Pretend No More

This has to be sounding like the same old same old, but unfortunately for months a similar story has surfaced. On the bright side, well maybe a less cloudy side, the pretense appears over. 

This season the Blackhawks have pulled fans along with the hope that eventually all will be well.  It wasn’t intentional deceit but the reality is the Hawks have been only pretending to be an upcoming playoff qualifier. 

The main reason for loyalists to hold out hope was because many Western Conference clubs seemed to be no better.  Eventually if pushed came to shove the Hawks winning experience and top end talent would be the difference which would lead to a playoff berth. 

In my mind it’s officially time to stop the charade. This team is not good enough to qualify for post season play. 

Let me be clear, it is still possible for the Hawks to earn around 30 points in the next 24 games. But it is time to understand they have not been able to play consistently at that pace this season. Even if this group was able to get smoking hot to conclude the regular season, their playoff participation probably wouldn’t last long. 

On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were able to squeeze out a win versus the Minnesota Wild. The stars lined up as the Wild played the night before. They did not bring their “A” game and the Hawks appeared determined not to lose. 

The truth is the Hawks can’t continually bring their own “A” game and thus don’t appear determined enough when the going gets tough. Everyone seems to have reasons why, but regardless the above statement holds true.  

To cut down on the ojida Blackhawk fans should simplify matters…

The 2010-2011 Hawks are just not good enough. 

On Friday evening the Blue Jackets skated into town with a five game win streak. Columbus came away with a club record sixth consecutive win and did so with a short staff.  To put an exclamation mark on the Hawks’ loss, the Jackets won the game without their third leading scorer and two solid defenders in the lineup.   

The Blackhawks could not flip on the desperation switch during the second period when Columbus evened the score at two. To make matters worse, the Hawks blinked and the Jackets scored two more times. That’s correct, three consecutive goals were scored against a club which absolutely needed the win.  

How could the Columbus Blue Jackets do that to the defending Stanley Cup Champs on home ice? 

The Blue Jackets were successful because they knew what was needed and were all able to stay on the same page for sixty minutes. With some good goal tending and some fine special teams play the Jackets showed they were better last night. Don’t be surprised if the standings indicate the Jackets are also a better team after game 82. Wow, that was difficult to type. 

Normally the Blue Jackets don’t have a very good power play, and their penalty killing unit is ranked near the bottom of the league. But last night Steve Mason outplayed Corey Crawford, the Hawks power play wasn’t able to convert and the Jackets did so. The end result was another United Center loss. 

Crawford made some big stops but he wasn’t air tight. The Hawks defensemen can’t clear the front of the net. The less ‘talented’ clubs have no problem getting to the Hawks’ cage and they will pound away. If Crawford leaks a few rebounds the Blackhawks are in trouble. 

Last night the home team scored pretty goals. Those scoring plays are nice to watch but they don’t happen enough so the Hawks can consistently win. To take the point a step further, winning a playoff round won’t occur by relying only on pretty goals. 

What the Hawks have become is a one line team which needs to score on the power play to win games.  

Blackhawk fans can massage it as you like, I have tried as well.  But I always come away with the same conclusion. 

This team isn’t good enough to consistently win and unless an epiphany occurs the defending Cup winners will miss the playoffs. 

Al’s Shots 

Maybe ending this season earlier than anticipated will be a good thing. 

The boys can have a long summer to rest and to ponder the highs and lows of professional sports. 

The front office can take a little more time to get an effective plan in place to retool the club for next season. 

If the Bowman’s think the current group is of true playoff caliber…….Trouble. 

I really do hope down deep management realizes this is a disjointed team which needs more than a little a tweaking.  

The Hawk front office won’t have as much time off this summer as the players. 

If John Scott wasn’t in the lineup last night….Do you think Jared Boll would have thrown a more vicious elbow to the head of Brian Campbell?  

As it was, Boll almost put Campbell’s head through the glass in the beginning of the second period. 

Scott skated a total of four shifts (2:18) the entire game. Only one shift came in the second period, which was after the Boll elbowing penalty. 

It has been apparent Scott can’t be trusted to play in the third period of close games. Actually it is more accurate to say after the first period of close games.

At this point in the season….Why does Scott dress? 

