Which Direction Are the Blackhawks Going In?
By Patrick Hoffman
If you're a Chicago Blackhawks fan, than you've definitely enjoyed a ton of success over the last eight years.
Your team has won three Cups (2010, 2013, and 2015), have made the playoffs year in and year out, and have usually been a Cup contender. In fact, this had been the norm for your team over the last seven seasons.
Unfortunately, all these good things came to an end this year. For the first time since the 2007-08 season, your team missed the playoffs.
Given the fact that the Central Division is absolutely loaded with top end talent in the Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars, it's really not that surprising that this happened this year.
So, where does this team go from here? They clearly underperformed so something either needs to change or they need to have better luck next year in order to get back to the postseason.
For starters, it is clear that they need their starting goaltender Corey Crawford to be healthy. When he was on the ice this year, he was a beast as he had 16 wins, a 2.27 goals against average, a .929 save percentage, and two shutouts in an injury-plagued season in which he played just 28 games.
Back-up netminders Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass simply did not cut it between the pipes with Crawford hurt. As such, this team may need to go and find a more reliable back-up for Crawford.
May be the team should consider bringing back Scott Darling. He may have been awful this season with the Carolina Hurricanes, but may be a return to a team he is familiar with and played well on is just what he and the Blackhawks need to stabilize the position between the pipes.
The Blackhawks also need more secondary scoring. This past season, they continuously relied on the likes of Patrick Kane (76 points), Alex DeBrincat (52 points), Nick Schmaltz (52 points) and Jonathan Toews (52 points).
While those numbers are decent, the rest of the team needs to figure out a way to step up so that coach Quenneville does not have to rely on two lines every night to do the scoring. Guys like Brandon Saad (35 points), Artem Anisimov (31 points), Anthony Duclair (8 points in 23 games) and others need to step up offensively next season.
This also may need to be the last season for coach Q with the Blackhawks. Yes, he's won three Cups and yes, he is one of the best coaches in the history of the game, but the endings to the 2015-16, 2016-17, and this past season were not good.
It will be interesting to see if the Blackhawks can turn things around next year. If they can't, the franchise may need to go back to the drawing board and think of rebuilding their roster, which would certainly change things for the 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.