RECORDS: Hawks 27-27-8   Blues 36-17-10




So, what could be the worst thing you would have to sit through after an underwhelming though probably explainable trade deadline where you hoped the Hawks would begin to outline their future but didn’t really? And you’re feeling the deepest malaise about team and organization that maybe you ever have? And it feels like it genuinely might not ever get better due to the front office’s incompetence and blindness? Why a game in St. Louis of course! Where the once red-headed stepchild has thrown off its labels and shackles and is the defending champ and sitting on top of the West and didn’t even feel the need to do much at the deadline because hey, they’re got pretty much everything they need! Oh, and they’re on a hot streak!

Kill us.

Blues fans will tell you it’s been a rocky season for them, and they’re a bit worried about what’s to come, which makes you realize what we sounded like when we were complaining about the #2 or #4 center on a 100+ point team and the Blues couldn’t find reverse on a Soviet tank (not Tarasenko). And the Blues have missed their best player basically all season, but he’s practicing again so that’s just fucking great. The Note did lose five in a row earlier in the month, which let the Avalanche and the Stars into the discussion over the division and conference. But they’ve since won four in a row by the combined score of 13-2 and have a small cushion at the top of things again.

For the Blues it starts in net, but it’s not just Jordan Binnington anymore. He did recover from a two-month-long sneeze and has been fine in February. But with the pressure off as a backup Jake Allen has been great in his starts, so the Blues get a minimum of plus-goaltending pretty much every night.

It would be inaccurate and unfair to say that’s all they are. They’re in the top ten in possession stats or close to it, so they do most things well. They don’t score a ton but they score enough, and they get that scoring from pretty much all four lines. And all four lines are packed with speed to maintain that hellacious forecheck they have. This is the misnomer about the Blues, and one the Hawks among others bought into. Because it’s THE BLUES, people assumed they forechecked hard because they’re just so tough and hairy and drooling and whatever else. But that’s not it. They’re really fast, so they can get on you quicker than just about any team. Yes, they’re not afraid to hit you when they’re there, but you can’t do that unless you can get there. The Blues can and well in time.

The Blues don’t generate a ton, there’s not much inspiration in this lineup, but they give up almost nothing because they make it so hard to get through them to even get to their zone, much less create chances. You’re basically coughing up the puck before their zone most of the time, which is what the Hawks have struggled with twice this season in their two losses to this outfit.

Are the Blues primed for another run? You might have to prepare for that. Colorado has enough speed to weave in and out of their tie fighters, but enough on the back end? The Stars don’t score enough, even if they almost pulled it off last year. The thought that only Vegas might be able to navigate this is enough to make you puke for a day.

As for the Hawks, they’ll begin the post-Lehner and Gustafsson-era with hardly a tear in their eye. The impression you get is that the dressing room and front office was sick of Lehner’s shit, and his pouty-face the past couple weeks didn’t help. This becomes a Crawford contract-drive, though the Hawks should be lining up getting him signed tomorrow. Assuming he wants to, which isn’t a given.

What to watch? Well, this will be the hardest path Lucas Carlsson has ever had to navigate, so how he does is worth assessing. It also might be nice to see Adam Boqvist move his feet once through it. Other than that, I can’t help you.

(Oh it looks like they won’t even let Carlsson try, because Nick Seeler’s brain and feet are certainly equipped to deal with this. How many times can one defenestrate himself?)

This is our lot in life now. Providing the fodder for Blues fans to marvel at just how far they’ve come and how much has changed. And to laugh and chortle. It should be a lesson in how quickly things can change, and they could always change back. But for now we just have to eat it. Because it doesn’t matter if the Hawks win tonight. It won’t change their playoff chase, and the Blues have eyes on bigger things. Just like we used to. Perhaps that’s what hurts most. Other than the history and proximity, is this even a rival right now for the Blues? They’ll play like it, and their fans will act like it, but pretty soon they won’t even think about the Hawks.

I guess you hold onto this, because if things turn around anytime soon it’s this kind of thing that makes it sweeter. Even if you can’t picture it now.


It’s always a little hard to judge what a team does at the deadline. We’re not on the phones, we don’t know what the other offers were, so at the end of the day you can’t really say the Hawks didn’t get enough for what they did decide to move along. This may have been the best they could have done for Robin Lehner and Erik Gustafsson.

