Friday, February 3, 2012

Rational Blackhawks Thoughts: Beating Down the Meatheads

Alright, I need to interrupt my list of my most loved and hated sports broadcasters so that I can return to the Blackhawks.  The Hawks are in the midst of a 5 game skid, including tonight's 3-1 loss to Calgary.  The bigger news was the 8-4 thumping the took at the hands of the lowly Edmonton Oilers, which comes just 2 and a half months after a 9-2 beatdown from the Oilers.  Since I am in Seattle, I haven't been able to actually watch these games, which means I usually follow the progress on Twitter and some live blogs.

It was the response on Twitter that prompts this response from me.  While a 8-4 loss is embarrassing, it is certainly not the end of the world.   This is not what the majority of the Hawks fans and bloggers that I follow thought.  I saw such tweets as:

After reading those, I was more embarrassed to be a Hawks fan than I was in the team.  It was this one that really got me in the end:

So, the Blackhawks are struggling right now.  I guess that means it's time to blow up the whole team and start over.  I mean, really, this team is full of total crap.  No one on the team is in Hart trophy consideration at age 23.  No one has won the Norris in the past 2 years.  And the core certainly didn't win a Stanley Cup 2 years ago.

What's that?  Oh, those are all actually true?  Silly me.  Oh, there's more?  Wait, this team is just 6 points out of  FIRST PLACE FOR THE FREAKING WESTERN CONFERENCE?  This last point makes this suggestion from a Hawks fan totally ridiculous:
"I base a lot of what you said [on a very negative Hawks blog post suggesting they need to 'climb out of hell'] on the decision to encourage the Hawks to become SELLERS and not buyers."
I think what Blackhawks fans (can I call them fans right now) forget is that the NHL has a hard salary cap that is set at $64 million.  The Hawks managed to win the Cup with a lot of youth (which equals cheap) and bunch of role players that were great value.  Some of these players, like Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien, have gotten considerable raises since leaving the Hawks.  The cap also explains the trade of Brian Campbell in the offseason.  That's why that last tweet made me so made.  The Hawks can make as much money through tickets as they want-only $64 million can go back into the team.

The core of this team is one of the best in the league and, even better, it's young.  Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith have yet to reach the prime ages on their careers.  Patrick Sharp is in the middle of his, and Marian Hossa is still a force to be reckoned with.  Years of poor play and losing all the players they have in the past 2 years has left the farm system stockpiled with talent.  Stan Bowman built this team to win with speed and solid defensive play.  The latter is struggling right now, but a trade for a 2nd pair d-man can fix that.  We can't expect them to go out and be super physical, or have our goalie steal multiple games for us.  It's just not how the team was built.

Then there is the insane call for trades.  I saw multiple suggestions that Patrick Kane should be traded.  Really?  Kane is probably the most talented Hawk we will see for the next decade, and you want to trade him off because he is in the middle of a scoring drought?  Can no one make mistakes?  My favorite Hawks blog, Second City Hockey, puts it best:
"Not every play that happens during a game warrants yet another trade suggestion. This is getting ridiculous. It seems like with any turnover, that guy's gotta go for this guy. Good god. It is most likely that the guy the Hawks bring in to shore up the defense will not be a name that will set your balls on fire." 
This is not football, Chicago.  Bears fans have a tendency to overreact to every little thing, especially a poor performance.  This is somewhat understandable, since it is a Bears town and their are only 16 games in the regular season.  Hockey is an 82 game season, and more than half the teams from each conference make the playoffs.  As we saw from Philadelphia's run in 2010, all you need to do in the NHL is get in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  It's okay for a guy, even a star, to have an off night.

If I do have an issue with this team, it's in Joel Quenneville's coaching decisions.  I think he is too quick to change up lines in-game, and chooses to play John Scott on a frequent basis.  Somehow, guys get in his doghouse for reasons that are not apparent to the fans.  But the man won a Stanley Cup 2 years ago, so I will trust him to get it done in the stretch.
"The distance between them and another Stanley Cup is deceptively far, despite what anyone tells you."
Is that right? Well, let me tell you differently.  This team is a Stanley Cup contender. They have played the top teams in the West close all season, often coming out on top.  While the goaltending doesn't blow you away, it can be solid when the team puts the effort in on defense.  You also need to expect mistakes when you play a 20 year-old defensemen, but as I said, we can trade for one of those.

In the end, I want Hawks fans to know that it's going to be okay.  There is no reason to mortgage the great future we have in the minors for aging goalie like Tim Thomas or Ryan Miller. The bi-polarity of Chicago's fanbase is unreal.  I'm sure if the Hawks win 2 games by 3 goals, they'll all be talking about a Stanley Cup sweep.  We have a core and a plan in place.  Unless we see some major meltdown that includes multiple 5 game losing streaks, you are looking at a playoff team.  Hockey is a game of who's hot, who's not.  I encourage rational Blackhawks fans to ignore the meatheads and make your own conclusions on this team.

Let's go Hawks.

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