Question Time For Mr. Quenneville: Hawks 2 - Avs 5
I kind of feeling like Porky holding on by a thread to Planet X after Daffy and Marvin blew it up at the moment, that planet being the sanctuary of rationality and logic. My fingers are definitely slipping through the grease of rage and disappointment. But I'll try.
Before I get to the crux of this post, first this thought. I had remained reasonably assured this slide would stop because it hadn't really infected the top of the roster. While Kane hadn't scored, and neither has Hossa, they were still noticeable. Seabrook and Keith were reasonably assured, while the rot was incubating below them. But tonight, Toews had a turnover that led to a goal (though he was given a tough pass by Kane, though if there's one guy you'd trust in traffic...). Duncan Keith tripped the light fantastic on a bouncing puck which he probably should have just gloved forward or something. Brent Seabrook was on birding for Landeskog's winner, though obviously wasn't done any favors by Stalberg's turnover at the blue line. Then again, not every turnover at the blue line should go in the net. If whatever fungal infection has spread to those the Hawks count on and pay most, then it is absolutely panic time and a fight for just a playoff spot very well may be on the cards. However, they'll need to be bad for more than one game before we conclude that.
Ok, on to the main crux. While the frustration and disillusionment with Joel Quenneville has grown in some circles to the point of calling for his head -- at time spearheaded by compatriot and colleague McClure -- I'm not there yet. But I think I see how I people got there.
First up: The Hawks spent three days talking about shoring up the defense, and then went right back to doing everything they couldn't do. Turnovers at the opposing blue line, turnovers in their own zone, bad positioning. I believe you worked on it in practice, why didn't it translate? I guess that could be just as blamed on the players who didn't follow your instructions, but still.
But let's continue. You've basically tacitly admitted your bottom two pairs have sucked, which they have. You juggled them up. That's fine. Didn't really work, but at least you saw the problem. But if the problem is bad enough that you actually shake up the pairings, which you've been loathe to do for your entire tenure here (unlike the forwards), then what can you possibly be holding on to to not give Sami Lepisto a five-game run out? That's right, five games. Not one where he's on pins and needles, knowing that one mistake will land him another month in the hole. Then again, you've probably fucked yourself out of this option by keeping him on the shelf so long. Lepisto is no savior, but you're not asking for a savior. You're asking for 15 solid minutes per night. Again, what are you holding on to here? All of your bottom four d-men could be scratched justifiably, at least for a game here or there. And don't answer with John Scott, or I'm going to find a monk to light me on fire right in the middle of Lincoln Square.
Let's keep going, I'm starting to enjoy this now In Vancouver, Calgary, and tonight in Denver, your power play had a chance to bail you out and get you at least a point. Yet you continue to use a system that has proven without a doubt it doesn't work. Your umbrella, with four guys strewn from circle to circle, piles up bodies in the slot that Duncen Keith or whoever else can't get shots through. With all those bodies, you've taken Patrick Kane's best attribute -- passing and vision -- out of play. All he can see is blocked lanes. You need to stretch the killers. Two point men, or two guys below the goal line, or someone behind the net to get their heads to turn. Kane needs lanes to exploit, your point men need more than a hole only The Force can get a shot through. But you've never even thought of changing things around, except when injuries made you.
Not done yet. I'm on a roll. Besides the turnovers and a block against chipping bucks along the wall to get behind the Avs defense, you couldn't adjust to what the Avs did to you. It was clear that the Avs were putting all three forwards behind your forwards on the breakout, and the Hawks never bothered to close the lanes through the neutral zone to get the puck to them. You didn't send a second forward in on the forecheck to sap up the time those Avs blue-liners had to pick a pass. You didn't pull that one forechecker back and play something of a trap to close those lanes. Your three forwards were always above the red line when the puck entered the Hawks zone, consistently leaving two Hawks defenders to deal with three charging forwards. Your d-men couldn't move the puck well enough to go the other way. And yet you didn't change anything. Or maybe you tried and your players didn't listen? Neither is particularly encouraging.
If I didn't know any better, Q, I'd swear you're out of solutions. You juggled your lines, and that's all you ever do. No change in systems, no simplifying things, no nothing. Your team keeps making the same mistakes, and keeps trying the same things. Is it you or them?
Maybe you would answer that it wouldn't matter, this is the team you have with all its warts. Ok, reasonable argument. So I'll include Stan in this. Your coach is telling you that you basically need a whole new second pairing. That's right, you need two d-men now, even if it means demoting your pet Leddy. That choice that I wondered if you'd have to make, when you'd have to decide what's more important -- Leddy's development or a chance at this year's Cup -- very well may be upon you. What will you do?
It's not bomb shelter time yet. The big red button does not need its cover removed. Yet. But the distance to be covered to get there could be gained by a simple counter trap at this point. The Blues and and each got points tonight. The gap is widening. What's your response, Mr. Quenneville and Mr. Bowman? Do you have one?