The problem is that in some ways, the Hawks backed themselves into this. We were hardly the only ones screaming for the Hawks to trade Gustafsson last deadline. His value would never have been higher. He was never going to match that season again. And he was never going to be part of the long-term plans here. It was obvious. When you see Brady Skjei going for a first…

But Stan was afraid of not giving the veterans every chance of chasing a highly unlikely playoff spot. He couldn’t take the bigger risk of sacrificing what was right in front of him, which wasn’t much in reality, for what was to come, which is never guaranteed.

So he sat on Gustafsson. And a third round pick is all you get. It’s always nice to have more spins of the wheel, but your expectations of a third-rounder aren’t high.

As for Lehner, the deadline comes when his play had slipped and Crawford had clearly been playing better than him. There was a brief kerfuffle that Lehner was willing to take a discounted, three-year deal to stay with the Hawks longer term. But you know what? Fuck that. One. that’s in direct contrast to him telling the press himself he wouldn’t be taking any discounts a few weeks ago. Two, the Hawks have too many needs to start blowing too much cash in net, because you still have to pair Lehner with someone. Which brings us to three, which is that Lehner hasn’t earned a three-year deal. He’s got one season as a 1A in a Trotz system, and he’s got two months here bailing out a bad defense, and six weeks of being meh. He’s hardly a guarantee. And his mouth may have worn out his welcome in the dressing room.

Once Carolina decided they weren’t going to chase a goalie, or not pay the price for one, there really isn’t a huge market for one. Vegas needs Fleury insurance. The Flames or Oilers probably should have been looking, but it wasn’t pressing for them. So this is what you get.

Still, the Hawks can focus on re-signing Crow, as long as he finishes the season strongly, and it probably won’t cost them much more than $5M for one or two years. That’s at a number where you can bring in a partner for him at a decent rate.

Still, what the Hawks need is clear, and I today doesn’t really get them closer to it. They’re a d-man plus Ian Mitchell short, or two d-men short, and a forward. Maybe Slava Denim is that down the road, but it sure feels like he’s two years away at least. 2nd or 3rd round picks are only the last part of packages to get something that matters.

With the amount of forwards moving today, one wonders if Stan took any calls on Brandon Saad or even Dylan Strome. Seeing as how he didn’t move them, at least in Saad’s case you might as well start talking about an extension with him just to see, because he can still be a part of a good team here.

Every deadline, when it feels like Stan hasn’t done enough, we hope the summer brings more moves. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Saad’s value will be lower then than it is now, so is that even worth it? And maybe a trade isn’t even necessary if they do the things that are necessary to open up cap space (buying out Maatta, keeping Seabrook in the gimp’s closet). You never know what will be on offer.

You can’t force the offers to be out there. Maybe Lehner would have fetched you more a month ago, but a month ago the Hawks thought they were in it. Crawford probably would have been a higher price than Lehner right now, and given that there wasn’t much of a market for Lehner, that’s probably not worth it.

It’s underwhelming, but it probably always was going to be. And that’s what happens when you don’t have a vision and are making things up as you go. And that’s where the Hawks have been for three seasons now.



RECORDS: Hawks 27-26-8   Stars 35-20-6


TV: NBCSN Chicago


Well this is an interesting one. The Hawks will play their last game looking like this. How much they will change by the time they play again in St. Louis on Tuesday night, well that’s something of a mystery.

We know Erik Gustafsson is a goner, as he wasn’t even brought on the trip. The Hawks will probably only get a 3rd or 4th rounder for him, making the refusal to move him at last year’s deadline when he would have been worth a first even more frustrating. Corey Crawford is starting, which makes you think that Robin Lehner could be on the move as well, if not Crawford himself. But someone has to play in goal. If the Hawks keep both, you’ll know they either have no vision or plan whatsoever or the balls to execute one.

Is this Brandon Saad’s last game here? Dylan Strome’s? Drake Caggiula’s? There are more options beyond Gus and Lehner, but how many will the Hawks take? You’re not wrong to bet on the low end, but anything is possible.

That’s the intrigue off the ice. On the ice the Hawks will have a new piece to look at, which is Lucas Carlsson. Carlsson has been Rockford’s best d-man, and arguably best player, for a while now, and the Hawks have no reason not to spend the rest of the season seeing what they have here. They should do that with other players as well. Carlsson is definitely the type of player the Hawks should be looking at more often, i.e. one with skill and mobility that can move the puck and himself quickly. Instead we’ve gotten the Dennis Gilberts and Matthew Highmores of the world, which is how the Hawks have ended up here. Maybe Carlsson isn’t anything, but with nothing more to play for it’s an evaluation time. In fact, this is how the Hawks ended up with Gustafsson as a regular, though they’ve clearly botched maximizing his value.

