Anyone else experience the roller-coaster ride of starting off Sunday morning with, perhaps, the greatest World Cup final we’ve ever seen and then ending it with what felt like the worst Chicago Blackhawks game of the season?
Or maybe just the worst day of the Blackhawks season — so far.
Anyway, for those unfamiliar with the story of Lionel Messi, the Cliffs Notes are that he’s been arguably the best soccer player in the world for the last decade-plus and won about every trophy that exists — except for the World Cup. And coming from a soccer-crazed nation like Argentina that had won it twice before, Messi’s career had felt sort of incomplete without one. And then he won it, at the end of a game offering enough drama to sustain all of us until the 2026 World Cup.
On Sunday night, I watched — well, until some point in the third period — Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane skate in their 1,000th regular-season game as teammates, becoming the 11th NHL duo to accomplish that feat. One of the prior duos was former Blackhawks blue-liners Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
Toews and Kane’s careers were basically the opposite of Messi: they arrived at the professional level after racking up mountains of amateur-level accolades and then immediately soared to the top of the hockey world with a trio of Stanley Cup wins — and toss in a few gold medals for Toews with Canada for good measure. Their success was immediate, the initial climb to the top — and the two summits that followed — came without the massive setbacks and disappointments that made Messi’s ultimate triumph so cathartic for him and the rest of the country.
Obviously, any sports road that ends with a championship is lightyears ahead of one that does not but which road is the preferred method of travel? Is it better to be like Toews and Kane, who arrived at the NHL level and immediately won every trophy possible and then spend the next decade or so on fruitless searches for another one? Or is it better to be more like Messi — basically the soccer version of Ray Bourque — and spend years wandering in a sports desert, racking up award after award after award before the entire sports world is in your corner when you’re into your mid/late-30s and finally capture that elusive championship that solidifies your spot?
These are the sort of things that came to mind when the present-day Hawks are in the midst of a 1-14-1 slump.
The Week That Was
Speaking of players who took a long, long time to finally capture that one elusive championship: good for Ovi.
Like so many other games this season, all there is to offer from this result is a shrug of the shoulders and a dejected “Who cares?”
Because of Chicago’s current state of affairs the only enjoyment to be gleaned from this season comes from the joy in watching other teams ultimately fail. The Wild are high on this list.
Add Jacob Trouba to the schadenfreude list.
Last week, in this very space, I suggested that I was losing faith in the Blackhawks’ ability to be the worst team in the league because the Anaheim Ducks were so clearly owning that distinction.
It feels like the Hawks can’t possibly maintain this pace for too much longer. They’ve lost FIFTEEN of the last SIXTEEN games. While the 4-2 start was based on developments that were clearly unsustainable — as we learned during everyone’s favorite game show — a stretch of 1-14-1 also seems unsustainably bad. Hell, the Ducks have won two games in a row and are 3-5-2 in their last 10.
This team is about as awful as it was expected — and designed! — to be but this level of incompetence is too bad to continue because hockey is weird and strange things happen. It just seems like the Blackhawks used up a significant portion of the weird things that happen and lead to victories during the first few weeks of the season.
The Week That Will Be
Wednesday, Dec. 21 vs. Nashville Predators
It feels like the Predators have been teetering on the edge of blowing everything up and starting over for about five seasons now. Wonder if their mediocre stretch to start this season finally pushes them over the edge.
Friday, Dec. 23 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
With the snowstorm that’s on its way to the Chicago area, this game could set the new standard for empty seats inside the United Center.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone. Don’t forget to check in on the Christmas Hockey News: