Why I'm Excited About These Two Weeks
Or alternatively, why I may be a grinning idiot. But you probably all knew that.
I know that a lot of us will be watching the next six games through our fingers, or from behind the couch, or perhaps in a bomb shelter. It is a scary proposition, because the Hawks could very easily lose touch in the division race and be staring down the gauntlet of a sticky and probably sickening playoff path (though in the West, there probably isn't going to be an easy path for anyone, especially if the Kings continue their dalliance with an #8 seed. As much as they've struggled, does anyone really want to face them in a seven-game series). The warts are growing and pulsing, and they're looking farther and farther from being solvable. Questions are coming at a much more frequent rate about the coaches and GM, and what they can or will do to arrest the slide.
But I'm eager to see what happens in these two weeks, because to me, after they're over we're going to know exactly what kind of team the Hawks are.
It's partly because you find out what a team is really made of in how it responds to times of crisis, if this qualifies as a full-blown crisis. I don't know that it does, but I wouldn't put up much of an argument to those who think it does. But that's not really all of it or even most of it.
For all of this season, a lot of us have had a hard time putting a finger on what exactly this team is and how good it is. The early season buffet of points that were buffeted by some shootout wins seemed a bit of an outlier. The performances weren't sterling, but the results were. We couldn't link the two. December's 9-2-1 stretch brought us close to going all in on this team, but the doubts still remained. January's ho-hum nature brought with it a thud, and that thud has echoed through the beginning of February's incompetence.
When the Hawks were leading the Conference, we didn't think they were quite that good. Neither are they this bad, and far from it. Judging teams in the middle of scorching or freezing streaks is a foolish policy.
Now that they definitely look to be questioning themselves, I think we'll get the answer. Now that they have to strip things down and find the game that they need to play, we'll know if they can. Now that they once again have something to prove to a lot of people, we'll find out what they have in reserve. There are no easy games on this trip left, except for that finale in Ohio which has trap game written all over it. Denver and Phoenix have never been that hospitable to the Hawks, San Jose is San Jose, and after that the hottest team in the league and the East's best await. You couldn't ask for a more thorough examination.
Also, at the end of these two weeks, Stan Bowman will have made a move. I'm pretty sure of that. While he may be dealing in some ass-covering or skids-greasing with his comments to the press about nothing being close, that could just as easily be a ploy as it is preparing the masses for a letdown. It could also be a message to the team that they might as well figure it out themselves, they're not guaranteed of a partial cavalry charge coming to get their behinds out of the sling they find themselves in.
If the Hawks can rebound in these two weeks with a solid close to the trip, say 4-2, I think we'll be able to safely say they're the contender we kind of always thought they've been. If they spit it, and the doubts that are creeping louder and louder within them begin to metastasize, we'll know that they probably just can't run with the West's best for three rounds in the spring, which is what that dark fear deep within us has been as well.
It's hard to question the balls of a team that's captained by Jonathan Toews. But we don't know for sure, do we? The Hawks have two weeks to rediscover the sneer that can make them one of the toughest to beat around. Or they can spend the next two weeks looking like I do when I try to talk to a pretty girl.
Either way, we're going to know.