Chicago Blackhawks rebuild needs to go beyond adding younger players
Last night the Blackhawks played the Lightning in one of the last games of the season. It was ugly, and Chicago came out behind, further cementing their drop in the standings. With the off-season just around the corner, there are needed changes on the horizon. At least one of those changes might need to be behind the bench.
It’s been overstated at this point, but the Chicago Blackhawks are rebuilding. Most of the focus so far has been on acquiring younger players and transitioning away from the team’s veterans. So far, that has been trending in the right direction, but other changes are needed, such as the defensive side of the coaching.
However, this isn’t about Jeremy Colliton. He has to get a young, inexperienced team playing with confidence against the odds, and for the most part, he’s done that. The problem that has been consistent with the team is the poor defensive play. If anyone needs to see the door, it’s assistant coach Sheldon Brookbank.
Chicago has been terrible defensively all season, and it never really mattered who was in the lineup. While it’s fair to say that the team has had a lot of rookies in the lineup, they have, it hasn’t made all the difference. The Blackhawks have given up waaaaay too many shots almost every single night to pretty much every team they’ve played.
How bad have they been? Have a look (you may need to scroll right):
Some key stats for here that are worth considering going into the game against Tampa Bay,
Shots for: 1411 /// Shots against: 1585
Goals for per game (GF/G): 2.77/ // Goals against per game (GA/G): 3.10
Expected goals for (xGF) : 55.9 /// Expected goals against (xGA): 49.0
Actual goals for (aGF): 81 /// Actual goals against: 99
Those goals for and against are at 5 on 5. There isn’t a lot about this team looks good right now, and it’s pretty obvious that Chicago is giving up more than they are getting. The eye test doesn’t serve the team much better. Defensively, Chicago is poor.
The so-called system that Colliton has been running needs to be changed, but more than that, Colliton’s defensive assistant needs to go. While the overall approach to defending isn’t entirely on Brookbank, there needs to be a change. Things aren’t working, and Brookbank is simply the logical person to be shown the door.
Back in 2019, NBC reported that Brookbank was joining Colliton in the NHL. Previously they had worked together in the AHL in Rockford. According to NBC’s article,
"It’s unclear what Brookbank’s exact role will be, but his primary responsibilities in Rockford last year included working closely with the defensemen and penalty kill unit, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him assume those same duties in Chicago."
If this role carried over to the Blackhawks, then it wouldn’t be a stretch to pin a large portion of the team’s defensive woes on him. It’s one thing to ice a mediocre team while giving younger players experience, but when even the veterans can’t make the system work, it’s a problem. The team’s defensive problems have obvious for a while now.
During the game against Tampa Bay, Blackhawk Up contributors brought up a bunch of points about where the team needs to improve. Tweaking the coaching staff, rather than the system was just one of them. At this point it isn’t just young talent that’s needed, it’s a substantive change in the quality of the team. If Bowman were going to make a clear statement about turning things around, firing Brookbank could be a clear message sent that becoming a competitor is more than a youth movement.