went right back to Kubalik, who had a wide open shooting lane with that forward out of position, and with his shot that is a gift he made the most of.

– This next part is another comment on a PP adjustment by Colliton, but you can choose how you want to read it, and you’ll get what I mean in a moment. I don’t know the exact numbers here and am too lazy to go dig it up right now, but the Hawks second PP unit got a bit more ice time tonight, and that was the unit that actually ended up scoring the Hawks first goal to get them on the board tonight. Now, you can take that as an adjustment by Colliton to get another unit of good scorers like Boqvist, Saad, and Strome on the ice and being willing to give them more opportunity after seeing that it is working. Or you can wonder why it took him so damn long to actually start doing that more consistently, and the answer to that would be that his brain is smoother than a fresh paint job. I mean, even with the small amount of credit I’ll give him for utilizing PP2 more often, he also is putting Olli Maatta out there with that unit….

– Speaking of which, that guy fucking sucks. Remember that second Lightning goal I talked about that wasn’t Crawford’s fault? Yeah, that’s cuz it was Maatta’s. The only reason the Bolts even scored that goal is because Maatta received a pass from Crawford terribly and lost the puck, made no legitimate effort to find the puck and instead tried to body Nikita Kucherov away while standing flat footed which resulted in Kucherov winning the puck (shocker), and then Maatta just completely failed to follow him and lost track of him altogether, leaving him all alone deep in the zone for Point to find with a nice pass that Kucherov had all day to put into a wide open net, cuz Crawford never even had a chance to react to all of this because it happened so quickly. Get that guy the fuck out of here, and send Slater Koekkoek along with him.

– But I won’t do anymore negative. This was a good win, good enough to restore a small amount of faith in this group, even if I still don’t think they have any chance of making the playoffs and even if I think that losing more games than they win is the more favorable result for this team moving forward. You’re probably sick of me lobbying for tanking by now, huh?

– Hawks go next on Saturday, as they’ll head down to Miami to take on Coach Q and the Panthers. Until then.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

If the remaining 19 games go like this, we can be satisfied. It had all the intensity and anxiety of the conversation you have waiting for the results of a pregnancy test with the ugly but interesting one-night stand whose child you don’t want to birth. It put on full display the potential of the young ones, the awfulness of the old ones brought in, and the never-ending struggle that is being Corey Crawford. It was terrible and beautiful, much like the Gateway to Anywhere Else on the Mississippi, respectively. Let’s dredge it.

– If the Hawks are going to win one more Cup with this Core, Kirby Dach is going to play an outsized role in it. He made three plays in particular that should inspire some confidence in the future of the forward corps.

The most obvious was his patience on the far boards to set up the Hawks’s third power play goal of the game. He took his time scanning his options, then opted for Strome behind the net. Strome took two seconds before firing a perfect pass to Saad in front to give the Hawks their last lead of the game. We continue to be overwhelmed by his vision and passing skills.

Maybe the most inspiring play Dach started was one that didn’t show on the score sheet. After an extended shift, he gathered the puck in his own zone on the far boards and delivered a crisp cross-ice pass to Boqvist. The pass was so good that Boqvist had time to make a stretch pass to a streaking DeBrincat, who janked a pass to Strome. Strome gloved it down and had an A+ chance that he couldn’t convert. And though Strome should be playing center, the idea of a Dach–Boqvist–DeBrincat–Strome connection should make the vas deferens tingle in all of us.

The thing that will determine whether Dach is very good or elite will be whether he can find his finish close in. Yet again, he dropped his shoulder to plow past a defender, but couldn’t finish in front. Still, lots to be excited about from the guy they took instead of Bowan Byram.

– To prove that irony isn’t dead, the power play scored three times, and each of Keith and Murphy scored a goal in the first game after they traded Gustafsson. The beautiful game.

– Though the box score will be all the fodder those dumbass build-the-wall motherfuckers need to open their wrists about the Lehner trade, without Crawford, the Blues score 10 easily. On top of keeping his team in the game after they were wildly outclassed in every way, Crow bounced back from an Alex Steen shoulder skullfuck that went uncalled. Nothing can be easy with the calmest man on skates. The only reason Corey Crawford shouldn’t retire as a Blackhawk is if he tells the organ-I-zation to eat all of his shit at the end of this year.

