The Blackhawks were on the fast track to a dynasty with Wayne Gretzky‘s blessing, but a bad bounce off Nick Leddy in Game #7 derailed the Dynasty Express and now we can just look back at why the Blackhawks dynasty fell off the tracks at least temporarily in 2014.
5. Special Teams-
For most of the season it was polar opposite numbers from last season when it came to the power play and penalty kill for the Chicago Blackhawks which couldn’t be more evident than opening night when the Washington Capitals seemed to score on every powerplay opportunity. The PK struggled with the loss of Michael Frolik at the beginning of the year with the non stop auditions for his replacement from the opening day surprise Joakim Nordstrom, Brad Mills, and then settling on Michal Handzus. The PK hurt until late in the season and was almost a strength until the Kings series when it looked like a rerun of opening night. The powerplay had some early success but then it fell into its usual problems halfway through the season and in the end was a real weakness. People will say that powerplays don’t win or lose games but i disagree because this season the momentum of a bad powerplay would kill the rest of a period for the Hawks.
4. Failure to Play 60 minutes
The Hawks were a 20/30 minute team all season long. For a while it was a copy and paste effort with the Hawks coming out of the gate hard and then only getting a couple of goals and then the third period was a complete disaster. During the playoffs it seemed like the 2nd period was the bug a boo but people would just say it was just the period of the long trip to the bench. Game #5 against the St. Louis Blues may be the only real game I remember the team playing a 60 minute effort and in the end it cost them. Coughing up lead after lead because they had let up off the pedal.
3. Joel Quenneville Refused To Coach This Season
One thing is very evident and that is the Hawks don’t practice much, and you know this is true when the beat writers were complaining during the playoffs when a practice went one hour. The team had its core and added a few players and with the weird schedule due to the Olympics the coach went easy and didn’t coach. The team continues to throw out that the young players are not reliable defensively while veterans get beat nightly, but teaching them that responsibility is something that should be done during practice. Brandon Pirri may not have been the true #2 but they threw out the 200 feet comment right away. Well coach him to be that player instead of quitting on him. Jeremy Morin isn’t reliable….then coach him instead of letting him light up Rockford while the Blackhawks struggle to score goals. Quenneville likes the team because two out of its three best players are two of the best defensive forwards of this generation in Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Between 19 & 81 with Joel’s pedigree it shouldn’t be that hard to teach any kid how to play defensively. Quit with the excuses and coach again and use the system that Stan Bowman has built to your advantage instead of using it as a crutch.
2. Rolling 4 Lines
I’m sure if you regularly read our columns your sick of reading this comment but in the end it bit Quenneville in the butt! It really all started when he started playing Sheldon Brookbank at forward and then he would double shift Patrick Kane. During the playoffs Kris Versteeg and Brandon Bollig were barely seeing the ice while the stars took their shifts in a 9 forward run. This seems great when you look at it, who wouldn’t want more Kane and less Brandon Bollig but having them fresh and playing hard for 60 minutes is a key to winning hockey games. Last year the Hawks rolled four lines and totally dominated the third periods. This year they didn’t roll 4 lines and in the end were destroyed on the scoreboard in the final frame. Quenneville in his press conference from Boston last year after the Cups spoke of rolling four lines and n i2013-2014 shredded that plan to pieces and in the end against another great team killed their repeat chances because they were all out of gas.
1. Michal Handzus and 2nd Line Center problems
The Blackhawks played 82 regular season games 19 post season games and it wasn’t until Game #5 of the Western Conference Finals that Quenneville decided to put Kane on a line with at least someone his age that would be an addition than a hindrance (Too Little Too Late) Kane went nuts in the final 3 games of the series playing with Andrew Shaw (who really isn’t a #2 Center) and Brandon Saad. The problem is Quenneville’s stubbornness with veterans and Stan Bowman always giving him just enough ammo to continue to not play youth. Handzus was only good for PK and Game #5 overtime winners. He was only on the ice for one of Kane’s 29 goals and only picked up 12 assists. With the talent and goals scored around him he should have had bushels and bushels of assists just skating on the ice with them. Handzus moved on to Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa in the playoffs and we all know how there scoring fell off too. I know you think I’m blaming too much on #26 but in the end he was part of the reason all the lines were screwed up and in the end no matter the effort the Hawks lost
Honarable Mention- Versteeg Trade
The Versteeg trade screwed up a lot of good things but the hope is that he will be close to 100% by October. It’s easy to pick on him but really he was terrible and holding up a roster spot and adding to Q’s decision on a nightly basis.
What is your reason for the Hawks not winning. It wasn’t because of the great fans!!!
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