Will 2019 be a happy new year for the Chicago Blackhawks?
By Stephen Yatsushiro
Deal or no deal.
With Corey Crawford out indefinitely with another concussion, the burden of stopping the nightly barrage of shots falls upon the tandem of Cam Ward and Collin Delia. After a rocky start in the season, Ward settled down to show flashes of greatness from his younger years. But that has been greatly overshadowed by the stellar performances by Delia. Delia displays incredible lateral movement as his most noticeable ability. He’s been tracking pucks well through traffic and has had only a few missteps in losing his net. That .952 save percentage is probably unsustainable, but it does indicate a high end of talent on his part. Our followers agree.
The question now is whether he should carry the bulk of starting assignments through the second half of the season. I would say the answer is YES. With this rebuild on the fly, it’s time to let this young goalie develop along with the team. The only danger in giving Delia the lion’s share of starts is that he will continue to be hung out to dry nightly by a team that can’t suppress shots. Constant losing can be a deflating element. From the interview after his first loss against the Islanders, Delia looked like a guy whose dog just died.
But as The Athletic’s Cat Silverman wrote about Delia, he is a constant learner. He appears to be of a special breed, an analytical guy who soaks in everything and translates the physical to the mental. He has the mental constitution to work through this rebuild without losing hope.
Reasons for hope.
Our wish list is definitely unfulfilled. Shot suppression still needs work. Hello, new assistant coach Sheldon Brookbank. Jeremy Colliton’s ex-assistant from Rockford is now his assistant with the ‘Hawks. We’ll see if Brookbank reinforces the new style of a tighter defensive gap to pressure opposing forwards. Jokiharju returns from Team Finland, and this can only help out defensively. And a better defense leads to better offense. The substitution of Sikura for Caggiula will help. And the emergence of Delia gives the five skaters the comfort to concentrate on their revised assignments.
A rebuild on the fly is a risky venture. The fact that the ‘Hawks are rebuilding is encouraging in itself. It’s one step at a time. Colliton certainly has his work cut out for him to make a dubious roster more functional. To his credit, he has his team overachieving a bit.
It’s a new year and a new approach.
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We continue to hope that this team will find its way, either with the current personnel or with more changes for the better. In either case, I wish all Chicago Blackhawks fans a happy, healthy and safe new year. And as always, Let’s Go Hawks.