Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks Must Fight Through Identity Crisis

By Aaron Goldschmidt
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 14: Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (52) knocks Chicago Blackhawks left wing Ryan Hartman (38) to the ice during the game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings on January 14, 2018 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 14: Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (52) knocks Chicago Blackhawks left wing Ryan Hartman (38) to the ice during the game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings on January 14, 2018 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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After an embarrassing loss at home, the Chicago Blackhawks have a week off to plan how they’re going to fight their way back into the playoff race

It’s been a puzzling first half of the season for the Chicago Blackhawks and their fans.  GM Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville have been searching for the right combination of skill and speed to put the Blackhawks back in playoff contention, but the team seems to be trending in the wrong direction.

Over the past several years, the ‘Hawks have stuck to a strategy of signing core players and building around them.  If you look at the team’s payroll, you will see just that.  A few guys making $10 million, and the others making under a million.  This model relies heavily on drafting well and player development.  But we’re slowly finding out that maybe the model isn’t sustainable.

The Blackhawks have always played a puck-possession style game that forces opponents to defend the majority of the game.  They have trusted top players to carry the bulk of the production load, with the occasional unexpected hero.  But this year, they may not have the appropriate personnel to execute their decade-long strategy.

Watching the Blackhawks lose to the rebuilding Red Wings on national television at the United Center spoke volumes.  Paying customers were upset and fans around the country confused about a team that looked like it was ready for vacation a day too early.

What’s next for the Blackhawks?

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So what now?  The Blackhawks can’t force a round peg into a square hole anymore.  They can’t continue with a 29th-ranked powerplay and call themselves a perennial contender.  They can’t continue to possess the puck if they continue to turn it over in their own end.

Ironically, some of their best hockey has come from a fourth line that is made up of hard-working players.  They chip and chase, then dig pucks out of the corners creating opportunities for the defensemen at the point.

But despite their first-half woes, the Blackhawks still have some time to right the ship.  The Blackhawks have never really had a true checking third line.  It was been filled with skill players who have spilled over from the top six, but that can be changed.

Guys like Ryan Hartman belong on a checking role, getting into opponents heads and mixing it up.  Third and forth lines provide a much-needed swagger for the Blackhawks that hasn’t been there  in recent games.

Like in any regular-season game, the Blackhawks are down but there is still time left.  But right now, they need a fight.  They need a jolt from an individual or a few individuals who want to fight the adversity.  Nobody is questioning their ability to compete, but it seems they have just lost their way the past couple years.

Next: 5 Thoughts From 'Hawks' Lackluster Loss To Red Wings

The easy solution would be to fire Quenneville or Bowman, but that doesn’t fix things long term.  Look to captain Jonathan Toews to take matters into his own hands.  Whether that be in the form of a fight or showing some emotion, the captain can’t let this team miss the playoffs.

He just can’t.

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