As for the rest of it, the Hawks played a spirited game at home on Friday, which was at least entertaining. Can they keep that going on the road for four games against teams who have real stakes? Much harder to do, and while the Hawks will claim they’ve been better on the road this year, the last road trip that left their season in ashes makes its own testimony. And these games on either side of the deadline could see some killed spirits.

To the Stars, who have won five of their last seven and are still very much in the discussion for winning the division even though they’ve had to lose a coach and surf some injury problems this year.

How are the Stars here? THE BISHOP! and The Khudes, the lates emo band to storm Dallas. Has an emo band ever stormed Dallas? We’ll save that discussion for later. Anyway, the Stars are back to being the same boring-as-all-fuck outfit they were last year that locked up their playoff spot and saw them upset the Preds in the first round and nearly do the same to the Blues (sigh). They don’t limit attempts all that well but they collapse around their net and limit chances, and Bishop and Khudobin are rocking SV%’s over .920, leading the Stars to have the second-best ES SV% at evens.

Because they certainly don’t score much. The Stars don’t have anyone with 20 goals or averaging anywhere near a point per game. They’re 24th in goals per game, but you can get away with that when you’re third in goals-against. There is some spreading out of threats here, with Seguin, Benn, and Radulov now on three different lines, but it also tamps down their threat when not together. Benn particularly seems to be on the spiral down, and we know how he feels about going down.

It’s still a stout defense, which has been buffeted by the return of Stephen Johns after he missed a season and a half with concussion problems. He and Heiskanen have dovetailed well which makes for a hell of a second pairing behind Klingberg and Lindell.

This is the first time the Hawks and Stars have seen each other since right before Thanksgiving, when the Hawks played well enough to win twice but only gathered one point. Penetrating the middle of the Stars zone will be the order of the day for the Hawks, but that’s much easier said than done.

It’ll be a stripped down Hawks team soon. They’re only playing for the future. But hey, maybe that’s when you find something.


I understand the feeling that the Hawks season ended last night. If there was ever going to be one last charge to stand up and be counted, it was returning home for two games before going back on the road. It was seeing a non playoff team. It was having one last chance to prove to the front office before the deadline that you weren’t in need of major surgery. But we all knew the truth. And I think the Hawks did too.

Nothing last night was new. There have been plenty of 20-shots-against 3rd periods for the Hawks, because they suck defensively. That’s a structural problem, not a spiritual one. Maybe we didn’t notice as much because the goalies have been so good, and have been able to come up with 18- and 19-save periods to save the Hawks’ ass. I don’t even know that Lehner was bad last night, his level just wasn’t what it had been before. Any kind of drop from either him or Crawford results in five goals against. It’s that simple.

But you combine the structural problems–slow defense, uneven buy-in to the system (at best), and a wonky roster–with the Hawks knowing in the back of their heads they’re toast and are days away from having the roster stripped to the point the last six weeks are going to be fucking ugly, and you get this overwhelming feeling that something “broke” or “collapsed” last night. I don’t think that’s really the case.

I’m betting the Hawks themselves knew it was over when they were soundly beaten by an Oilers team without McDavid. It was over when fortune damned them to a loss they didn’t deserve in Vancouver. They were able to accept the gift that David Rittich was happy to give them, but they knew the truth when they couldn’t get close to the Jets twice when they had to. A very flawed Jets team, by the way. That road trip is when it was over, and you could tell the Hawks kind of knew it.

That said, it’s not going to get better when your coach, AGAIN, comes out and says most of the team wasn’t ready to play. That’s Jeremy Colliton’s job, and almost every time the Hawks are in a game they have to have, that will help bring meaning to the season, Colliton is there after the game saying they weren’t ready or didn’t give enough. Who’s that on? Colliton hasn’t earned that place. He may be the coach, but he doesn’t draw that water. Yeah, the roster is not good enough. And it’s not good enough in a way that can make it look really bad, given how slow it is. But you can’t keep telling us you’re not doing your job. Because after a while, what’s clear is that they don’t get ready for you.

I don’t have much patience for Lehner calling out his teammates either. Yeah, Lehner Atlas’d this team in October and November. He’s been merely ok for two months now. Sure, he included himself in it, but he’s won exactly nothing in his career, unless four playoff games counts as something. I bet it counts as fuck and all to Kane, Crawford, Toews, and Keith. Everyone starting to see why no one wants to give this guy more than one year?