– Speaking of eating shit, Olli Maatta reassured us that buying him out at the end of the year is the only answer to “What happens to Olli Maatta at the end of this year?” When he wasn’t getting caught chasing forwards to the far boards and leaving the slot wide open—like he did on the Blues’s first goal—he was throwing wild passes to Zach Sanford right in front of Crawford, like he did on their fourth goal. And when that wasn’t enough, he was busy getting ragdolled behind the net, like he was by Ryan O’Reilly leading up to the Blues’s fifth goal.

I don’t ever want to hear “Actually, Olli Maatta hasn’t been that bad” again.

Nick Seeler slotting in for Lucas Carlsson was a thing that happened because Jeremy Colliton is a stupid asshole who can do no wrong in Bowman’s eyes because he’s the prototypical Company Man. But how can you not make that decision with heady plays like this?

That’s Seeler covering David Perron at the blue line. For some reason. And what do you know? Thomas, who scored an easy goal, was standing right in the spot where Seeler should have been if this team played anything even tangential to defense. But yeah, Colliton’s doing a fantastic job. When you can dress Nick Seeler and play him in this diarrhea-in-reverse system, you just gotta do it.

– Though we would have accepted a Brandon Saad trade if the return were right, tonight gave us all the reason to be glad that didn’t happen. He was all over the ice and noticeable in the best ways, despite getting skulled in possession, much like the rest of his mates.

– Boqvist had a rough game overall, as should be expected when you’re 19, have your coach actively pissing in your ear, and get paired with a defensive luminary like Olli Maatta. But on top of his good stretch pass, he totally horsed Sundqvist to set up the Hawks’s final power play attempt. Watching him move his feet for a change was an oasis, but it’s also another instance in the mounting evidence that Colliton is bridling him, which sort of defeats the purpose of Boqvist at all.

This game was a terrible fucking mess, complete ass cheeks if you will, but at least it was fun. It had everything for every Hawks fan: high scoring for all, good play from the kids for those committed to the long term, and a big fat loss for everyone looking for a tank. In the most galaxy-brained terms possible, this was one of the best games they played all year.

Fucking hell.

Beer du Jour: Hopnaut

Line of the Night: “He knows how to score.” -Pierre on Top Cat

Hockey

You know we aren’t here to bullshit you, dear reader. This Hawks team is done this year. They’ve looked disjointed, uninspired, and boring when they needed to do the exact opposite most. But they aren’t as far off from being a contender as it seems. So, where do they even go from here, and what do we, as fans, look forward to with this team?

Firing Jeremy Colliton

The Blackhawks must fire Jeremy Colliton as soon as possible, and we should relish when it finally happens. Jeremy Colliton has no business coaching this NHL team, now or in the future. The Hawks were a top-10 team in terms of goals just last year, and this galaxy-brained wiener has devolved it into an on-ice fatberg.

Following the Arizona game that the Hawks won in the shootout after the break, they were two points out of the last playoff spot. They had a pretty soft schedule ahead of them. If they could keep the coals hot until they hit their last big hell trip at the end of February, the ineptitude of the Western Conference might have pushed them into a playoff spot they really didn’t deserve.

Instead, we got a slate of losses to teams like Edmonton without McDavid and the Rangers, who are in complete, unabashed rebuild mode. We got an entire power play unit filled with left-handed shots and Patrick Kane on his off side just cuz. And at the tip of it all is Carbuncle Colliton, whose only moves are to triple shift Patrick Kane and then blame the effort when his team loses important games. He’s the model coach for a front office born on third. When in doubt, blame everyone but yourself.

The guys on the ice don’t buy his system because it blows and is a gigantic embarrassment to all within it. All of Colliton’s smarminess about how the lines don’t matter and they need more effort hasn’t and won’t change that. A coach who gets all of his players off of their games, as Colliton has clearly done, isn’t a coach at all.

Jeremy Colliton sucks at this. Yes, thank you for scratching Brent Seabrook, but you can go now. Firing him won’t fix everything, but it’s the first and most necessary step toward making this team fun again.

(And yes, you can lump Stan Bowman in here too. I won’t expound too much on my feelings about him here simply because it’s rare for GMs to get fired mid-season, and you can always revisit this.)

Trading everything that isn’t tied down

Trade Gus, like they should have last year. Trade Lehner for whatever you can get, because his diaper is full and his efforts empty. Fuck, trade Brandon Saad if you can get a Bowen Byram, as much as it would hurt the heart. As much as we want this team to win now, this is not a win-now team. If you were an overly optimistic idiot like me, you could have squinted at it right after the break and thought “well, maybe.”

