I'm About This Delusional
As of today, the Chicago Blackhawks are 44 games into their 82 game season and it's time for our hockey insider, John Markiewicz, and me, to take a look at where this team is and where it is headed.
Pictured above is future, former, SVP/GM of hockey, Stan Bowman, explaining exactly how delusional he is about this club right now. In an interview with Jimmy Greenfield of the Chicago Tribune (https://a.msn.com/r/2/BBYIA51?m=en-us&referrerID=InAppShare) Bowman said, "We're right there. We're a little bit behind the pack - a couple of points. But it's a pretty tight pack that are fighting to get into that (last) spot."
Bowman continued, "Right now we're not chasing any trades. Whether we're going to make some moves or not, we'll just have to see what comes down the pipe." I don't think you can have just one approach. Part of my job is to look at all the different options. If it makes sense to add a player, we'll look at that. But we're also looking at the team on the ice. It's nice to see some of the younger players come up from Rockford and fill in."
As for the head coach? Well, Bowman loves his guy. "Jeremy's had a great approach to things, he said. Even when things were frustrating where we weren't getting the results early on, he stuck with it. Positive demeanor, communicates really well with the players."
So, to sum up for you, the team is seven points out of the playoffs, they have a defense filled with third pairing players, they continue to make fundamental mistakes that end up costing them games, and they are barely a .500 team, but everything is good for Bowman.
I was finally able to catch up with John to get some of his thoughts on this team.
In My Opinion: Hello my friend. Where have you been?
John Markiewicz: I know it's been a while, but I was on an extensive search for new prospects from the Bahamas to China, for a tight end for the Bears. I get home and see that, apparently, they signed a basketball player from the College of the Grand Canyon to fill that spot, the one place I didn't look.
IMO: Anyway. You have been saying all year that the goalies are the strength of this team but while the stats look good, my eyes are telling me maybe not so much. Still all in here?
JM: Oh yeah. The goalies are still the backbone of this team. With Robin Lehner's minor injury, they can still rely on a solid performance from Corey Crawford. Lehner is 14th in the NHL with a GAA of 2.92 and they need him back, likely this week but Crawford has been pretty good too.
IMO: The goalies are about their only tradeable assets. Do you see the Hawks trading Lehner, since Crawford has a full no trade deal, for some draft picks or frontline defenseman?
JM: I see Crawford waiving his no trade and being dealt to a contender as a strong back-up and security against injuries from their starter. If that happens then the Hawks will need to sign Lehner to a three year, five million dollar deal. If they don't sign him they are going to be in a messy situation and will not have an NHL ready goalie on their roster for next season.
IMO: I like that the Hawks have been forced to play the kids this year and I'm becoming a huge fan of Alex DeBrincat. Is there some light to this tunnel going forward?
JM: With the passing of each game, we are seeing the future of the Blackhawks. DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, Kirby Dach, Dominik Kubalik and even, when he gets to play, Alex Nylander as the core going forward for the Hawks. Bowman is trying to rebuild on the fly, and these kids give him hope.
IMO: While the kids have been showcasing themselves, the two rocks, Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews have been looking pretty good too right?
JM: I agree. Kane is having, arguably, one of his best seasons ever which makes you wonder why Colliton switched things up and put fourth line center Ryan Carpenter as his new center. Then, he messes with Toews by giving him two rookies to play with who have no idea what to do on the top line. It's like he is punishing both guys for some reason. A head scratcher for sure.
IMO: Even though it hurts my head, we have to discuss the defense, or lack thereof. What in the world is happening here?
JM: I don't think it's as bad as you feel it is. The youngsters are getting their chance here too and frankly they are doing an admirable job. Dennis Gilbert has been fairly solid at both ends. Adam Boqvist being paired with Duncan Keith has been fun to watch, the star and his heir apparent, and Connor Murphy has looked like the Hammer lately, blocking shots all over the place.
IMO: Special teams continue to be a mixed bag. Any news?
JM: Well, the PK is really solid right now and they have moved up to a top ten group as they've hit the tenth spot in the NHL at 82% kill rate. Young John Quenneville has looked especially good as a face-off guy on the PK. The PP is still a mess. They are in 29th place right now at 15% success. Me, you, and Harvell could score more goals than this group. Just put the five-on-five lines out there and let them play, how much worse could they be?
IMO: Any last thoughts?
JM: The Hawks now have $11 million in cap space, go get some expiring contracts and draft picks that can help you find some depth for the future.
It's always fun for me to talk to John about hockey. I played a lot of hockey as a youngster, and I feel pretty good about my knowledge of the game, but he sees things from a completely different level than I do. He played it at a much higher level than I ever came close to and he sees little things that the average fan misses. It's like talking golf with Johnny Miller, you think you know stuff and then he blows you away.
Obviously these columns are edited down to make it more readable and enjoyable for the average reader but I wish you could listen in to our conversations sometime. I don't always agree with him, but I love to hear what he has to say and I hope you all do too.