Blackhawks Need To Make “Relentless Style Of Play” a Reality
By Jeremiah Lee
In a recent interview with Barry Rozner of the Daily Herald, Jeremy Colliton has said that he wants his team to be relentless. After three seasons of asking for this type of style from the Blackhawks, I couldn’t be happier.
Jeremy Colliton recently stated that he wants his team to be relentless. Honestly, if he backs up his words this season and the team competes like he wants them to, I think the ‘Hawks will be going places.
Here are his exact words, via the Daily Herald’s Rozner:
"“We want to be relentless,” Colliton said. “We want to hunt the puck when we don’t have it. We want to have numbers back to defend so we can get it back as quickly as possible. We want to attack as quickly as we can once we get it back. We want that up and down the lineup."
What does this mean? Pretty much they want an aggressive forecheck, as well as hustle on the backcheck. There won’t be a single line who will bear most of the responsibilities defensively, but all four lines will be trusted in their own zone against whoever their matchup is.
Colliton also stated he wants more accountability with his players, and to commit to a high-pressure attack and a responsible defense. A few fans seem to be laughing at this type of strategy, but the ‘Hawks are more than capable of this style of play until the young guys get better to properly execute a “cycle” playstyle (passes and possession time).
With the additions of Mattias Janmark and Lucas Wallmark, the ‘Hawks’ depth will be a nightmare if they pull this off. With the potential return of Andrew Shaw, you can bet that one person on each of the checking lines will be more than happy to run you through the boards on the forecheck, with his linemates raring to annoy your defense partner when he tries a breakout pass. With this playstyle, coaches have a good benchmark on what they expect: if players don’t come to the bench out of breath, then they didn’t do their job right.
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If the Blackhawks do make life miserable for the opposition and are able to withstand the inevitable physicality they get in return, the ‘Hawks will do much better than fans think, regardless of the record. Even if they lose a game, if teams leave worn out because they were always worn down in some way during their shift, the ‘Hawks did their job.
I don’t expect them to be Stanley Cup contenders at the moment, I just want to watch competitive hockey. Even if they lose, I will still think it was a good game if I could see that the ‘Hawks gave the other team a hard time and actually played the game.
Colliton also mentioned the recent playoff series against the Vegas Golden Knights. There, the ‘Hawks were able to understand how high their level of play has to be to compete with the top teams. The ‘Hawks are not good enough to “out-skill” the opposition, so, instead, they will make it hard on the other team with a relentless attack, pester them in their zone, and a (hopefully) responsible defense next season.
From what was said here, he also wants the ‘Hawks to have an “aggressive backcheck”: Once the other team starts their breakout after a turnover or a SOG, the ‘Hawks want to make sure everyone hustles back, gets to their position, and gets in the way of passing lanes just waiting for a high-danger chance against.
“How can they do this with an aging core?” was a question one fan asked. Well, with many of their players under the age of thirty, and the fact the “aging core” doesn’t play the entire night, they will be well-rested when it is their turn to aggressively forecheck or hustle on the backcheck. The chances of doing both on each shift should be low if they want to be effective: If you’re out of breath and not change on transition, then you will be a liability for the next thirty seconds or so.
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are also not that old, still able to be effective against younger, faster opposition as seen in the Edmonton series. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook most likely won’t be on the forecheck, so they won’t tire out, especially with the shorter shifts Colliton wants to initiate.
As a skilled team always wants the puck, it is always a good thing to wear them down in any way possible. Even playing against a big, strong team, even if you lose, you might as well go out with a fight than a whimper (not so much seen last season, especially in the St. Louis game last season: the ‘Hawks were dominated in every aspect).
The problem with an aggressive forecheck is this: If you don’t make it hard for them in their zone, whether it be a hit or you pester them with subtle hooks with your stick until they pass the puck, the opposition with toy with the you. If the ‘Hawks don’t hit, the defense will just pass the puck around until an open breakout play occurs. The ‘Hawks will tire themselves out with a pointless forecheck and panic to backcheck properly. They have to make it hard on the opposition to accomplish this proposed playstyle. If they don’t, then it will be another long season for the Chicago Blackhawks.