But no longer. The blue line is one of the worst in the league. Until they fix that and get that sometimes-bespectacled asshole out from behind the bench, nothing else will matter. The only way they can even start doing that is by selling whatever they can before the deadline ends.

Because this team isn’t that far off. They need one faster, contributing forward to round out the top 9. Assuming Mitchell signs and isn’t a sewer, they need one solid defenseman to go with Murphy, Boqvist, Keith, de Haan, and Mitchell to be representative at least. It’ll take some doing, but it is doable (just maybe not with Bowman at the helm).

Young blood

In Adam Boqvist and Kirby Dach, the Hawks have two young, skilled players. At worst, you can see them being no less than good players. At best, they’re franchise cornerstones of the next wave of success.

Boqvist has the kind of speed that the Hawks can use to break through the neutral zone more fluidly than the unbearably predictable drop pass. He’s got a sharp wrister and excellent passing skills that will be a cornerstone of the power play. But as we’ve seen all year since he’s come up, he’s hesitant and overly deferential. How he’s played this year is entirely at odds with what he’s done before he got here. If nothing else, you have to fire Colliton to at least give Boqvist a chance.

Dach is a smart positional center with good on-ice vision, and not just for a 19-year-old. His passing choices and finish are only going to get better with more experience. Dach’s development should be at the top of the list for the Hawks, and as of now, it looks like even they realize that.

And of course, there’s Dominik Kubalik, who might end up with 35 goals in his rookie year. You and I both knew he was going to be good going in. It took Coach Carbuncle way too long to get that, because he sucks at this.

Crow’s last hurrah

This might be Crawford’s last year as Blackhawk. He doesn’t deserve to go out like this. He’s still a high-quality goaltender who’s managed to keep the Hawks in games they had no business sniffing. Chronically underappreciated, Crow will go down as a top 2 goaltender for the Hawks, topped perhaps only by Glenn Hall.

If the Hawks were smart, they’d try to bring him back for another year or two. But they aren’t. And even if they were, Crow would be completely in the right to tell them to eat shit and ply his craft elsewhere.

Crow will always be The Goalie here. Fuck Robin Lehner, you can have him and his dumbass neck tattoos and finger pointing. No one has done it better than Crawford as quietly and efficiently despite everything he’s gone through. It’s unlikely anyone will again for a long, long time. Cherish it.

Some of the young pieces—Boqvist, Dach, Kubalik—are in place. Alex DeBrincat is still here, even if he’s having a rough go this year. If they can get Strome for $5 million per over three years and put him back at fucking center, the Hawks’s center depth is really good. Kane is a freak who continues to deliver, though you can’t help but wonder whether he’s feeling like Mona Lisa Vito, playing for a team that’s pissing itself throughout his prime. Toews continues to prove everyone who thought his best days were behind him wrong. Murphy’s Murphy, Keith can still do it, and a healthy de Haan is a good depth D-man.

The framework is there, but not for this year. It’s time to sell, fire Colliton, and do everything they can to make this godawful blue line at least NHL-representative. Anything else would be a dereliction of duty.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

They had 49 shots. They had the puck for almost 70% of the game. They scored zero goals.

They were two points out of a playoff spot just a couple of weeks ago. They have now lost five in a row and have next to no shot.

They aren’t bad because they’re inconsistent. They’re inconsistent because they’re bad.

– At the beginning of the year, the Hawks were an at-best bubble team whose only real shot at a playoff run was the offense bailing out the defense. Tonight was a microcosm of what happens when it can’t. Despite allowing just 19 shots on goal, it was the hideous combination of lack of blue line talent and quite possibly the worst system in the NHL that did the Blackhawks in. Look at what the system shat out on the Canucks’s first goal.

That’s Slater Koekkoek, a defenseman, above the dot covering J.T. Miller on the penalty kill. This is by design. Having a D-man on the PK going up to cover an obscenely low-chance shot instead of the motherfucking slot is what Jeremy Colliton is asking him to do. Holy shit, look at how much space Sutter and Horvat have. It lost them the game.

Here’s another coverage play following Caggiula getting leveled and turning the puck over. Once again, Slater Koekkoek leaves a high-danger area to cover a man in a low-danger spot. Just look at this.

Why? Why are you pointing in this direction instead of sagging back? Because this is what Jeremy Colliton wants him to do. It’s absurd, and it lost them the game. We all know that Slater Koekkoek sucks in general. But a system that accentuates his suck (and the general suckage on the blue line) is something Colliton has direct control over. And he just keeps fucking it up. Over and over again.

