You may want to sit down for this; it won’t be pleasant.
There’s been this thought swirling around my head since the second week of the season. Every time the Hawks would lose, or every time the Hawks would win a game despite being out-shot and out-chanced by drastic margins, or every time the freaking power play would fail to convert yet again, I’d come back to the same conclusion.
I’ve seen this movie before. And I know how it ends: with the Blackhawks getting bounced in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
I have a bad feeling about this Blackhawks team right now.
Don’t you? I know we’re only about four weeks into the season, but so many of the legitimate concerns we had about the Blackhawks heading into the season have been realized in the first 12 games of the season.
The forwards haven’t looked right since the first two games of the season, when the Hawks took advantage of facing backup goalies of teams who were playing on the tail-end of a back-to-back. It’s November 1st and Joel Quenneville has already taken the Blackhawks forward lines, put them in a blender, and hit frappé. Brandon Saad is even better than we remembered and Patrick Kane is still one of the league’s most lethal offensive weapons. Outside of that? I haven’t seen enough to convince me that this is a team that’s going to hang with the best of the West come April.
On defense, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are on the wrong side of 30 and showing it. The rest of the D corps has had its flashes — primarily from Jan Rutta — but not frequent enough and consistent enough to make you believe that the defensive holes will be fixed by the postseason.
The only consistent thing about this team has been Corey Crawford’s performance in net. But he’s been doing that since 2013, and we’ve learned that he cannot carry this team by himself.
All of these negative thoughts were swirling in my mind, and then there was Tuesday’s practice.
Q said he was mad about how practice ended. That's why he dropped the F bombs and made the guys skate ... hard.— John Dietz (@johndietzdh) October 31, 2017
Q was unhappy with the intensity of practice, hence the laps and F-bombs. Said it reached "tough to watch" levels.— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) October 31, 2017
I can’t remember this happening during the Quenneville era in Chicago. The most drama that’s occurred during morning practices under Q’s watch has usually stemmed from whatever forward combinations were making their debut at practice.
For the last decade, no matter what the Hawks have looked like on the ice, they’ve always maintained a calm, cool, collected approach outside of games. Practices and the ensuing interviews have rarely provided any clues into what was going behind the scenes. But this feels like something different. There appears to be a sense of urgency from Quenneville to get this thing back on track as soon as possible. Cracks are starting to show at the seams of the fabric that have held all of this together.
The good thing about negative feelings like these is that they are temporary sensations. This impending sense of doom doesn’t have to be a permanent sentence. But things need to start changing if the mood around the Blackhawks is going to get more optimistic. Remember that rather pessimistic outlook is coming from the same person who wrote — and still very much believes — that this team is going to make the playoffs in the 2017-18 NHL season.
And it would not be a surprise if this team turned everything around by Christmas, or even by Thanksgiving. They’ve certainly got the talent. But after two lackluster seasons, they’ve lost the benefit of doubt. Something tangible on the ice needs to change before this haunting feeling goes away.