At the moment, the Chicago Blackhawks are sitting at the bottom of the division, and are ahead of only the Arizona Coyotes. Directly after the March 21st trade deadline which saw Chicago part with three players, the season took a bad turn, meaning all hope appeared to be gone. What's odd is, not much changed on the team, so what's going on?
The first thing that comes to mind is that Chicago traded away their number one goaltender Marc-André Fleury, whose ability in net helped cover up some of the Blackhawks' defensive issues. Chicago isn't a great team, but try as they might, neither Kevin Lankinen nor Collin Delia are the same caliber player as Marc-Andre Fleury. That difference in ability between Fleury, as opposed to Delia or Lankinen could very easily be counted in a few extra goals against.
Aside from Fleury, it's hard to see how the team has been so significantly altered that they are now in the midst of what is probably the worst stretch of the season. The other two players that were dealt at the trade deadline were Brandon Hagel and Ryan Carpenter, both of whom are bottom-six forwards. Neither one of those players should be so crucial to the team's success that they're absence could cause such a crash in team performance.
Even worse, the team has given up four or more goals in every game since the trade deadline except two, a loss to Seattle and an OT loss to Arizona. Any way you slice it, that's bad. It might be easy to want to pin this all on the goalies, there's plenty of blame to go around, but that doesn't explain everything. The loss of Fleury was going to have an impact, but the losses of Carpenter and Hagel shouldn't be so significant that Chicago is being beaten so soundly game after game.
It's really not clear what the issue is. Simply saying, "the team isn't good enough" doesn't really address what the underlying problems are. When Chicago started the season with an epic losing streak, most people blamed former coach Jeremy Colliton. He's gone, and now every match feels like Chicago is one loss away from a record-breaking mediocrity. That's probably just the frustrated fan speaking, but all of these losses are symptomatic of more than a lack of skill.
If I had to pick one thing, it would be players underperforming. The Blackhawks are a defensive disaster. As the season winds down, it's hard to look at what happens on the ice and wonder how much worse it could be. Before signing off permanently, Pat Foley harshly, but accurately criticized the team's performance against the Kings:
""We're halfway through this game, and the Blackhawks have eight shots on goal. only four from forwards. Anybody want to start playing anytime soon?""- Pat Foley
The same could have been said a couple of days ago against Calgary. Chicago had a dreadful losing streak when Fleury was with the team, and so his departure hasn't really changed anything. The disastrous state of the team lies squarely at the feet of the players still under contract. Foley nailed it. It's going to be a shame to see him step down, but he called a spade a spade. The players aren't playing. Goaltending may have taken a dip, but Chicago has been particularly underwhelming for about a month now. At this point, I've started running out of words to describe the team. Feel free to add your own, but at least we can take solace in the fact that the 2021-22 season is almost over.