We can go on about how Zach Smith and Ryan Carpenter each got more time than Brandon Saad—the Hawks’s hottest scorer over the last eight games, mind you—on the power play. In fact, Saad had no power play time at all. But it really doesn’t matter.

This blue line is too bad, the system is too fucked, and Jeremy Colliton is too blockheaded to fix anything. The best thing he’s done all year is scratch Seabrook, and the shelf life on that accomplishment has passed. He’s walking whiskey dick: a constant tease buried under a mountain of failed deliveries and broken promises. We all saw it coming, and it somehow still stings.

Corey Crawford did what he could, and that’s all he can do. It’s going to suck watching him leave on these terms.

Kirby Dach’s hands are still excellent. Once he learns that he can’t make that one extra move he could in juniors, he’s going to score more. He’s a small bright spot to look forward to for the rest of the year.

Dominik Kubalik is getting first unit power play time thanks to DeBrincat’s struggles, apparently. Though Colliton may not realize it, he IS allowed to put Kubalik and DeBrincat on the same unit, if only he could find a place for Zach Smith and Ryan Carpenter. Kubalik didn’t score, but he wasn’t afraid to shoot, at least.

Adam Boqvist looked more confident bringing the puck up the ice tonight. He made a few juke moves that ought to make the drop pass obsolete. But until this pretty lunkhead gets the heave-ho, it won’t matter.

What had looked like a relatively weak schedule and a chance to squeak into a weak Conference’s last wild card spot now looks like a month and a half of agony; a slow, painful death rattle that’ll deliver enough slop to let these fucking pigs in the front office think they can still compete. But they can’t, because their coach is a bonafide moron who—despite efforts to convince myself otherwise—really is as bad as we all thought.

Fucking 49 shots. Nearly 70% possession. No goals, and two systemic defensive flaws leading to a loss.

Ya blew it, Jeremy. Ya blew it.

Beer du Jour: Death by King Cake

Line of the Night: “But it was floppin’ around on him.” -Foley on a DeBrincat dump pass.

Hockey

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Ooooooh boy. Jeremy Colliton has done it this time. You want your thoughts buddy? I got your thoughts. Let’s get right into it:

LAUNCH JEREMY COLLITON TO PLUTO

– The Blackhawks failing to beat the Oilers without Connor McDavid is embarrassing, but the reality is that this truly is not on the roster of players on the ice tonight. Sure, the typical characters had their typical characteristic moments – Adam Boqvist got a little floaty in his own zone, Erik Gustafsson got caught out of position, Alex Nylander failed at competency, etc. You get it. But at this point, those things are somewhat expected, and they’re also things you can live with because none of them are true killers (well, Gustafsson’s shit can be, but it wasn’t tonight). No, this all comes back to Jeremy Colliton. What is about to follow is my somewhat raw feelings on this sad excuse for a hockey coach.

– Let’s start with Jeremy Ventura’s first mistake of the day, which was healthy scratching Dylan Strome. In a game that the Hawks needed to win to keep themselves in a spitting distance of the playoff hunt, he scratches one of his three best centers to play Alex Nylander *and* Matthew Highmore. Because when you have the chance to scratch a guy with 30 points in 44 games this season in favor of two guys who don’t know which net they’re supposed to be shooting at, you gotta do it. This man couldn’t coach a high school team.

– Now let’s get to the power play, which was complete ass cheeks for the second straight game that also resulted in an embarrassing loss in Western Canada when you needed a win. And hey, I am no scientist, but maybe the fact that Zack Smith and Erik Gustafsson are on your PP1 while Alex DeBrincat and Adam Boqvist are on your PP2 has something to do with that? Maybe because that PP1 with Smith and Gustafsson also features three other lefties so you’re cutting yourself off from a whole fucking side of the ice? Who’s to say really? Certainly not Coach Mayor Pete. This man’s couldn’t fight his way out of a wet paper sack with scissors.