Boll had seven shifts after his flagrant elbow to Campbell’s skull…. 

Forget about Scott who was planted at the end of the bench, but I didn’t see any Blackhawk player touch Boll. 

Like I said, some retooling needs to be done this summer. No player fears the Blackhawks. 

As was discussed here a few weeks ago …………Erik Johnson was available. 

The Blues and Av’s have had disappointing seasons and they hooked up in a big trade. 

The main pieces were…. 

St. Louis traded Johnson, who never lived up to expectations, to Colorado for power forward Chris Stuart. 

The Blues made a nice trade…..It’s not easy to find tough forwards with good hands. 

As far as Blackhawk trade rumors…. 

The time to trade draft picks to acquire a player who would make a big difference was weeks ago. Back then it could have made sense, I wrote the same.

Maybe if the Hawks cling to hope and wait to the deadline Brent Sopel could resurface.

That trade would happen only if the Thrashers were out and Dudley deals for a late round draft pick and some spare parts. Maybe it would be more of a favor from Dudley so Sopel could go back home.

Now it is probably best to hold onto the second and third round picks and hope for a good draft.

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  1. Michael says:

    AL,

    It simply boggles my mind that other than Toews, this team doesn’t have a center on it’s roster than can win a faceoff with any regularity. That game last night was decided by the two power play goals scored by Columbus. Both of those goals were the direct result of our centers (Dowell on the first goal and Bolland on the second goal) being unable to win the draw). What really bothers me about Bolland is that he doesn’t just get beat on faceoffs, he gets undressed on them. He loses so badly that it almost looks as if he doesn’t even try to win them. It amazes me, especially since this has been a season long problem, that somebody with this team hasn’t told him that he needs to work on this and more amazing that Bowman hasn’t addressed this problem. A lot of the focus has been on the players performance, ie, the core players who have underperformed and the role players who haven’t given this team anything. There is validity to both of those claims. Now I know Bowman had a tough hand dealt to him when he had to dump salary and the whole league knew it, but when is he going to start taking some heat for the makeup of this team? You can’t blame everything on him, but I think it’s obvious, that some mistakes were definitely made on his watch, such as John Scott, Victor Stahlberg, etc.

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      Good points..Squad resembles a few seasons ago…Before they made the playoffs…Couldn’t win faceoffs then either.

      I am guessing, but Bolland’s poor performances at the dot might be physical in nature….Hard to believe he could have regressed so badly otherwise.

      • Living the Cup says:

        Regressed?? -physical in nature??

        He was actually over 50% for the game in the dot which hardly ever happens- he just lost the PK faceoff in his own zone when it really mattered.

        • Michael says:

          Maybe so, but it is a rarity that he is ever over 50% at the dot, and certainly not with any consistency. He is not a good faceoff man and never has been. For a guy making 3.35 million a year, I’d like to see him take a little more pride in that part of his game. As you said, that faceoff was in his own zone and it REALLY mattered and it looked like he thought it was a faceoff at center ice to start the game. Even Haviland made a point after the game to mention that he has to bear down in that situation which was the first time I’ve ever heard anyone on the coaching staff even come close to touching on his faceoff issues.

          • Michael says:

            Sorry Living the Cup. I jumped the gun a little. I misread your post where you already said it hardly ever happens that he’s over 50% at the dot. Frustration tends to cloud the vision sometimes.

        • Al Cimaglia says:

          Compared to the past Bolland has been weaker overall at the dot.

          Considering this season and since his back operation…

          He was ok last yr. in the later rounds of the playoffs but otherwise not very good.

          I can’t figure another reason other than a physical problem….just my my guess.

          • rock says:

            He is typically against the other teams best line and best center who is usually the best face-off guy on the team.

            I agree that he gets destroyed some games but it isn’t like he is going up against the other teams cup cakes.

            It isn’t an excuse but I wouldn’t expect more than 45% any given night.

  2. Dave Morris says:

    Al, you always tell it like it is…and you told it when the season started.

    You said that you saw two major factors: injury and inexperience, being big ‘ifs’ for the Blackhawks in the 2010-11 season.

    While we may have different perspectives on those issues, we agree they ARE issues.

    My addendum to those points of yours, are ‘failure to execute’.

