Jan 12, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) reacts to scoring a goal for the Edmonton Oilers in his own net during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
So here we are, the 2013-2014 Chicago Blackhawks are in the midst of a slump. However, Blackhawks’ fans are a spoiled bunch, who are used to their team routinely winning hockey games, night in and night out. So, a 4-1-5 record, in the last 10 games, feels like the end of the world, to many fans of the Hawks. 4 wins in 10 games won’t get you into the playoffs, that’s for sure, but only 1 regulation loss, in 10 games? Well, that’s a different story, thanks to the “loser point”, given out, for Overtime or Shootout losses.
So, what exactly makes this a slump?
When looking at quality of play, instead of cold hard results, this is very much a slump. The Blackhawks have fallen into their familiar bad habits of trying to be too fancy and make perfect passes en route to scoring beautiful goals. A team like the Hawks, is very capable of scoring beautiful tic-tac-toe goals. The problem with trying to do too much of this, as we have seen, is a big increase in sloppy turnovers, in some of the worst areas of the ice, resulting in excellent scoring chances for the opposition, and often times, goals against.
This is why the Hawks are in a slump, but considering the timing of the slump, it should go down as more of a positive than a negative, in the grand scheme of things. When looking at the big picture of the 82-game NHL season, and most certainly the playoffs, this slump will have been well worth it, and here are 3 reasons why.
3: The timing of the slump
When following a team in the NHL, one must follow a team under the assumption that the team will in fact eventually succumb to the dreaded slump. It happens to every team at different times and different durations. One could argue that the Edmonton Oilers are in the midst of a season long slump, at this point in the season, but will eventually have some sort of a hot streak, at some point.
Take a look at the Philadelphia Flyers, who got off to a horrendous start, to the season, but have since come around, and are now in 2nd place, in the Metropolitan Division. Their slump was at the begininig of the season, and of course after the firing of their head coach, Peter Laviolette, replacing him with Craig Berube, are now playing good hockey at, or perhaps even beyond where the level they were expected to play at. Thank you, slump!
The Blackhawks are currently in the middle of a slump, just beyond the half-way point, of the 82-game season. Splendid! Remember, slumps will happen to every team, at some point. After a soaring start to the season, that pretty much extended all the way to around the New Year, the Hawks have fallen off their pace, at a wonderful time.
A slump at the beginning of the season could have caused unwarranted panic, amongst the fan base. Arguably, one of the most wonderful conveniences of avoiding the early season slump, was that we hardly had to hear the dreaded term, “Stanley Cup Hangover”. Early season slumps typically last longer than slumps at any other point in the season. This is likely due to the fact that teams are just coming off an offseason, in which is a reboot of sorts. During the early portion, of the season, every team is sort of searching for an identity, or what type of team they are going to be, for that season.
An early season slump tends to get more magnified and can even affect individual players and their confidence levels. Going back to the Flyers’ early season struggles, look at Claude Giroux. Giroux, a noted goal scorer and producer, 16 games to score his first goal, of the season. Now, he has re-found his scoring touch, and he and the Flyers have climbed in the standings, and are now a better team, thanks to their slump.
Since the Hawks got off to a fabulous start, they established to themselves, as well as the rest of the league, that they are an elite team. At times it looked as if they would just bulldoze the rest of the league, on their way to a repeat Stanley Cup. However, that may as well be impossible.
The Hawks were winning games by overwhelming teams with their offensive ability, but now it has now seemingly gotten the best of them. As mentioned earlier, the slump is due to trying to be too fancy with the puck, which has lead to horribly timed turnovers.
This was naturally and eventually going to happen, and thankfully it’s happening now, rather than later in the season. Now is a great time for a slump, because it gives the Hawks plenty of time to identify what they are doing wrong, fix it, and move forward, with plenty of time to solidify 1st place, in the Central Division.
Had this slump occurred at the start of the playoffs, the Hawks would easily be a 1st round exit, from the playoffs, which would be a dramatic disappointment to themselves, and their fans. Had the slump happened at the start of the season, Hawks fans’ ears would be ringing from the sound of the overuse of the phrase “Stanley Cup Hangover”, and it is hard telling how long the poor quality of hockey would have lasted.
Enduring the slump now, after a hot start, gives the Hawks time to locate and fix their issues and move forward, with plenty of regular season left to play, and they will be playing it as a better team than they were, when the season began.