After last night’s 4–1 home loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, the 2–4–2 Blackhawks have their fans disappointed, pessimistic and groping for clues as to where all the air that was in the preseason big red balloon could possibly have gone.
While there are positives (Dominik Kubalik, Robin Lehner, the return of the “real” Brandon Saad and the possibility of an improved defense—if everyone can get and stay healthy), there are some obvious issues, not least of which is a puzzling weakness in scoring goals (30th in the league). Sure, it is only after six games. And you have to take both of those points together in order to really understand what is going on.
While most fans probably expect that the Hawks will fight for every point in every game in order to make the playoffs, the truth is, despite an almost universal belief that Stan Bowman had a good and productive offseason—the Hawks came into the season with more questions than answers.
So, if you are wondering, for example, why Dylan Strome is being “experimented” with at wing, why the lines really are not clicking, etc., understand the Blackhawks are trying some things out to see how they will work—at the risk of losing points.
Some assume that because he was drafted third overall this past June, 18-year-old Kirby Dach playing second line center in the NHL is “perfectly natural.” Well, it is on a rebuilding team, not so much on a contending team. By the way, the Hawks were absolutely destroyed in the face off dot (34%) yet again last night—and at the risk of re-litigating the stupid “face offs don’t matter” argument, they do, especially if you project yourself as a puck-possession team. But I digress. The good news there is Dach’s percentage (40%) was not the team’s worst. The bad news? 40%.
Hence the title of this blog. Now, some of you will say, “Okay, enough already, JJ, we get it, the Hawks are rebuilding.” To which I respond, “Okay, so then do not expect much, especially not right now and maybe all year.”
Honestly, I believe the Hawks, as they have tried and basically failed at the last few seasons, are trying to engineer lightning in a bottle over the course of 82 games. If—IF—Dach matures through on the job training (like Alex DeBrincat did two years ago and Saad did in 2013), IF Calvin de Haan and Connor Murphy and everyone else can get and stay healthy, IF Strome can adjust to wing, IF we get more good Alex Nylander than bad Alex Nylander, IF Lehner continues to look like an elite (or near elite) netminder, then perhaps the playoffs will be a real possibility.
But, we are working through the IFs right now; answers to be determined.
All I have for now. Comment below.