Ten games into the 2021 season seem like enough time to begin spouting off irrational statements that I will probably regret in a week. That being said, let me dive in headfirst by applauding general manager Stan Bowman for doing a great job assembling a competitive team and head coach Jeremy Colliton for getting the most out of a depleted roster.
This year was written off as a rebuild and after two games against the defending Stanley Cup champion, Tampa Bay Lightning, it looked like the start of a painful process. However, while the emergence of Kevin Lankinen as a legitimate number one goalie and the lineup’s persistent hard work may not be the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s at least a glimmer of hope.
Bowman has borne the brunt of criticism long before the Blackhawks decline. He has taken fair blame for bad contracts, questionable trades, and insignificant free-agent acquisitions. Still, the performance of this rookie-infused team thus far merits praise.
Suter, Kurashev, and Mitchell have shown glimpses of genuine talent, and the Rockford alums have proven that they are NHL ready. This is by no means is a finished product. The road back is a long way from past glory. Nonetheless, Bowman deserves credit for drafting and signing a collection of viable young players.
The road back to success is a long way away, but Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks coaching staff do deserve some praise.
For his part, Colliton has been masterful in juggling lines plagued by injuries and limited by Covid-19 protocols. Although he has relied on veterans Kane, Strome, Keith, and Murphy to log extensive minutes, he has still effectively weaved his inexperienced players into situations where they can succeed, utilized the energy of the fourth line, and revamped the power play into a potent offensive tool.
Furthermore, he’s been able to instill a measure of determination into his team that has kept them in games when they have had trouble possessing the puck. He has molded a squad that finishes checks, fights for position, and continually breaks up opposing teams’ rushes with their sticks and bodies.
A true testament to the coaching staff’s effectiveness is the fact that Blackhawks have played better in the backend of each of the two-game series against their Central Division foes.
Of course, there is still a long way to go in this season, and if injuries and Covid-19 continue to ravage the organization there will be a point when the depth runs out, the smoke dissolves and the mirrors break, but so far this team has performed better than expected and the brass warrants some acknowledgment.