Chicago, IL — As the Blackhawks gear up for the last weeks of the year, I’m sure they will be very happy to see an end to the month of February which, was not very kind to them. In that month they’ve lost eight out of twelve games and recorded a nine game road losing streak that could be the turning point of this season.
What do they need to do to right the ship? Well it actually is very simple. The Hawks need to get mad, be defensive and be generally a pain in the ass for other teams to play against. The Blackhawks need to be honest with themselves. This applies to the management, to the coaches and to the players. In order to right a ship you must admit your flaws as hard as it may be and take a good look in the mirror of who you are, where you want to go and how your going to get there.
In the off-season the Blackhawks tried to bring in more “sandpaper” as they put it. So they identified that they needed more grit and physicality. They brought in Jamal Mayers, Daniel Carcillo and Steve Montador to address this. Now though, two of these players are out probably for the rest of the season because of injuries. This leaves the Hawks back to square one. Other than Jamal Mayers, the Hawks have very little physicality left on their roster. This can be addressed in several ways.
Ok here I will administer tough love. The Hawks could pick up someone at the trade deadline to address this. I’m not sure this is the best route to be spending your dollars on unless you can pick up someone for the right price. The Hawks could look to bring up some of the farm team players like Shaw. Keep in mind though they are young and inexperienced for the NHL playoffs. That’s not to say they can’t surprise but you should not expect it. If there is one glaring management mistake it is they tend to throw young players in the waters maybe too quickly.
The current players could just play mad. There have been too many games where they came out and yes I’ll say it, played soft. I want to see some emotions out of this team especially heading into the crunch part of the season. It is disrespectful to the Indian not to give your all. I don’t want to hear that they got out worked in any of the remaining games. This is something you can control as a team and each player should not be letting anyone on the team slack off. There is no excuse for this. As a side note hearing that infuriates the fans which is not good for team PR.
The teams motto is “One Goal” and that should be turned into “No Goals Against”. This team all year-long even when winning has had defensive issues. Defense is a state of being. It is just as important to keep goals out of your net as it is to put it in the opponents. The Hawks need to have an attitude adjustment when it comes to defense vs offence. The coaching staff needs to work on this with the team.
We all have parts of our jobs we like more than others. It is apparent that the Hawks like offence so the defensive part of the game has suffered and they will need to work on all the time. Perfect positioning and active sticks to block passing lanes or block shots is just as important as picture perfect passing and fancy stick handling. If the Hawks are not big enough to dig out of the corners then send more bodies in and make sure you come away with the puck. It is how you approach the game and maybe reevaluation of some of the teams priorities are in order here.
Consistency is another area that all year-long and even going back to 2010 has been an issue. It is a lack of focus. This is a young team and this is where their youth shows. I can only think of two players who have played all year on a semi consistent basis which is not good. Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook are the only two who you know what you’re going to get out of them every game.
The Hawks need to get out of their own heads. It seems if they fall behind especially early in games they dwell too much on what they did wrong and almost give up or feel jinxed. You have to move on. Everyone is human and makes mistakes which, can actually be a good thing if we learn from the mistakes we make. When we dwell on them too much it is almost paralyzing which is not beneficial for anyone.
For some reason which I can not fathom, it seems this team has lost its swagger and confidence. They say they have not but you can tell by their confusion that they have. Did the Blackhawks forget that in 2010 they won the Stanley Cup? Yes a lot of the players on that team are gone but a lot of them are still here and they have not really changed. Most GM’s and owners would kill for Toews, Kane, Sharp, Hossa, Keith, Seabrook & Bolland. Remember no one has the skilled core you have or the speed this team can push. As a fan I love watching these guys and know what they are capable of — magic.
It’s time to get the magic back and have some fun. This is an intelligent, creative group so surely they can fix that horrid power play and get on track. Try the unexpected and move out of your comfort zones. Instead of being frustrated, get mad. Instead of thinking offense first think defense first. Try it and see how that works out. I guarantee if nothing else it will throw the opposition off. Lastly, instead of being inconsistent be dedicated and focused to working hard on the ice but in particular in your own zone. If the Hawks do any of these things I bet they will have better results.
I’m no team shrink, but even I know if you look around the Blackhawks’ locker room you won’t find a better captain, a play making on ice quarterback, a sharpshooter, a puck hogging power forward, a finesse defenseman coupled with a physical solid defenseman and a highly skilled grinder that’s a pain in the ass to every other team in the NHL.
After telling the team to be honest with themselves I, as a fan need to be honest with myself about this team as well. I truly believe this, if the Hawks address the things I outlined they should improve. If the Blackhawks can pick up someone in the trade deadline that is great but, I still think this teams destiny lies in the hands of its current core players.
Is there enough left in this teams core to bring home another Stanley Cup? That is the question no one wants to face so I will. Yes, I would think there still is and perhaps only one ingredient is lacking from this years Hawks that was present on the 2010 squad – belief in themselves.