Chicago Blackhawks’ Hot And Not Leaves Little Positive To Say

Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Blackhawks aren’t winning and aren’t looking terribly good in their losses (they’ve shown it to be possible earlier in the season). So with fans abandoning ship on the season en masse, let’s hop into another Hot & Not.

Things have gone from bad to worse for the Chicago Blackhawks over the last week. They’ve dropped their last three affairs, including two straight to the Calgary Flames in situations where a solid all-around performance could have meant more points.

But perhaps the Blackhawks were putting in a solid all-around performance in these setbacks and are just that bad. It’s kind of hard to know for sure at this point. What’s easy to say is that Blackhawks Hot and Not has become a strenuous venture to put together.

There’s very little to place in the “Hot” column, while what goes in the “Not” side could fill up a grain silo. But finding silver linings is important in the writing business, so let’s go about working out some Hot and Not candidates.

Hot: Alex DeBrincat

For those who I saw on Twitter predicting the Blackhawks were going to barely hit 60 points over the next 10 seasons (I’m paraphrasing), I submit Alex DeBrincat among examples of why this won’t be the case.

The season DeBrincat is having is excellent news for the Blackhawks. Also good is he’s not gun-shy on the offensive end, as Nick Schmaltz was the year before. DeBrincat recorded six powerplay shots over the last three games. No one else tallied more than two. Not surprisingly, DeBrincat also had one of Chicago’s two powerplay goals over the last week.

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The big test for DeBrincat is going to come this offseason. Opponents are going to get a better feel for how DeBrincat handles himself on the ice and what style of game he plays. It’ll be important for him to respond and adapt accordingly, otherwise that statement I made above about submitting DeBrincat as evidence against the Blackhawks sucking is null and void.

Not: Brandon Saad

Yeah, this is a problem. The Blackhawks reacquired Saad with excellent intentions: getting a good top-six two-way player, having a steady wing for Jonathan Toews, getting in better position with the salary cap.

This has all gone to hell in a handbasket as the season has progressed, getting to the point where coach Joel Quenneville is pulling a John Tortorella and putting Saad on the fourth line. Saad saw less than 11 minutes of ice time, on average, over the last three games, and a whopping one second of time on the powerplay in that stretch.

I really hope the Blackhawks aren’t seriously considering giving up on Saad this quickly. They absolutely know what he’s capable of. If they think his production in prior years was made entirely on the backs of Toews and Marian Hossa, I’m not sure what to think.

While this may be rapidly turning into a lost season, that doesn’t mean you need to blow up Saad’s confidence in the process. He’s recovered from a fourth-line stint before, but that doesn’t mean it needs to keep happening. The guy is having a rough season offensively, and there’s a good chance luck is involved to an extent.

Let Saad work out his issues in a reasonable on-ice setup and look forward to 2018-19. Don’t shop a guy you can build around because you want to stockpile draft picks and are disappointed he couldn’t Patrick Kane-Corey Crawford the team to relevance.

Hot: Nick Schmaltz

Two goals on six shots is a pretty solid production point. Three points in as many games is also a good thing. And with the Blackhawks playing as poorly as they are, it’s more than worthy of a Hot spot here.

Schmaltz, like DeBrincat, is going to be a key piece on this roster moving forward. The good news is he’s already worked through some of the young gun confidence and opponent adjustment issues, having been in the NHL longer. I’m really curious to see how Schmaltz continues to develop next season.

I also don’t think he’ll be centering Kane forever. Maybe he will to start the 2018-19 season, but we should see a solid offseason shake-up that could involve Artem Anisimov being shipped out. Over time, however, I see Schmaltz being transitioned into a role of first-line center. If he even moderately works out his faceoff issues, he’s worth more up there than Toews (sad to say).

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  • Not: Brent Seabrook

    I own a Brent Seabrook jersey. I appreciate everything the guy has done for the Chicago Blackhawks. But my goodness is he incapable of playing anything other than third-pairing minutes right now.

