Are the Blackhawks Actually Going to Miss the Playoffs?
By Patrick Hoffman
It is strange to ask this considering how good the Chicago Blackhawks have been for the last seven or eight years, but it is certainly a valid one.
As of right now (February 7. 2018), the Blackhawks are seven points out of the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. I should also mention that the team is also last in the Central Division.
Simply put. it just has not been a good year for this hockey club. The season certainly got off on the wrong foot when the team found out that one of their best players, Marian Hossa, would miss the entire season due to an allergic reaction to his hockey equipment.
Without Hossa, the team's offensive production this season has been sub-standard. Patrick Kane (As of February 7, 2018) leads the team with 53 points (21 goals and 32 assists for 53 points), but other than him, no one is producing on a consistent basis.
Players like Nick Schmaltz (15 goals and 24 assists for 39 points), Alex DeBrincat (19 goals and 15 assists for 34 points), Jonathan Toews (14 goals and 20 assists for 34 points), and Brandon Saad (13 goals and 11 assists for 24 points) have all been inconsistent this season. The fact that they are without Hossa and that they traded away Artemi Panarin has also hurt them this season.
To make matters worse, the team has been without goaltender Corey Crawford for an extended period of time this season. Crawford has been on injured reserve since last December and since that time, the team has sputtered.
Prior to suffering various injuries, Crawford was the team's best player. In 28 games this season, Crawford is 16-9-2 with a 2.27 goals against average, a .929 save percentage and two shutouts.
The truth of the matter is that this long run of franchise success may be coming to an end. Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2015, the Blackhawks, while really good in the regular season, have struggled in the postseason, even getting swept by the Nashville Predators in the first round last year.
Speaking of last year's playoffs, it opened up a lot of eyes in the organization. Team general manager Stan Bowman went ahead and fired assistant coach Mike Kitchen, a long-time assistant and friend of head coach Joel Quenneville, and also fired his farm team's, the Rockford ice Hogs, head coach Ted Dent.
One also has to wonder that if the team will move on from Quenneville if the team continues to struggle and ends up missing the playoffs. Yes, Quenneville has gone above and beyond for the Blackhawks and won them three Cups, but may be the team will need to move on in a different direction with a different voice.
A lot needs to change and happen in the next month or so if the Blackhawks will to give themselves a chance to compete for the Cup come April. If they fail to complete this mission, changes could be coming to this organization.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.