Behind all of this, I think what people are really upset about is knowing just how bad the rest of the season will be to watch. Even though it will actually be healthy. If the Hawks get what they can for Lehner, Gustafsson, and maybe Crawford or Saad or Strome or something creative, it’s much better for the long-term health of the team than barely missing out on the chance to get clobbered by the Blues or Avs in the first round. That doesn’t make it an easy process to get through, but surgeries rarely are.

But yeah, the Hawks will sink like a stone through March. Even the vets, who have done their best and said all the right things, are going to find it hard to find the give-a-shit meter, much less fill it. But they’ve earned that right.

But don’t assume this is about want-to or belief. This is the team that used to exude that. Last night is just another example in dozens that the Hawks just aren’t built right. The Rangers aren’t good, yet, but what they do have is a healthy amount of speed. That’s all it takes. The Hawks don’t have any. We know about the defense, but as I’ve worried the last little bit, the forwards aren’t fast enough either. Where’s the game-breaking speed? What forward can back a defense up simply because they’re out there?

Saad maybe? Kubalik? Both of those are a stretch. It’s not Top Cat. It’s not Strome. Dach’s is mobile but his gifts are his hands not feet. It’s just not there. Are they any in the system? Dylan Sikura doesn’t change this team’s fortunes, but he’s the type of player the Hawks need to be packing their bottom six with merely because they’re fast and have a modicum of skill and awareness. They keep giving you Matthew Highmore and John Quenneville. The Hawks don’t scout themselves or the league correctly. They haven’t diagnosed what the game is now. They’re still trying to win the 2014 Cup they missed out on, which is funny because they missed out on it due to the Kings trying to emulate them and get faster.

The sad part is it’s put the Hawks in an awful position. The front office that has failed to adjust the team to modern times is now in charge of this mini tear-down or rebuild. Should they be? It’s too late now (always has been, always will be…) to have anyone else do it. But what if the decision from on high is to clean house after the season? What if your new guy doesn’t like the prospects or young players you’ve brought in at the deadline? You’re spinning wheels again. You can’t do that.

But if you let Stan do this the whole way? He got you in this mess. Is he only going to drive you deeper into the muck? He says the right thing about not managing next season for his job which would lead into a bunch of panic moves. But will that happen in practice? It’s not going to be terribly fun finding out.

Maybe we’re all angry because they keep telling us this is the price for three parades and eight or nine seasons in the penthouse. But we all know it doesn’t really have to be this bad. It’s not for the Penguins. It’s not for the Caps. It has been for the Kings, but we all know that’s just as much mismanagement too. It’s a fig leaf to hide behind for an overmatched and over-rewarded front office. We know better.

It’s a dark ride from here. But there could be light at the end of it. The mystery is what gets you.


For a minute it seemed like they may have had something going, but then the third period happened. We have to file this one under “going off the rails,” and it may have just taken the last shreds of the Hawks’ playoff hopes with it. It’s been a long night so let’s just get through it:

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

–The first period was downright dull, with Hawks coming out of it down a goal, slightly up in possession (56 CF%) and even in shots with the Rangers (12-12). Filip Chytil‘s goal was a softie, which in retrospect was a harbinger of what was to come from Robin Lehner. But it wasn’t a disaster, by any means, just some mid-February boredom.

–Then, the Hawks did the opposite of what they usually do, which is suck donkey balls in the second period, and instead they were, shall we say, dominant in the second. Well, maybe not dominant per se, but at least in control. Jonathan Toews made a goal-line save early in the period and they promptly flipped the ice and Dominik Kubalik scored his 24th off a great pass from Duncan Keith, who got his 500th assist on the play. They led in shots (16-10) and again in possession (57 CF%), and they continued their actually functional penalty killing after Lehner punched Brendan Lemieux in the back of the head (which was kinda funny but not really necessary). Things were looking up–despite the fact that demand was so low that Sam had to sell his tickets for a measly $28, it was seeming like maybe the fire sale, in terms of tickets and personnel at the trade deadline, was a little premature.

–And then…it all fell apart. The Rangers scored five goals in the third period on 19 shots. Even just writing that out is insane. Suffice it to say, Lehner did not look good at all in that period. And no, I don’t mean that snarkily–he really didn’t. He hasn’t looked very lights-out since the All-Star break but this was something else. I won’t subject you to a breakdown of each goal he gave up (I’m nicer than that), but at least three of those should never have gotten through. And what’s worse, with the impending trade deadline his value just plummeted. Now it wasn’t totally his fault, as it never is with this team. Adam Boqvist had another rough night, but at this point I’m so infuriated with Coach Pete that I don’t even care if he did play badly. For example, he and Keith both got completely burned by Kreider on his goal, but Lehner definitely should have stopped it and I’m convinced that Boqvist’s mind is twisted with shitty coaching and an ass-backwards system that he’s trying to follow for the sake of not getting benched, but it goes against everything he knows and instinctually understands about the game, and the result is this general crappiness on top of being, ya know, a fucking teenager.