    Mike Haviland was interviewed after the game, and according to Tim Sassone’s article:

    “I thought we played a pretty good first period and had chances in the second to put the puck in the net. I thought they started outworking us and that’s unacceptable this time of the year for sure.

    “I think in the second we got a little bit more on the offensive side of the puck, thinking that we wanted to score goals instead of playing the system and staying with the game plan we had going in. We got away from it.”

    Very blunt, very candid, and an assessment of the entire season.

    The Blackhawks executive from Wirtz to Bowman to Quenneville to Haviland, KNEW, and SAID, the team was going to have adjust the way they played due to the changes in personnel.

    So, did the players get that message through their individual and collective heads?

    Given there has been NO consistency in the execution, one can only deduce some have…and some haven’t.

    If Bowman had more cap room, he *might* have made one or more trades earlier in the year…if he could have gotten a GM to trade with.

    Now, with a frenzied market, the Hawks are being passed by in the trading game. There isn’t any way Bowman can fix this sputtering Hawkmobile.

    So he may say in the media that he believes the team is good enough to defend its Championship, and that’s not untrue. In principle, it is.

    But only if *everyone* does their job. Which, as we’ve seen all season long, has been a rare occurence.

    As Haviland said, as Q has said before him, as ALL the coaches in the NHL say over and over again–”staying with the game plan going in” is mission-critical.

    So the players are frustrated? They can look at themselves in the reflection of the glass around the rink. *They* are responsible for where they are right now.

    And unless there is a *dramatic* change…

    Bowman might be very busy again this summer. And the boys might get tee times before the crowd shows up. That is, those who aren’t packing moving boxes.

  3. pricey says:

    I’m glad I don’t have to write these blogs, Al lol

    Good stuff, as usual

    I usually try to take something positive out of a frustrating situation so I’m also hoping that missing the playoffs might be a good thing.

    Show the guys they just can’t show up and expect to win. Not in todays game.

    IMO, I think the short summer hurt them this season, I don’t think they knew how to properly prepare for this season after such a whirlwind summer. Celebrations, weddings etc. Even the teams best atheletes like Keith just didn’t look right from the get-go.

    Teams like thw Wings constantly have short summers so they learn how to deal with them over time.

    I know you don’t like the fatigue excuse, but maybe I’m going there alittle.

    I expect this team to come out with a HUGE chip on their shoulder next year, if not.. Then it’s time for me to be as disappointed as some are currently.

  4. pucksnut says:

    Thanks Al,

    good points as always, I find it interesting how upper mgmt has been nowhere to be found. Joel Quenneville has been left hung out to dry here, it is no wonder he has an ulcer. Day in and day out he has had to answer all the questions from the media and where is Stan Bowman? We maybe get to hear from him once in a while. Say what you want about Dale Tallon, he was always front and center to take the heat and he didn’t leave the coach twisting in the wind. Where is John McDonough? when everything was going great he sure was front and center. I hope there is a plan here, because as a season ticket holder, the price increases are only acceptable if they have a plan in place. Last summer’s purge had to be done and Bowman’s honeymoon will be over after this offseason if he doesn’t improve the glaring weaknesses and return the team to the postseason. Just my opinion though, and with a little frustration too.

    • Michael says:

      Well said. I too find it interesting that last year, when the going was good, that you couldn’t see or hear enough of Rocky, McDonough and Stan. Now, when the ship is taking on water, I can’t remember the last time I heard either Rocky or McDonough address the State of the Hawks and only heard Stan finally come out of his hole with radio appearances last week, either just before or just after the Skille trade.

      • Mr_Smule says:

        i don’t recall seeing a token Rocky moment in the stands lately. hmmmm Last year, every game. And sometimes McD was with him.

  5. djd says:

    “I really do hope down deep management realizes this is a disjointed team which needs more than a little a tweaking. ”

    Right you are, Al. How can they not see this? Anything else management says is nothing more than smoke and mirrors, to keep the loyal at bay.

    I thought I’d make a judgment around game 70, but watching this team over the last two weeks I must admit that it is getting easier to watch the games now that my angst about not making the playoffs is easing with each passing game. They’re only fighting for the eighth seed and a hasty exit. What good will that do? The pieces are just not in place to successfully defend. How do they expect to win when they only play half the roster for any meaningful minutes. As soon as they trail in a game they go into panic mode. Clearly the coaching staff has sent the message that the bottom half of the roster is not good enough this year and overall the will to win is not there.

