The Way Out Is Through

Since the final horn sounded thankfully ending last night's corn-giblet-speckled turd of a contest, I've been vacillating between whether or not it's about time to go to the whip, as they say, to precipitate some change at 1901 W Madison. To this point, I've yet to find a clear answer.

The reactionary side of me has unquenchable bloodlust at the moment, because I know what I saw first-hand last night. I saw a team with an inexcusable deficit in the "Give A Shit" department. That was a near lifeless team on the ice in red sweaters, with its purported top players wearing the biggest sets of goat horns. Patrick Sharp, for all the early season scoring, seemingly can't be bothered with his own zone, and is dragging around a -10 as a result, doubling that up last night after being on the ice for all 5 Jersey goals. There's Duncan Keith, who can't resist any opportunity to attempt a 90 foot pass, and has been sleeping in his own zone more often than is acceptable. Nick Boynton has all of the positional discipline of a beer league has-been thinking he's hot shit at a 6:30AM weekday skate. And those are just the specifics. Endemic to the team, specifically the forwards, is this newfound propensity to stand still in the neutral zone during a regroup, and do so 50+ feet away from the puck carrier. I've got some news for you boys- you're a lot harder to defend when you're moving, and 10-15 foot passes have a far greater likelihood of getting to their intended recipient.

There's all of this, and then throw in the fact that they did this against far and away the worst team in the league, who has been decimated by injuries, missing one of their top forwards and obviously their top defenseman. Then get the added bonus of their fading, but still eminently solid Hall of Fame goalie having to be pulled with an injury halfway through the game. Oh, and last night was the last of the Devils' five-game roadie as well, in case the Hawks needed any more help. And while two goals were empty netters, the Hawks just gave up 5 to a team that had scored 20 goals TOTAL in the 13 games prior. This all adds up to a royal dick-stomping at the hands of most coaches, in the form of a verbal laceration and a bag skate.

But there are mitigating factors that get in the way of this.

Chiefly among them, the coaching staff is not without blame in this situation. Joel Quenneville's personnel and playing time distribution decisions have been curious at best, infuriating at worst. He's inexplicably scratched players (Viktor Stalberg, Jack Skille, Jordan Hendry) who bring an element with their games that adds to the up tempo game the Hawks purport to want to play, yet John Scott, Nick Boynton, and Jassen Cullimore see the ice in favor of them. And even when the lineup looks alright, it's fairly common to see many of those players receiving less than 5:00 minutes of playing time, and next to none of it in the 3rd period. Last night was hopefully the nadir of such antics, as John Scott and Jordan Hendry skated as forwards, and played less than 4 minutes a piece. Their lack of ice time means that other players are getting those minutes, and it's exacerbating another problem: fatigue.

Not only are the Hawks coming off a deep (and wonderfully successful) playoff run, but it was also an Olympic year, where many of their top players (Kane, Toews, Hossa, Keith) played upwards of 105 games, and had a short summer afterward. Throw injuries to key players in to start, a horrifically busy early schedule, and add the incongruous playing time distribution as mentioned above, and it's not surprising that the Hawks are dragging ass. Not surprising, but certainly not excusable.

So is a tyrannical practice session the answer? It's already been done once this year, by Minnesota coach Todd Richards, with middling results. But for a defending Cup champion and a coach with fresh paper, it's doubtful it's coming. That's normally the act of a coach trying to keep his job, though we have seen Q points chase when a longer perspective is needed, so it doesn't seem out of the question for him. But if we're going to ask him to have some perspective, perhaps we need to as well.

The Hawks are now in the midst of a rare two-day break, and Hoss seems likely to come back during one of the two games this weekend. Hopefully the time will be used productively, whether it's for breaking down film, or breaking down stubborn habits, and get back to playing a simplified game.

Of course, we'll have to go through this all over again on Saturday evening after a loss to the Trashers and answer the cries of "DEY SHOULDA NEVER TRADED DAT BIG BUCK GUY".

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