That’s right: we’re a midweek series as well!
I sat down in front of my computer to write this early in the day on Tuesday and found my mind as blank as the screen I stared at for about an hour before I gave up.
That feels like a decent summary of where things stand with the Chicago Blackhawks right now, doesn’t it?
The playoffs have been a pipe dream since November and only remain a possibility through an exhaustive use of adverbs: statistically possible but virtually impossible. This team isn’t making the postseason again. But the trade deadline is still just over a month away and, despite a few deals happening this week, it’s only been rumors and speculation about which players are coming to or leaving from Chicago once it gets involved in the marketplace, which may not happen until a GM is hired.
Sure, there are games being played, but both the wins and losses of the last week have mostly been met with a shrug of the shoulders and a “Yeah, fine, whatever,” reaction. It’s hockey doldrums season and there’s no postseason light at the end of the tunnel awaiting come April.
Thirty-three games left. Feel the excitement!
The Week That Was
Nothing reinforces my stance against tanking in hockey more than watching the best hockey player in the world star for a team that will struggle just to make the playoffs and then probably not do anything if it gets there.
I fear there will be a few other games coming this season under the “let’s move on and pretend it never happened” category like this one.
Not a total thrashing (see what I did there?) but still a solid win.
A Branch in the River
Speaking of that GM search, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman had an interesting Blackhawks nugget in his weekly “32 Thoughts” column that ran on Tuesday. Scroll down to No. 10:
A couple people told me Chicago, at one point, indicated it was thinking of interviewing something like 20 people for the GM job. I don’t think that’s still the case, but it sounds like there’s at least one more interview this week. This is going to be interesting. There’s definitely a push for “non-traditional.” Ultimately will be interesting to see who makes the final call.
Twenty people seems a bit excessive, doesn’t it? The field couldn’t be narrowed down any more than that? Don’t know what the appropriate number of GM candidates is for an NHL team but 20 definitely feels excessive. It kind of feels like the Blackhawks plan for finding Pat Foley’s replacement, in that there appears to be a long list of qualified candidates for the position but the franchise’s inability to narrow that field presents an unwieldy amount of auditions that have made the hiring process take too long.
Maybe it’ll all work out. Who knows? The calculus of what makes a good GM feels even more mysterious than the crapshoot that is the NHL Draft. Whomever ends up in that role, the Blackhawks need to start working with a bit more urgency as the trade deadline creeps closer and the acquisition market heats up. Virtually every Blackhawks-related conversation I saw on social media on Tuesday dealt with Brandon Hagel trade rumors and it was something we also discussed on the weekly podcast. Discussions around Marc-Andre Fleury will only get louder, too. The person who’s going to navigate this team in the short and long-term needs to hop into the driver seat quickly so there’s a clear path ahead for this team, whatever that path may be.
My Man Mitch(ell)
I cannot explain how this happened but my favorite prototype for an NHL player is the offensively gifted defenseman, which is why I was ecstatic 14 years ago — holy shit, 14 years ago — when the Blackhawks landed the biggest fish in the free agent pond by signing Brian Campbell to an 8-year, $57.1 million contract.
By virtue of his similar skill set and same number, I’ve been very intrigued by Ian Mitchell since the Hawks drafted him back in 2017. His rookie season didn’t go quite as well as hoped, but the same could be said for just about everyone involved with the 2021 Blackhawks. He’s had a few glimpses of the NHL this season but the sample size (8 games, 11:56 average TOI) remains relatively small. Down in Rockford, though, Mitchell appears to be finding himself a bit:
#Blackhawks prospect, Ian Mitchell (#51 in red) scores his eighth goal on the season! It’s his fifth goal in as many games. Alec Regula (#75) and Michal Teplý (#53 pick up the assists. Regula is on a five game point streak (1G, 4A). #HawksProspects #IceHogs #HockeyTwitter pic.twitter.com/ckzPEvdlZC— Chicago Prospects (@Chi_Prospects) February 16, 2022
Watch this move:
No idea of this is a harbinger of future NHL success or just a brief spurt of flourishing in the AHL that won’t be indicative of any future performance. For the moment, though, it’s something. And that’s better than nothing, I guess.
Don’t Be This Guy
The context here is not immediately hockey-related but it can still be applied to this sport:
This is the sort of thing me and @InTheBleachers are talking about when we say some people have zero understanding of how good pro athletes are.— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) February 15, 2022
(And make-an-NBA-roster good might be the best good of any major sport.) pic.twitter.com/2xCiFtpyqI
This comes up every so often on Twitter by some jackass with an inflated sense of their own athletic ability. If any random person off the street were randomly thrown into an NHL or NBA or NFL game they’d be swallowed whole. They’d stand no chance. There’s a reason these athletes are professionals and you are not. Start with the physical conditioning aspects of it, which can be understood by exploring this 2019 article from The Athletic, where one of the team’s beat reporters worked out with Patrick Kane’s trainer, Ian Mack. When being a pro athlete is your full-time job, you can reach a level of physical condition that those of us with other full-time jobs cannot.
From there, remember every single player in the NHL and AHL and ECHL, too can skate, shoot, and stick-handle better than you. Just swallow your pride and come have a beer with us in the seats as we watch these athletes do things we can only dream of. It’ll be OK.
The Week That Will Be
A lot of home-cooking on the way for the Blackhawks:
Thursday, Feb. 17 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Friday, Feb. 18 vs. Dallas Stars
Monday, Feb. 20 vs. Florida Panthers
DeBrincat’s 50-goal chase (catchier name still TBD)
There is a very small number of NHL players who score a goal from the place that DeBrincat scored the winner against Winnipeg on Monday night:
He’s so damn good. I wish I had better words than that because they fail to capture it accurately.
Last Week: 3 games, 2 goals
Season Totals: 49 games, 28 goals
Current Pace: (28 goals / 49 games played) * 82 games = 46.86 goals
Gained just over one-half of a goal in the last week!