– And then there was just the flat out lack of preparation. The Oilers took the lead in this game just 73 seconds after puck drop, and that was because the only time the puck left their offensive zone after puck drop was when the Oilers made an errant pass and sent it back down the ice themselves. It had nothing to do with the Blackhawks generating any sort of defensive pressure or offensive transition. And that is because Jeremy Smooth Brain’s system is such a mess that even the McDavid-less Oilers know that all you need to do is skate fast around them and the system collapses because you have forwards deep and defensemen near the blue line. Seriously, the Oilers scored their goal on a transition that started with Alex DeBrincat getting burned at the point of the Hawks offensive zone (not that they were doing anything worthwhile in there) because he was the last man recovering after being behind the net defending. That is a system that makes absolutely no fucking sense, constructed by a man who’s brain is so smooth you could bowl with it.

The players might share a small part of the burden for not just coming out with a sense of urgency in a game that was clearly must win, but it’s still the coach’s job to motivate his team to get up for these kinds of games. To convince them that they are important and why. And he clearly didn’t because he clearly cannot. He is a dead man walking.

– The only player in this game who does get a portion of the blame though is Robin Lehner, who had a rough first 40 with some truly mind-numbingly stupid moments. Playing goalie is very hard, and Lehner has been fine this year so I don’t want to make more of it than is necessary, but there were a few times where he thought he had the puck and he just didn’t, and it cost the Hawks at least one goal if not more. Again, it doesn’t need to be a big issue, but it was a problem tonight.

– Hawks go next tomorrow in Vancouver, and lucky me, I don’t have to watch that one.

– Fire Jeremy Colliton!!!!

Hockey

It’s time again for the good, the bad and the decent in the world of the Blackhawks…

The Dizzying Highs

Dominik Kubalik. With two goals in Saturday night’s win over the Ducks, Kubalik tied Victor Olofsson for the league lead in goals for a rookie. He’s had five goals in his last four games, and in the game before the goal streak began, he had a playmaker with three assists. Kubalik is doing good things away from the puck, too. Tying up the d-men at center ice helped set the stage for Toews’s goal on Saturday, and his possession at evens is at 50.2 CF%, and that’s with less than half of his starts coming in the offensive zone (47.1 oZS%). On a good team, Dominik Kubalik would be a role player on a hot streak. On THIS team, however, he’s an elite player who has firmly earned his place on the top line. But it’s a hot streak nonetheless and the Hawks need all the help they can get.

The Terrifying Lows

Jeremy Colliton. It seems too easy, right? Maybe it is. It’s easy to knock the coach of any team anytime things go sideways, and it’s really easy to knock a neophyte with a turd of a roster that needs to be polished. However, at this point there are serious issues with Jeremy Colliton’s decision-making that any Hawks fan or observer should raise. I’ve railed about them in game wraps recently, so let’s summarize: first, lineup choices. Colliton’s loathing of Dylan Sikura makes no sense. The guy finally popped his scoring cherry and is still in the press box. Ostensibly, this was the complaint about Sikura, although that view just shows you how little the Hawks’ brass values speed in a player. So fine–you hate him. You clearly need to trade him because what good is he if he doesn’t play nor do you get a player you don’t hate to replace him? But by marooning Sikura in the press box, Colliton isn’t even increasing his trade value by showcasing whatever skills he has to less stupid coaches and GMs. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Second, line composition. Again, I’ve bitched about this plenty but the fact remains that Patrick Kane isn’t a third liner and shouldn’t be stuck with Flotsam and Jetsam. Even he can’t make Alex Nylander look good. David Kampf is not a winger and isn’t helping Kirby Dach or Alex DeBrincat, nor is he providing the help at center that the team actually needs. And John Quenneville isn’t an NHL player, much less a top liner. The sensible choice is pretty damn clear (8-19-88; 12-77-95; Kampf centering two oafs; Carpenter centering the remaining two oafs), yet Colliton’s willful ignorance of this–or anything at least close to this–has long passed any excuse of greenness or knowing something that others don’t. It’s just bad coaching. Oh, and he can’t count how many guys are on the ice at a given time either.

The Creamy Middles

Jonathan Toews. If Kubalik wasn’t going off right now, Toews could be considered the team’s best player over these last couple games. He’s had four points in his last two, and he did some standout work defensively on the PK against the Flames earlier in the week. Since the start of the new year, he’s got a 58.2 CF%, which leads all forwards with the exception of Caggiula and Nylander (??), but those two have had exponentially less ice time than Toews. Captain Marvelous has had over 67 minutes on the ice, while Caggiula played 20 minutes in one game and Nylander’s had barely 30 minutes in that time, so they can fuck off.  It’s still a truism that Toews can’t always deliver both offensively and defensively, but recently he’s been managing it, so let’s enjoy it.