Chicago Blackhawks Roundtable: Blame Game And Struggling Players

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 12: Connor Murphy
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 12: Connor Murphy /
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ST. PAUL, MN – NOVEMBER 4: Connor Murphy
ST. PAUL, MN – NOVEMBER 4: Connor Murphy /

Colin Likas

Question 1: I’ve gone back and forth on this one, and I’m still not sure I have a definitive answer. I was feeling for a while like Stan Bowman should hold the majority of blame, beyond the players. But the last week or so has me thinking the dishonor should go to Joel Quenneville.

At the end of the day, I think they ought to share blame equally for what’s happening on the ice. Bowman has made some weird/bad decisions with contract extensions and player signings, while Q has made some weird/bad decisions with his lineups this season.

It’s also very likely these two don’t have the best working relationship. It’s always seemed like Q has wanted at least one “fighter” type on the ice, and Bowman constantly takes that away from him.

Maybe that’s why the Blackhawks now have Tommy Wingels and Lance Bouma (even though they don’t fight)? Was that Bowman’s way of making up for firing Mike Kitchen, which angered Q?

Regardless, one of these two will go very soon if things don’t pick up on the ice. And it’s rarely the GM to go before the coach, no matter how much success has been created in the past.

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  • Question 2: It’d be reasonable to say Jonathan Toews here, and I am worried about him. But we’ve seen him in a decline for a little bit. It’d also be easy to say Brent Seabrook, but again, we’ve seen him in a decline.

    What we weren’t expecting was Connor Murphy to be healthy-scratched less than 10 games into his time with the Blackhawks. While the team probably needed to sell high on Niklas Hjalmarsson, whose playing style makes him vulnerable to injury, what they got in return is pretty underwhelming right now.

    Murphy needs more time to grow and develop, and he’s not getting that from Q. He’s had some decent outings, mostly when paired with Michal Kempny. And wouldn’t you know it, he gets healthy-scratched frequently as well.

    The Blackhawks need to commit to the young defenseman Murphy, who at this point is a key cog in the blue line’s future.

    Steve Yatsushiro

    Question 1: The popular choice would be to blame Stan Bowman if you believe in the saying, “You can only play with the cards you are dealt.” But if you want to blame a general manager, you would have to trace the Blackhawks’ current woes all the way back to 2010, and blame San Jose general manager Doug Wilson for signing Niklas Hjalmarsson to an offer sheet.

    The result of matching that offer was a series of salary cap issues in a domino effect from year to year. Not every deal that general managers make works out as expected. Just look at the new Vegas Golden Knights constructed by George McPhee. Here you have a “rag-tag” collection of third liners he has assembled, who are playing like a bunch of world beaters.

    So the other saying to look at is, “When life throws you lemons, you make lemonade.” Gerard Gallant has his boys playing a relentless style of hockey that has taken the league by storm. The key word here is RELENTLESS. This is what we’re not seeing from the Blackhawks.

    There have been too many games where they’ve come out of the starting blocks simply uninspired. This is a reflection of the coaching staff. A winning team that is running like a well-oiled machine is deserving of short practices and the leeway to let players decide what skills they want to work on.

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    The Blackhawks have not earned that right based upon their game performances. The slack they have been given has produced a bunch of slackers.

    The current roster may not be perfect as constructed, but it is up to the coaching staff to get as much out of the talent that it has. It’s become apparent that line combinations and ice time are tied to loyalty to certain players and deferring to their past contributions.

    After an explosive first two games, the roster took a hit when breakout forward Nick Schmaltz went down with a combination of injuries. The resulting line combinations have had us scratching our heads.

    To make matters worse, when a newly formed line does not hit the scoresheet but shows promise, Coach Quenneville has shown no patience by re-juggling the lines the following game. The same goes for the defensive pairings.

    It is a known corporate management practice to identify suspected problematic workers by moving them to work with proven workers and observing the results. Just when it seems that Quenneville is doing this, he blows up the process by catering to his favorite guys. The right decisions are not always the most popular ones. This seems to be a problem now, so this falls on the coach.

    Question 2: The Blackhawk player struggling the most is Patrick Sharp. But coming into this season, I didn’t really expect him to contribute much anyway.

    Last season he suffered a concussion and ended the season having hip surgery. Add the fact that he is 35 years old, and you realize that he is not one to worry about. The Blackhawks are getting about as much out of him as could be expected.

    The one player I am worried about is Connor Murphy. This is a young defenseman in whom they have invested with a five-year contract. He’s 24 years old, which is about two years shy of when defensemen hit their peak.

    So while we might not expect him to be playing at an elite level, we should be looking at a player who is being brought along with some sort of overall plan. What we’ve seen is anything but that.

    He’s had various partners and is now being used on his offhand side, not to mention being a healthy scratch. His performances have been mixed. He is intimidating with his physicality and has had some good moments.

    Mistakes will happen with young defensemen, but he has been put on a very short leash by Q. The Blackhawks need him, Michal Kempny, Gustav Forsling and Jan Rutta to develop into a solid defensive corps, if these are the players they are going with this season. But out of this group, only Murphy has a long-term contract.

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    I’m worried that the way he is being handled will mess up his development, and he could turn out to be a bust with a bad contract.