    The question for me is what will SB do this up-coming week? With games against Pittsburgh, St Louis, Nashville, Phoenix and Minnie, all before or on trade deadline day a statement about how management feels about this team will be made one way or the other whether SB says anything or not. Time to retool for next year, IMO.

    As Dave points out, yesterday every trade involved starting defensemen, and Bowman was obviously handcuffed as to what he could offer in return. The time has come to shave some serious salary and some players heretofore called “untouchable” or “core” will have to be moved in order to get this team back on track.

    I expect a vastly different team come next September.

    • Dave Morris says:

      DJD> you make some excellent points.

      Just because Dale Tallon was a ‘meet and greet’ kind of guy, doesn’t mean Stan Bowman has to have the same “I’ve been a Blackhawk for 30 years, and I expect to be a Blackhawk for a long time” (ref. Tallon’s famous speech before he was moved out of the GM chair) emotional countenance.

      Bowman has his own management style, and he had a massive job trying to bring the budget into line last summer. Some decisions were, in retrospect, better than others.

      Chicago pushed the boundaries of the salary cap as far as they could be pushed. They won a Cup in the process.

      Now, the consequences are what they are.

      Bowman is still trying to squeeze every dollar.

      Now, if all the players put the squeeze on their opponents, then maybe the Blackhawks wouldn’t be throwing away second and third period leads.

      The failure of big boys like Brouwer, Bickell, Dowell, to mete out punishment for Jared Boll’s flagrant foul to one of the Hawk’ most important players is, as Al points out, unacceptable. There are plenty of other instances.

      Say what you want about Versteeg, Fraser, or even Boynton, but last year those guys (along with a few others) used their fists to settle scores when stars were getting hammered, even if they got the worst of it.

      But as Al says, the Chicago ‘Vanilla Hawks’ don’t scare anybody.

      And hockey is a game where violence, like it or not, still rules.

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      As far as trades go….

      If they trade the easiest player to deal they will be probably making a mistake.
      Sharp needs to stay.

      Campbell….can’t be traded.
      Keith…No
      Bolland….Won’t get a big return and could create a bigger hole.
      Toews…No
      Kane…As much as some would want….Not many 22 yr. old point a game players around…Still the best perimeter player in the league.

      Hossa would be the guy but he has the worse contract to move.

      Seabrook can’t be replaced.

      Bowman hasn’t been agressive.

      Hammer is the biggest name that might be ble to be replaced..

      A Chris Stuart type is needed….and hard to find.

      The Bowman’s have to get evey creative and maybe they will be busy at the draft.

      The key I think will be to get the correct
      $800K-$1 mill players to replace the $500k-$600K guys now.

      Calvert from the Jackets….hard nose and really fast with hands….$860K….perfect.

      The Hawks scouts need to be all over the
      $700K-$1.1 mill group.

      • Living the Cup says:

        Totally agree Al. On the upside that’s a different class of player, ie. a better player, making $1M instead of $500K.

        I’m not bailing completely on this year but agree they are now a long shot.

        There is nothing wrong with going on a hot streak and sneaking into the playoffs – look no further than the Flyers of last year and now look where Philly is.

        Don’t put me in the ‘it’s better to miss than make the playoffs’ camp. That’s OK for a re-building team like the Oilers but not for the SC champs.

        If the Hawks miss it’s a step back for the organization and the development of the players IMO.

        I’t be much better for both the long and short term for the Hawks to rally themselves, get over what I think must be a divided locker room and make the playoffs than to wallow in their own self pity and sink further down.

        But if I’m making book on those two possibilities the odds favour the latter.

      • djd says:

        I’m with you, Al, Keith, Toews and Kane, aren’t going anywhere. I’d hate to see Seabrook and Sharp traded as well. In fact, any of them being traded would be tough, but I think the dynamic needs to change and if there’s a deal that brings back some toughness and skill they need to look at that. Campbell has a list does he not?

        • Al Cimaglia says:

          Yep… Campbell has to list teams he wll accept a trade to.