    Seabrook somehow is averaging more than 20 minutes per game over the last three, and he produced a powerplay assist, a minus-4 rating and two penalty minutes. measures Seabrook averaged 30.7 shifts per game over the last three tilts, most on the team.

    If you needed more information the Blackhawks recognize their fate, this is it. Coach Q briefly sent Seabrook to third-pairing territory earlier in the season, when there was still a chance for things to turn around. Now, Seabrook is back out there doing his thing. And his thing is not satisfactory at the NHL level.

    Hot: Blackhawks fans

    Quite hot, would be the way to describe a number of fans after the 3-2 loss to Calgary on Tuesday. And I get it — the Blackhawks have generated a culture of success for several years. To see … whatever this is, it’s disconcerting.

    But it’s pretty impressive the level of vitriol Blackhawks fans are dishing out on social media. It’s nothing new, of course. I’m just not sure there will be enough guys left on this squad after all the heads are placed on stakes to compete in an NHL game.

    Try this: Accept that this season is dead in the water. It’s not an easy idea. Blackhawks fans of the present are not Browns fans of the always. But that “flip the switch” idea? That’s so far out of the realm of realism this season that the switch might as well be located in Washington, D.C.

    It’s not fun to recognize your favorite team sucks, but it’s necessary at this point. You can still watch the games. You can still comment online about their doings. But a different viewpoint of the inevitable should prevent fewer head explosions over the next two months.

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    Not: Joel Quenneville

    If you aren’t already annoyed with me while reading this, let me start this segment with a personal tidbit: Back when Lovie Smith and Jay Cutler both occupied spots on the Chicago Bears’ roster, I was all for keeping Cutler over Lovie (because it’s almost always a one-or-the-other scenario).

    Now, there’s no equivalent with the Blackhawks, as far as I can see. It’s not get rid of Toews or dump Coach Q. Toews’ contract is immovable, and I doubt the Blackhawks want to move him anyway. Meanwhile, Q is under the fan/media spotlight full-borne.

    Is that fair? Certainly, at this point. But I’m stubbornly in the camp of not firing Q, as small as that group might be getting.

    Based on the fact Seabrook is back to receiving a ton of ice time, there’s an idea Q is phoning in this season. He’s thrown everything he can at the wall, and he has no other solutions. If you want to fire him based on that idea, so be it.

    But while this is happening, we’re seeing DeBrincat, Schmaltz, Anthony Duclair, Vinnie Hinostroza and Jordan Oesterle (one of these things is not like the other) garner valuable minutes. Q has made questionable decisions (Saad on the fourth line, Anton Forsberg rarely playing), but he’s not just rolling out Patrick Sharp for 20 minutes a night.

    It’s evidently clear Q has no idea what to do with this roster. That sounds terrible for a head coach — sounds fireable, right? But what would you do with this group? It’s not as though Q is one move from a championship contender. He’s just tried all season to make it seem that way.

    I’m not saying Q is immune from persecution in 2017-18. Far from it. What I’m saying is this isn’t the “Q ruined everything” show. This specific head does not need to roll just because the Blackhawks are a disorganized mess. This goes beyond the coach.

    Q doesn’t deserve a contract extension or something. But make 2018-19 the deciding year. When it became evident the Blackhawks were going to rely on Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels to play legitimate roles on this team, it also became clear we couldn’t take it seriously unless Q got his blender to hit the perfect combo. It hasn’t happened.

    Next: Saad-Forsberg Usage Makes Panarin Trade Worse

    These young guys gaining minutes right now is going to matter in 2018-19, and I have a feeling Q can make that matter with some savvy moves from general manager Stan Bowman. If 2018-19 goes the same way this season is heading, then you can get serious about dumping the NHL’s longest-tenured coach.

    Have fun debating that before tonight’s game against the Dallas Stars.