–One thing that did make this more entertaining than usual was the guys being on Hot Mic for the…well not calling the game, but narrating the game I guess. In addition to Sam’s bargain-basement tickets ordeal, they covered the inevitable video tribute to the sellout streak once they can no longer keep up the charade, along with deep thoughts from Matt and Fifth Feather, and the comments from you dear readers were priceless as always. We appreciate everyone who came along on this first simulcasting adventure and hope to bring you more soon.

OK, so there’s no denying the Hawks are really in some shit now, but maybe this and/or Friday will be enough to convince the front office to be selling everything that isn’t bolted down. Yes that’s a huge step that I don’t think they’re ready to admit, but it’s getting awfully hard to deny what we’re seeing. Onward and upward?



Leave it to Elliotte Friedman to angry up my blood in his 31 Thoughts this week:

7. I do think Colorado checked out Corey Crawford. But Robin Lehner’s future ties into Chicago’s decision. Lehner’s performance during Chicago’s 5-3 loss to Edmonton raised eyebrows. Not because he was bad or anything, but because he was “quiet.” Lehner plays a “loud” game, both in terms of his voice and activity. The Blackhawks and his representatives are trying to find a match, but word is term is going to be a hurdle. Lehner has said that he deserves to be paid “fairly,” and it was so unusual to see him so placid that people were wondering if a lack of progress bothered him. He was back in goal for Saturday’s 8-4 win in Calgary, where he made a big save to preserve Chicago’s advantage when the game was still in doubt.

Carolina, meanwhile, has had a lot of interest in Lehner, and has that extra first-rounder.

I’m going to start with the trade idea, because that’s more exciting. Crawford to Colorado less so, but Lehner to Carolina…yes, yes please. First off, with the way Francouz has played in Denver, I can’t imagine the Avs have a goalie too high on the priority list even with Philip Grubauer on the shelf. And given their injuries up front, that has to be the priority. We’ll circle back to this.

Carolina, on the other hand, definitely needs a goalie. And this has been the case for like five years. While they were able to miracle a conference final run last year out of Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney, that was never a long term solution. And while they might not like the idea or even agree to it, the Canes are in their window right now. Metrically, they’re one of the best teams, as always, in the league. They’re still young, but with the uncertain budget in Raleigh every year it’s hard to know what is going to stick around and what isn’t. They’re clinging to the last wildcard spot, though are also only a point behind the Flyers for the last automatic spot in the Metro. And they’re better than the Flyers, or the Jackets who are behind them.

The only reason they’re even messing around with this kind of shit is Mrazek turning back into Mrazek. Now, Jame Reimer has been good for them so far, but if you want to turn your team’s fortunes over to James Reimer, that’s a great way to have your heart broken. It’s just not what he is, and if you’re the Canes you want to get back into the Metro spots because you do not want to have to negotiate Tampa and Boston in the first two rounds just to get back to where you were last year.

So if you’re the Hawks, you have to be circling the Canes as a main partner. And you have to start ignoring what your aims were this year. Your vets aren’t stupid. You’re eight points out of it with four teams to leap to get into the playoffs. They should be at least able to hear the argument that at least a second first-round pick is better long-term for this team.

And just a first-rounder should only be a starting point for Canes and Hawks talks over Lehner. If Blake Coleman gets you a first rounder and a prospect (one of the garbage Feet sons), then Lehner should be similar. Or you can pick off one of the extra picks the Canes have in the second and third rounds too. Or both. Or pry Jake Bean loose (or flick him loose, as it were). And then perhaps at the draft you can parlay the two first-rounders you have into a higher first-rounder, or package them for a real winger from a rebuilding team.

Would two first-rounders be enough to get you maybe Timo Meier or Tomas Hertl from the Sharks, who are going nowhere in a hurry? Worth a call, don’t you think?

As for the Avs. I am loathe to part with Brandon Saad for just about anything, but given that Mikko Rantanen is made of boogers and Gorilla tape, they need a middle six forward. And as he only has one year left on his deal after this one, it gives them flexibility. And if it sends Bowen Byram the other way, which would be the asking price for me, you’d have to think about that one long and hard.

