First of all, a PSA. Folks, this isn't aimed at you, but a plague I see around us. For the most part, you're all somewhat logical people. Sure, we disagree at times, maybe a lot. But even when we do I like to think I can spot even the smallest kernel of logic that your ideas have sprang from, and I'd like to think the same about what I say.
But there is a....let's call in infection around us, from those who have no such kernels. And I feel we must stamp it out. People, whenever the Hawks go on a losing streak, please do not use that as an excuse to call for a trade of Patrick Kane. I've seen it on Twitter far too often. Again, it's no one here, I'm sure of that. But we together must band to stamp out this terrible affliction of the most debilitating kind of stupidity. It must be hard for these people to count to five, or yes even intake oxygen, when under such gross misconceptions. A weight of skull crushing potential, I should think.
So please, if someone you know, or just something you see floating around this amorphous sphere we call the internets, hints at the moving of maybe the most gifted Hawk since Savard (if not ever), for all of us, kick them squarely in the balls. And yes, I said balls. Because only men are stupid enough to think of something this incomprehensible. I mean, i've met a lot of dumb girls in my time, but they always at least maintained something of a long distance relationship with reality. Well, except for that one who though my taunting of an Irish friend with "Who let this IRA muthafuckah in my bar?" meant I was an investor. There was no hope for her.
Anyway, let's do the halfway report, shall we?
The challenge here is to try and look at this above the current three-game losing streak. While any losing streak tends to bring out the chicken little, oh there's a cloud falling on my head crowd, to me this just feels like a midseason malaise that hits a lot of teams. It doesn't reveal any truths about the team that we didn't know, and those things have been overcome by the Hawks for the great majority of the season. I'm not going to go player by player here, or position by position, that's for someone else. This will be more of a general, sweeping impression of where I think the Hawks are after 41.
Usually, I'd go with positives first and negatives second, but I'm going to try it a different way to see if I like it, like everyone should do with drugs or handcuffs.
Before the season, my biggest fear about this team was it's second defensive pairing. And so it remains. Some took it as just a bias toward Brian Campbell, and admittedly that was a part of it. But most thought I hated NIck Leddy, and that's far from the truth. But Leddy is at-best just a tick over a rookie, and they're were always going to be bumps. It's too easy to pound him after he's been so abhorrent these three games, and it wouldn't be fair because for the most part he's been pretty good this season.
The Hawks are all in on Leddy, after 51 Phantom's trade and the lowballing of Chris Campoli. Everyone will have to live with the growing pains of a young d-man in the hopes that something close to the finished product emerges in the spring. It's the path they've chosen, and I think it may be the right one. If the Hawks decide they can't live with his growing pains right now, that will probably call for a reconstruction of both the second and third pairs, but we'll get to that in a minute.
However, there are a few things that aren't helping Leddy at all, and are out of his control. One is that his partner sucks, or at least does now. Niklas Hjalmarsson simply doesn't do anything. He's not physical, his positioning in his zone looks like those books from The Adjustment Bureau (my god is Emily Blunt hot!), and he never provided offense anyway. All he does is block shots, which is a third-pairing skill set. Leddy's game would assuredly improve if he had a partner playing well. Right now, he's chained to whatever it is Hammer does.
Secondly, Leddy is simply being asked to do too much. We've been over and over the reasons he shouldn't be killing penalties. But even with that, Leds is skating almost nine minutes more per game this year than last year. Considering he's only two years removed from college, it's safe to assume he's never played this much in as many games ever. And it's simple mismanagement. Because Quenneville won't use a third pairing, or dresses Scott and can't, it leaves too many minutes to be divvied up by the top four. While Keith and Seabrook can handle it -- though revisit this question in the spring -- Leddy and Hammer probably can't. Whether Quenneville likes it or not, he's got to use a third pairing. He's probably fist-fucked Sami Lepitso's game beyond repair, and he'll have to explain why he hates Steve Montador. Yes, Monty is mistake prone, but not the walking calamity that should keep him from 15 minutes and some kill time. Sorry.
So clearly, the answer is either going to have to come from outside the organization, or they can saddle another young d-man with a role he's not ready for in Dylan Olsen. I think this is an interesting test for Stan Bowman, especially if Leddy continues to struggle. We'll know just how much Stan thinks the Hawks have a chance at this year's Cup by what he does. If Leddy can't get right, will Stan give up the picks and assets to completely rebuild his second pairing? Will he admit his pet project Leddy isn't ready for prime time just quite yet and needs just third pairing minutes? Or will he be stubborn and keep his picks and pet? Does the plan not include this year?
Moving on, although still somewhat connected to Leddy's struggles is the goaltending. Let's face it, except for two separate two-week stretches from each of Crawford and Emery, it's been hobo-piss poor. They're also running out of time to prove they can turn it around, or this will be another thing Stan will have to fix if he thinks this team has Cup chances this year. But you have to feel good about where the Hawks are despite this netminding, and it really only has one way to go.
Up front, thanks to the toddler and his toy treatment of Marcus Kruger, the Hawks are a center short again. Maybe he'll be back, maybe he won't. Maybe Patrick Sharp will get over himself and move back to pivot to make all our lives easier. But even still, when Dan Carcillo is getting regular top six minutes, you have a hole on your top six. But this is the one I feel best about, because it's so easily filled. There will be plenty of wingers around who can be acquired for something short of a king's ransom.
Well anyway, that got way too long. So on Monday I'll wrap this up with what I feel good about and an overall conclusion at the halfway mark .Thanks for sticking with me.