Chicago Blackhawks Of Present May Be As Good As It Gets This Season
By Stephen Yatsushiro
Who’s the muse?
General manager Stan Bowman
In the movie, Simon’s agent coerces Melvin to take care of Simon’s dog while the owner is in the hospital. By forcing this caretaker role, he forces Melvin to develop a relationship with a dog he hates. And as a result, Melvin must also develop a relationship with Simon.
Bowman is like the agent in that he decides who will be the participants in the ‘Hawks’ production on ice. He assumes that productive relationships will ensue.
On social media, many have been calling for Bowman to either fire coach Joel Quenneville or pull the trigger on various trade proposals. But Bowman has already made several moves coming into this season, so he has already played a significant role.
Yes, Bowman will have to decide if he wants to tweak the roster further, but it is up to the coaching staff to get the most out of the cast of characters they’ve been given.
Coach Joel Quenneville
Da Windy City
There is no doubt that Coach Q is one of the greatest NHL coaches of all time. His ability to see the game in four dimensions is what separates him from the rest. But just as it is ironic that Melvin writes romance novels while being a hater, Coach Q loves winning more than anyone else yet is perceived to stifle young players which is detrimental to winning.
And just as Melvin eventually becomes sentimentally attached to the dog he originally hated, Coach Q must learn to embrace all the athletes Bowman has thrust upon him.
We’ve seen the history of players driven out of town as they never get into Coach Q’s good graces, only to excel with their next teams. What we don’t want to see is what happened to Darryl Sutter.
His successful run in Los Angeles came to an end as he failed to adapt to the speed game. Under a new coach, the Kings are once again a force in the Western Conference. What we want to see is what’s happening with Gerard Gallant.
This coach has embraced his players and has told them to go out, make mistakes while playing hard and have fun playing hockey. The Vegas Golden Knights are a revelation. They are the NHL’s muse.
The Blackhawks may have more talent than the Golden Knights, but they don’t even come close to them in terms of intensity. But the coaches only draw up the Xs and Os. So where Coach Q needs to be the team’s muse by being the tolerant soul that Carol was for Melvin and Simon, there needs to be a muse who inspires intensity in the players. Which brings us to …
Captain Jonathan Toews
Just as Melvin goes to breakfast every morning at the same restaurant and sits at the same table, we keep hearing the same words from Toews. We hear how the Blackhawks have got to get better. We hear how they’ve got to play hard for 60 minutes. And we hear how they need to get to the net.
But what we are getting are just plastic utensils. Melvin would direct this misogynistic quote at Toews, “People who speak in metaphors ought to shampoo my crotch.”
At some point in time, the captain is going to have to confront this team head on and challenge it to play with fire. Winning hockey games is so much more sexy than living like rock stars. The lavish lifestyle the Blackhawks organization bestows on them is not an entitlement. The players are treated like champions with the expectation that they play like champions.
Like Melvin, they can’t mistreat every waitress and expect to be served breakfast with a smile. They can’t just wear the crested sweaters and expect to be champions. They’ve got to commit to hustle the same way the Vegas boys do each and every night. Those guys take the wounds of Simon as the chip on their shoulders and take it out on their opponents.
If Jeff Glass is this team’s muse, then this team truly is in trouble. Without a doubt, this 32-year-old rookie’s enthusiasm is contagious. But he is a very ordinary goalie.
Enthusiasm will only carry you so far, and so far his performances are hit or miss. With a team that plays when it feels like playing, the ‘Hawks need outstanding goaltending. But the outstanding Crawford is down and out with no timetable for a return.
The ghost of Andrew Shaw?
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For years, the only player willing to provide net-front presence was “The Mutt” Andrew Shaw. At 5-foot-11 and back then at just 168 pounds, it was embarrassing he was the only guy willing to take the pounding by screening the opponent’s goalie.
Although he wasn’t the most gifted hockey player, he did whatever it took to provide inspiration for the team. His shin pads and stitches should be in a glass case in the locker room as the ghost of character past. Surely someone or everyone can step up the way he did.
So here we go. The players Bowman has assembled all need to find their own inner muse. There is a lot of talent to carry this team in a better direction from what we’ve seen for 45 games.
There are leaders on this team who need to make each other accountable for their actions. Each player needs to be able to look at the player next to him and say, “You make me want to be a better man”.
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This offering may be a silly comparison to some silly characters in a movie, but once again, look at the Vegas Golden Knights and wonder if what’s happening there could happen in Chicago. That is as good as it gets.