If you could pull that off, you have Byram and Mitchell joining up next season, which means your defense could look like:



de Haan-Byram

Give me all of that. Not only that, but with the presence of the three kids, it’s cheap for at least two seasons. And when it gets expensive, Keith will be spinning off his hockey mortal coil.

Even if that costs you Saad, with that defense you’re only a forward or two away from being something serious. Play things right by buying out Maatta and telling Seabrook to do one somehow, and you’d also have Saad’s cap space. Would that be enough to tempt Taylor Hall? If Kreider makes it to free agency? Toffoli? Let’s say there are options.

Oh who the fuck am I kidding? They will do exactly none of this and sign Michael Frolik on July 1st.



You may have been surprised when you woke up and saw the Hawks score from last night (because I’m fairly confident you weren’t staying up late to see it–only losers like myself, Sam, Matt, and about four other cretins would actually spend a Saturday night that way). And you probably thought, wow, maybe some shaky defense but that’s a dominant offensive performance. The thing is, though, it wasn’t. The score doesn’t really reflect the game itself, but please understand I’m not complaining. I’m just scratching my head, and have been for over 12 hours now. I suppose that after getting shut out on a bazillion shots by Vancouver, a correction was due and boy did it happen. But it didn’t inspire the confidence that you would think an 8-goal performance would. Let’s break it down:

Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

–The first period was all Jonathan Toews, and honestly I’m here for it. He scored 30 seconds into the game, on the first shot on goal, which should tell you how the night went for David Rittich. Not long after that, Toews made smart plays behind the net to hold onto the puck on the power play, and fired a perfect pass to Dominik Kubalik for the second goal. The captain was even busting out the Patrick Kane spin-o-rama move. And that was all fine and good. The bizarro nature of the game was already happening early on, though, with the Hawks ending the period up in shots (12-8) and possession (52 CF% at evens), and yet tied in goals and it felt downright shaky at times. Also strange (well, it’s kind of normal now but it SHOULD be strange) is their special teams–in the first period they were dominant on the penalty kill, and thank christ for that. However just moments later when the Flames pulled a Hawks and took a too many men penalty, the Hawks couldn’t even get out of their own zone, much less get INTO the offensive zone to do anything. It was, as I kept calling it on Twitter, confounding.

–And then the second period happened and I’m still confused. The Hawks were not good, not by any stretch. Calgary lapped them in shots (14-7 in favor of the Flames), and the Hawks managed just a 38 CF%, but they scored 4 goals in the period. Two of those were from Alex Nylander so what the fuck is that about? The first one from Brandon Saad was off a gorgeous no-look pass from Patrick Kane, so it was lucky in that the Hawks finally got control of the puck for a few seconds, and since Kane and Saad are both good, they took advantage. That’s sort of how the rest could be explained too, I guess. The few moments when the Hawks could hang onto the puck, they scored. There ya go, people, there’s some quality analysis for you. But in all seriousness, Nylander’s first goal was off a steal, perfectly executed in the middle of the ice, Alex DeBrincat‘s (yay for this guy finally!) was thanks to Dach’s work behind the net and a quick passing sequence from Dach to Strome to DeBrincat, and Nylander’s other one…whatever. They just exploded with a handful of really good plays, while otherwise they were chasing and running around like rabid raccoons and getting skulled in possession.

–So all that offensive production is great, but they also conceded a few, right? Unfortunately 50% of the goals given up can be laid squarely on Adam Boqvist, who did not have a good night at all. On both Sam Bennett s and Elias Lindholm‘s first goals, Boqvist just didn’t pick up his man and left Lehner totally exposed. The offense made up for the shitty defense so it was fine, and as we’ve said, Boqvist is going to have mistakes, but it still wasn’t a confidence builder.

–And then, to top it all off, the Hawks still sucked in the third and yet piled on more goals. The weirdness just didn’t stop. In fact, when Lindholm scored his second goal, on the power play about five minutes into the third, everyone was palpably nervous that the Hawks were going to blow it. I think the team themselves expected to blow it, given the fact they got outplayed in every way except the one that counts. The Flames outshot the Hawks 20-9 in the third. Please think about that–it’s more than double the amount of shots the Hawks had, and mind you, that’s following the second where they were equally terrible. The difference of course was Robin Lehner, who, up until the third didn’t actually look that great but he turned it on when he had to. As mentioned, his defense wasn’t doing him a lot of favors, but he was giving up a lot of rebounds and his positioning wasn’t too solid through two. He figured it out for the third, though, and definitely bailed the Hawks, until Kane’s empty netter put the game away.

