Chicago Blackhawks’ 5 Worst “What If” Scenarios For Rest Of 2017-18

ST. PAUL, MN - NOVEMBER 4: (L-R) Marcus Foligno
ST. PAUL, MN - NOVEMBER 4: (L-R) Marcus Foligno /

It’s becoming clear the Chicago Blackhawks, as currently constructed, don’t have much room for error in the 2017-18 season. So let’s take a look at five of the worst “what if” scenarios that could befall the team at this point.

Sports fans love their “what if” scenarios, and Chicago Blackhawks rooters have never been any exception. During the ongoing 2017-18 season, however, it seems a lot more of those “what ifs” are trending in the negative direction.

And that’s probably fair. The Blackhawks, outside Corey Crawford, haven’t looked real great of late. Maybe the biggest indicator of this is Artem Anisimov, who looked about ready to keel over two weeks ago, suddenly being the hot hand at forward.

So not all the “what ifs” surrounding the Blackhawks are fun to think about these days. Today, I’m going look at five of the worst possible “what ifs” for the Blackhawks right now, should they come to fruition at some point this season.

5. There are no call-ups

I’ll make something clear on this point right off the bat: This would obviously be a good thing in one sense, as it would mean the Blackhawks haven’t suffered a rash of injuries. But hear me out.

Considering the Blackhawks haven’t made any calls to Rockford yet despite the team running at a .500 level, we’re getting to the point where it’s fair to wonder when the Blackhawks might actually call up somebody, and whom that might be.

But what if the Blackhawks just decide not to add anybody from the AHL at any point this season? On its face, that sounds like a good thing. It means the Blackhawks are running hot and have things figured out. But I’m not sure it’s that simple.

This team seems pretty far from figuring it out with the current group. Coach Joel Quenneville is essentially throwing things at the wall to see what sticks, and nothing has. The latest line combinations don’t offer a ton of room for optimism, either.

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While most of the time it’d be fair to say having no call-ups means the team is doing well, I would tend to go against that point with these Blackhawks.

Instead, I think it would mean one of two things: A) Coach Q is being stubborn or B) Q and general manager Stan Bowman don’t see anyone NHL-ready in the AHL right now.

That second point seems pretty ludicrous, but I don’t live inside the heads of these men. This is the thing on this list most likely to happen at some point, but there’s good chance Blackhawks fans should be worried if it doesn’t, even if it takes a long time to happen.

4. Brent Seabrook is playing top-two minutes

This just cannot be a thing if this team is serious about even making the postseason in 2017-18. Seabrook has far and away been the team’s worst defender, and yet he’s still getting tossed out not only for top-four minutes, but even top-two minutes.

Newcomer Jan Rutta has been his latest babysitter, and it’s dragging down all of Rutta’s advanced stats pretty significantly — Rutta’s possession numbers have gone from capable to putrid while trying to clean up after the veteran blueliner.

Seabs is sitting at an average ice time of 22:03, well behind Duncan Keith‘s 25:29 but still second on the team. Rutta is third among defensemen with a 19:30 mark. Seabs and Rutta need to see their numbers flipped pretty quickly here if the Blackhawks are going to go anywhere.

If Seabrook is still playing top-two minutes by midseason or later, Coach Q is either not trusting enough of Rutta or too worried about placating the veteran Seabrook. Either way, it’s going to hurt the team in the short term. Less Seabrook, and more of the likes of Rutta, Connor Murphy, Michal Kempny and Cody Franson.

3. Any of Patrick Kane, Nick Schmaltz or Brandon Saad are hurt

We saw what happened when Schmaltz was out a few games early in the season. The team’s offense splintered as the lines were all messed up. The offense hasn’t recovered since, either.

This is something I think would happen if any of Kane, Schmaltz or Saad went down with more than a one-game injury. None of the three have lit the world on fire of late (not that any of the Blackhawks’ skaters really have), but they’re the Blackhawks’ three biggest playmakers by a long shot.

Losing just one of these guys would put a serious ding in Chicago being able to do anything more than bum-rushing the net and praying for the puck to cross the goal line. It one-dimensionalizes an offense that doesn’t have a lot of options for multiple dimensions to begin with.

It’s always easiest to say losing Kane would be the biggest burn among the forwards, but that “honor” may have transitioned to Saad early this season. He’s made everyone he’s lined up next to look so much better, simply because he’s played a stellar two-way game.

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  • But make no mistake about it: Losing any of these three for an extended period would see the Blackhawks’ offense quite possibly in worse shape than it is now.

    2. Duncan Keith is hurt

    Has he had the most incredible start to the season? No, but who among the Chicago skaters has? Keith has eight assists in 15 games, but if the Blackhawks’ No. 1 defenseman went down for any length of time, the team would be in a disastrous spot.

    Besides Rutta, who is still in his first NHL season, Keith is the only Blackhawks defenseman who can really be trusted in all zones right now. He can be paired with just about anyone and make things work (though not Seabrook anymore, apparently). He boasts a 51.41 Corsi-for mark at 5-on-5, best among regular defensemen on the team.

    He can drive play from the back end, help with a powerplay and assist killing a penalty. Coach Q is playing the guy well over 25 minutes a game, and we’re not even in December yet. That’s how important the 34-year-old is to this operation.

    The Blackhawks don’t have anyone as reliable as Keith on the back end, should he go down. They’d have to start evenly splitting minutes between a bunch of guys to make up for his absence, creating some really ugly matchups, especially on the road.

    Not only do the Blackhawks not want this to happen, they just can’t have it happen if they want to be successful in 2017-18. The defense hasn’t been a total dumpster fire because of a select few guys, and Keith is top of that list.

    1. Corey Crawford gets injured

    Duh. I’ve typed out so many words on Crow’s importance to this team, I’m not sure I need to go into much more detail here why him suffering an injury would be … a problem.

    To put it lightly, Crow missing any amount of time would be devastating to these Blackhawks. It’s pretty clear they need him to stand on his head against almost any opponent, and Anton Forsberg has not yet proven a reliable enough backup to serve as a long-term replacement.

    Crow missing extended time would likely mean the end of Chicago’s playoff streak. Yeah, maybe that’s drastic. And you look over at the Vegas Golden Knights and their 85 goaltenders and figure, if they can win, why can’t the Blackhawks?

    Well, even though Vegas has worse team possession stats at even strength than the Blackhawks, at least the Knights have proven they can win without Marc-Andre Fleury. The Blackhawks haven’t done that without Crow yet this season, to the point where he’s now starting back-to-back games to try and save the team.

    Next: Blackhawks Relying Too Much On Crawford

    This would be the worst possible “what if” that could befall the Blackhawks in 2017-18. A suggested holiday present from the fans to Crow: bubble wrap.