          He loves Chicago and it woudn’t be very difficult to list only teams which don’t need or couldn’t afford him.

  6. Chicago says:

    It’s going to take some major tuning up to turn this thing around.

    That’s why I felt the person who put the team together should have took it apart, Tallon. A couple of star players should have been traded and we should’ve kept more of our precious depth. It was a tough, tough position to be in for Bowman. Unfortunatley, we’ve seen we cannot rely on just a “core” to be a contender.

    What i think everybody underestimated is how many heart and soul players we let go. Right now I will trade a Hammer and a Bolland for a Ladd and a Burish right now. Or a Fraser, Versteeg, Buff for a Hossa.

    I just miss watching the Cup champions.

    • Mr_Smule says:

      SB’s first plan has failed. A core group and then fill in the spots and we will be threatening for the cup every year.

      It is team effort with some very valuable positions to be filled. Some are more important than others. Depth is always important.

  7. Craig N says:

    At this point any deal has to be for a guy who also helps next year. 22 games and out like Sammy pahlsson will be a horrible deal. Oh by the way that was a horrible deal. Pahlsson lasted 22 games and two playoff rounds. I would rather have seen wiz here for 4 years 10 mil at the time

    • Al Cimaglia says:

      I see your point but the problem was ….

      Wiz let it be known what kind of money he was looking for.

      The Hawks did him right by sending him to a place he could resign at and get a decent raise.

      The Hawks knew they couldn’t afford to keep him and that is why Wiz was moved.

  8. Mr_Smule says:

    Great article Al.

    Maybe i should change my stance and i can enjoy the games more. If the Hawks make the playoffs, that will be a bonus.

    I got the impression that the players weren’t serious at the beginning of the year, that all they had to do was make the playoffs and then anything can happen. Kind of late going into the desperation mode now.

    Other observations, the core guys were not in the best shape to handle the additional work load. And there seems to be a little disjoint between the core players and the new teammates and the cup winners. But this was to be expected to some degree. Team chemistry is very important.

    But really, i don’t see next year being any different.

    You did mention about looking for capable players at a decent price. It will not be easy. The key will be signing rookies or projects for longer term contracts and hope you get two or three years in the nhl with their contracts.

  9. Living the Cup says:

    IMO today is the Hawks last stand.

    Lose today and they may as well start planning for next year because this year will have been an ‘epic fail’!

    Is anyone other the the first line going to step up and contribute?

    Crawford might win it for them but other those 2 possibilities who is going to play like they want to make a difference? ummmm

    It’s disappointing that at this point in a season going south that Stan hasn’t got more help. I still think Eager would have looked good back here and where is that D help that was supposed to be forthcoming.

    It may come but not before the game today and if they lose the season’s done IMO.

    And to make matters worse Q is out of action!!

    The stars are not aligned in the Hawks favour and the majority of the players don’t seem able to do anything about it.

  10. Al Cimaglia says:

    I wasn’t too thrilled with how the Hawks played against Pit.

    Still making lazy mistakes…second Penguin goal was a joke…three Hawks around the puck and no one took the man….Don’t even want to bring up the shorthanded goal.

    Also when the Penguins started to hit the game changed.

    Today the Blues will be hitting from the puck drop.

    A better, smarter effort wll be needed. Time to buckle up.

    The Hawks need to string together wins from now through next Sunday…at least.

    • djd says:

      Al, you mean how they played against Wilkes-Barre. That is one well-coached team.

      As for today, let’s hope they buck-up for each other—unlike the last game in St. Louis— as you know there are going to be plenty of dust-ups. I assume Turco gets the nod today. Which means we’ll have to score at least three.

      • Al Cimaglia says:

        The better teams play their system to a tee…talent helps no doubt.

        But with good coaching and everyone on the same page…

        It can be somewhat like plug and play.

  11. rock says:

    I don’t get how these guys slow down when they get hit.

    Well I do because when I start whacking people usually they disappear. Though that is usually only with the young, stupid pre-Madonna type who think they are Gods gift to the sport.

    Usually faking an injury or hitting the SOB back when no one is looking is a good way to get even and either make it stop or get it to the point where the ref makes a decision to call the game tight or lose control.

    It isn’t a difficult concept and could serve the young Hawks well.