–The Flames really should be kicking themselves in the ass for this one, because not only did they totally outshoot the Hawks on a night when our goalie wasn’t actually lights-out the whole time, the Flames also had three power plays in the third period and still managed to lose. Also Matthew Tkachuk is awful and made about 50 bad turnovers, so that was entertaining. Rittich got pulled in the second and rightfully so, but Cam Talbot wasn’t any good either (a .692 SV%, lmao).

So it was all very strange, but it wasn’t boring. And if the Air Raid Offense is the best we can muster because our defense sucks, so be it. (Let it also be known that Erik Gustafsson still sucks and Boqvist is not the only defenseman who wasn’t at the top of his game.) Onto Winnipeg tonight, where it’s once again a “must-win” if you’re still deluding yourself that this team has a chance at the playoffs. Onward and upward!


Fair warning, everything that comes next in this post is almost certainly fantasy. It’s what the Hawks should do, but almost certainly what they won’t. You know the truth, I know the truth, but the truth hasn’t found purchase in the barren wasteland of the Hawks’ braintrust in a long time. While the Hawks have lost five straight, they will use their effort last night–which was very good–and the unlucky nature of the defeats to Boston and arguably Minnesota as justification that the results will turn around sharpish and they’ll be back in it.

And on the surface, the Hawks can make that argument. They’re six points back with two games in hand on the Yotes and one on the Flames, who just happen to be next up on the schedule. And with as bad as the West is, and with the amount of teams in this jumble, it’s kind of hard to just fall out of it. It’s also nearly impossible to climb into it.

But you don’t need an archeological team to get beneath the surface to see the truth. The Hawks are in last, and they’re two points behind the Wild who very well may be giving up in that they’ve already traded Jason Zucker. This is a team that had to go 12-6-0 just get to get back into the bottom of the conversation of the playoffs. But this isn’t a team that wins 12 of 18. This is a team that wins 12 of 23, as they now have done. That’s who they are.

Right now, the Coyotes are on pace for 89 points. The Hawks are on pace for 83 (EIGHTY-THREE). The Hawks would have to play at a 101-point pace to get to 89, which might not be enough. And I guess, if you were the most cock-eyed of cock-eyed optimist, you could say they already played at a 101-point once for six weeks there. Do you honestly think they have it in them again?

And by every metric, the Hawks are where they should be. They’re one of the worst defensive teams in the league. They’ve outscored what they have created, though they’re built to do that. What’s going to get better here? Certainly not the goaltending. It can’t. Maybe DeBrincat has a two- to three-week binge in him. Maybe the power play binges for no reason other than the sense of humor of the gods. But how much can that rise above the horrific defense? How is this team going to leap over four teams?

So here’s the question the Hawks’ front office has to answer, though we know how they will: While there is value for the younger players to play in games that matter and have stakes, does that matter more than what they can gather long term by selling at the deadline? It’s clear it would not. Long-term, the Hawks are still at least a winger short (likely two) and two d-men short. If they want to say Ian Mitchell is one of those d-men, I’ll take it, but you still need one more. And none of those answers are in the system. The pipeline…she be dry.

So what can the Hawks do here? If you were to separate out Erik Gustafsson, Robin Lehner, possibly Corey Crawford, maybe Drake Caggiula, maybe Olli Maatta and think what you could collectively for all of them…maybe a 1st round pick, a 3rd or 4th round pick, and a prospect or two. The last of which probably won’t amount to more than a couple lottery tickets, but you need lottery tickets. And an additional 1st rounder could be combined with the Hawks’ 1st rounder to acquire an actual piece at the draft. You never know how that will shake out. Or you just use your two first rounders and maybe you get something for 2021-2022. Or maybe you package your first rounders to get into the top five. I don’t know, but what I do know is it gives you options you need.

Because if one summer trade and one free agent signing get you another winger and d-man, and you can solve your goaltending without breaking the bank (i.e. some combo of Talbot, Markstrom, Crawford, Halak, Murray, Greiss, Khudobin, who are all free agents and not all will be ewxpensive), now you’re ready to do more than just scrape in as a wildcard and get your brains beaten in by the Blues.

Maybe if Colliton finally has the mobile blue line–which it would be with Boqvist, Mitchell, Murphy, Keith, and acquisition to come–his high-pressure system has a chance, if you’re determined to stick with it. That’s a discussion for another time.

