A 2-5-2 start.
A 7-2-2 stretch!
A 1-5-1 skid.
That’s been the first two months of the 2019-20 Blackhawks, a roller-coaster ride that Six Flags would struggle to re-create.
No, the Blackhawks probably aren’t as bad as the 14-5 aggregate score from last weekend’s home-and-home with the Avalanche. They might be a touch better than Tuesday’s 4-0 defeat against the Blues would suggest.
But they’re still not all that good. Again.
That’ll probably be reinforced Thursday night when the Blackhawks head visit the Bruins at the end of four-game stretch that saw Chicago face teams that are just plain better at hockey. Colorado, St. Louis and Boston all exist in a class of NHL teams that are going to beat the Blackhawks in the majority of matchups.
Good teams can overcome adversity, the way St. Louis has thrived without Vladimir Tarasenko in the lineup and the way Colorado has dealt with a plethora of missing starters.
The Blackhawks are not one of those good teams, though. When this house of cards is assembled perfectly, they’ll give a brief glimpse of what they could be. It happened against the Stars last week, with Chicago fully healthy and the Stars playing their third game in four nights. The result? A 3-0 Blackhawks win that may have been their best game of the season.
But that’s the exception this season, not the rule. When that house of cards loses a key structure — like Connor Murphy in October or Duncan Keith in the last week — or faces some external adversity — like being down to 17 skaters or having an assistant coach swept into a league-wide controversy — it all comes crashing down, resulting in games like the weekend dismantling by Colorado and Tuesday’s 4-0 snoozefest of a loss to the Blues.
The third season of the Blackhawks being a middling, mediocre team.
When’s it going to change?
If this is what the Blackhawks are — and have been for multiple seasons — how do they get to where they need to be? Or, more directly: is the current direction going to end with the Blackhawks returning to the league’s elite?
At this point, Chicago’s plan seems apparent. It’s hoping veteran players like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Keith remain significant NHL contributors while the next generation that features players who are already here (Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Alex Nylander and Kirby Dach) mesh with the players who are on the way (Adam Boqvist, Ian Mitchell, Nicolas Beaudin and more) and convert the Blackhawks from a middling team to one that can contend for another shot at the Stanley Cup.
But is that going to work? And, perhaps just important as the players, is head coach Jeremy Colliton the one who can steer this yet-to-be-assembled ship?
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to envision this team reaching the heights it hopes to reach without a seismic restructuring of its organization, from the front office down to the roster. And every 2-5-2 start, every 1-5-1 skid, every lifeless defeat to a Central Division foe lends fuel to the rising tide of discontent sweeping through the Blackhawks fan base.
And, again, when is something going to change?