The biggest frustration with the Hawks over the past couple seasons, distilled down to its essence, is a complete lack of vision. Everything is made up on the fly. In the summer of 2017 it was we have to get younger and faster. So in came Saad and Murphy, out went Panarin and Hjalmarsson. And then that just stopped. Strome isn’t fast. de Haan isn’t fast. Maatta isn’t fast. Gustafsson isn’t fast. Koekkoek isn’t fast. And suddenly it was about blocking shots and being gritty. And all of it has left the Hawks spinning their wheels.

Now’s the time to show you have vision. Yeah, the playoff spot is visible, if you squint. But trust your fans to see the big picture, because they do. They’re dying for the Hawks to see it as well.

If Keith gets pissed off at another lost season, so be it. Is he really going to be a part of your next very good team at 38? Would Kane? Well, there’s your chance to really reset everything. There is opportunity here, if you only see it that way instead of the end.

Where does the vision come from, though? Do you trust Stan to do the sell-off much less the final touches of a rebuild which he hasn’t gotten right yet? Does McDonough know this? Does he have the balls to fire Stan now and get someone in to do this job? Is it too late? Will Stan follow instruction? Will he even get it?

This is the frustration, because we’re pretty damn sure these questions aren’t even being asked in those offices, much less being answered. But it’s time now. You’re done.

Or you can continue to chase this playoff spot you won’t get. Lehner and Crawford can both walk. Seabrook wants back in. You have no prospects. Maybe Mitchell doesn’t want any part of this. Where are you then?

The answer is clear to us. It’s time they see it.


As the Hawks venture into the western reaches of Canada, let’s look at who’s hot and who’s not:

The Dizzying Highs

Brandon Saad. Playing on a line with Patrick Kane will always help your scoring no matter who you are, but there’s no reason to nitpick. Saad has been putting the puck in the net lately—three goals in his last four games to be exact. We need Saad to score and that’s happening, he’s currently sporting a 51.6 CF% at evens, and his shooting percentage is sitting at a career-high 15.2. Sure, it could level off a little but he’s been hitting his stride this season and quietly being just solid.

The goaltending. Since 2/1 and going into Winnipeg: Corey Crawford, .932 SV%, 2.36 GAA, 76 shots faced in 2 games; Robin Lehner, .950 SV%, 1.96 GAA, 40 shots faced in 1 game. Now I know, Crow gave up a couple late goals against the Jets, but when you’re on the PK for like 12 minutes a period, that can happen. Besides, he was the only reason that game didn’t turn into a curb stomping in the second period. The Hawks’ playoff hopes may be hanging by a thread, but imagine if we didn’t have this tandem and or if they weren’t playing this well. Actually, don’t imagine it. I just did and it was even more frightening than our current reality.

The Terrifying Lows

Nick Seeler. Just a big, dumb oaf. He had an assist in his first game against Winnipeg, but also a stupid penalty and useless fight. Please get better soon, Adam Boqvist.

Alex DeBrincat. Can somebody just give Top Cat a big hug and tell him everything is gonna be alright? Granted, he got a goal against the Bruins on the power play a few days ago, but aside from that he’s like the episode “Homer Defined” except the dictionary entry would say “snake-bitten” \adj.\: 1. Having been bitten by a snake; 2. Cursed, or generally unlucky without reason; 3. Alex DeBrincat.

Meanwhile, his xGF over the last 10 days is 54.4%, and he’s generating a lot of shots (hell, he had eight against Arizona). But the finish is non-existent, and against Winnipeg on Sunday night he was awful, finishing with a miserable 25 CF% and -36.1 CF Rel. Hopefully this is rock bottom and he can at least sort of contribute as this ship slowly sinks.

The Creamy Middles

Connor Murphy. Did you know this poor bastard has had 66% of his starts in the defensive zone since the break ended? Even with that shitty workload he was nearly equal in possession prior to Sunday (49.5 CF% at 5v5). He’s just doing what he does and not getting enough credit for it, so we’ll be the ones to say something nice about our Large Irish Son.

Kirby Dach. OK, this may be a little harsh and I honestly considered putting Dach in the Highs, but he wasn’t great against Winnipeg, so here we are. However, there’s no denying a point streak, and while Dach hasn’t been potting a bunch of goals lately he’s still managed to rack up six points in his last six games, with the streak ending against the Jets. Five of those points were assists and hey, we’ll take it. Beyond just that, his skating, puck handling, and general demeanor are surpassing his tender years, and he seems to be turning into a genuine top-line center. No, he’s not there yet, but it may not be that far off.