Hello Chicago Blackhawks fans! Well here we are at the beginning of April 2020, and it’s quite literally the end of the world as we know it. The COVID-19 pandemic has most of us quarantined in our homes to prevent the spread of this novel disease. Meanwhile, an extremely brave select few are working day and night at hospitals and clinics to help save lives. And several other essential workers are tirelessly continuing to provide the supplies and services we need to hunker down and wait this out.
How did we get here?! Well, I’m just a hockey writer so I don’t have many answers. But what I can do is offer a bit of a distraction from it all. So take a break and forget about things for just a few minutes. Join our staff of Meghan Dillon, Greg Boysen, Brooke LoFurno and Gail Kauchak as we chat Blackhawks.
Here’s three Blackhawks’ questions that popped into my head while counting toilet paper rolls and wiping down doorknobs. Enjoy!
Related – Blackhawks: Upcoming Free Agents in 2020
Blackhawks’ owner Rocky Wirtz recently announced general manager Stan Bowman and head coach Jeremy Colliton would both be back next season. With the team on the cusp of not making the playoffs for the third straight season, many fans are befuddled that management is staying the course. As a writer that has closely followed the Blackhawks all season, do you agree or disagree with this decision?
Bowman and Colliton Stay: Yes or No?
Meghan Dillon – No
I think keeping both of them for next season is a bad move. I honestly have no idea how Bowman has kept his job after the past few seasons. And now the fanbase is starting to blame him for some of the Blackhawks’ decline.
It was fair to give Colliton a full season to prove himself. Although he didn’t actually get the entire season, he brought plenty of strengths and weaknesses as a head coach. But his weaknesses were starting to outweigh his strengths.
Yet getting rid of both at the same time would be the ultimate mistake. If it was up to me, I would give Colliton the boot.
Greg Boysen – No
Keeping both Bowman and Colliton is the worst possible decision you could have made. What happened to the standard of “One Goal”?! What happened to all that accountability we’ve heard Blackhawks’ president John McDonough talk about? The only person who’s been held accountable for the failures of the past five seasons is ex-coach Joel Quenneville.
It’s time to move on from Bowman, which means you let a new general manager bring in his own coach. It’s time for a fresh set of eyes to oversee everything. Trying to retool and contend instead of flat out rebuild is a very difficult thing to do, and it rarely ever works. Plus, Bowman proved he isn’t the right guy for either game plan by trading away Henri Jokiharju for Alexander Nylander last summer.
Hopefully Wirtz isn’t falling into a loyalty trap that has plagued Jerry Reinsdorf-owned teams in this city. He has been loyal to a fault, and the Bulls and White Sox have been stuck in mediocracy because he can’t let go of the past. It’s time for Wirtz to move on from the Bowman era to preserve the future.
Brooke LoFurno – No
I wholeheartedly disagree with keeping Bowman and Colliton. When the Blackhawks missed the playoffs in 2018, that should have been a red flag to management about Bowman. When you have players like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on your roster, there is absolutely no reason why you should not be competitive every season. Bowman has had more than enough time to fix this, and he continuously shows he can’t with his bad cap space management, contracts, trades, and decisions. All roads lead back to him with the team’s faults.
Regarding Colliton, Bowman put him in a tough position to succeed by having him take over for a coach like Quenneville. Which is unfair to him. I think he could be a great NHL coach someday, but he was doing well with the Rockford IceHogs and that’s where he should be right now. I don’t think he is the right fit for the Blackhawks at this moment, and he needs more time to develop into that.
Gail Kauchak – Yes
Here’s the thing. Coach Colliton was Bowman’s pick. So he certainly doesn’t want to fire Colliton. And if Bowman is fired, the new general manager would want his own coach in there. So it’s basically they either both go or they both stay.
If they both go, then you have a complete rebuild on your hands. EVERYTHING starts from ground one. Which means another two to three years at least of the Blackhawks not being good. And get ready to say goodbye to one or more of your superstars, probably Toews or Duncan Keith as they get forced out. Are you ready for that?
We might not be happy with the way things have gone the last handful of years. But after the 2015 Cup run Bowman didn’t have a whole lot of options based on being strapped by the salary cap. Sure, he made some bad decisions. But he also made some really good ones. He’s drafted pretty well considering what he had to work with. He’s found hidden talent over in Europe.
And Colliton is still so inexperienced! He needs more time to learn and grow and adjust and develop. He’s not a bad coach; he just needs more experience. In my opinion, let’s finish what we started. Unfortunately, building back up again takes time. And the Blackhawks are improving, albeit slowly. Stay the course.
In the last roundtable, we all chose goaltender Robin Lehner to stay in Chicago over Corey Crawford (except for Greg, who said they both should go). We know now that didn’t happen, as Lehner was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights at the deadline. Crawford has suited up for the last 10 consecutive games, recording a combined .930 save percentage and a 2.41 goals against average in that span (according to Natural Stat Trick). He’s shown he can still handle, and thrive, with a heavy workload and help give his team a chance to win every night. If he can remain healthy.
If he can remain healthy. Yes, that’s the rub isn’t it? Crawford’s concussion issues are well documented, and he isn’t getting any younger at 35 years of age. Which begs the question. Would you re-sign Crawford for next season?
Re-Sign Crawford, Yes or No?
Meghan – Yes
I would definitely re-sign Crawford. He proved to be a strong goaltender after Lehner’s departure, and was starting to look as good as he was in his prime. I think he would’ve continued to improve if the season wasn’t put on hold. However, if he does return, the Blackhawks should take extra caution to ensure he stays as healthy as possible.
Besides, getting a new starting goaltender in the offseason could be a big gamble. Unless it’s someone like Scott Darling that we know can perform well as a Blackhawk, it’s not worth the risk.
Greg – Yes
I think you can bring Crawford back on a one or two-year deal as long as he understands he isn’t going to be the workhorse anymore, and that he won’t get paid like one. He was very good just before the hiatus because of all the rest he got earlier in the season playing as part of a tandem.
You just can’t rely on him to be a full-time starter anymore, so if you can bring in another solid veteran to share the workload, he should be fine. This will give the Blackhawks at least another year to develop their younger goaltenders in the AHL.
Brooke – Indifferent
I was on the Lehner train and thought the Blackhawks should have kept him going forward. But now that is out of the question, and I feel very indifferent towards Crawford’s future in Chicago. I wish we would have gotten a chance to see Malcolm Subban play before the season was put on hold to see if he could be a good fit going forward. Being a former first round pick, I know he has potential.
I do think Crawford will get re-signed, but in the event he doesn’t, the Blackhawks would be okay. Prospect Collin Delia has shown great potential as well. The one position the Blackhawks haven’t been weak in is goaltending, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. So if Crawford is re-signed, great. If not, that’s find too. I don’t think the team loses with either scenario.
Gail – Yes
Crow still has the talent, and he wants the workload. He also wants to stay in Chicago, which is why I think he will sign a team-friendly one or two-year deal to make it work. I mean really; he’s had such bad luck these last few years things are bound to go his way, right?
If he can stay healthy, this could be golden for Crawford and for the Blackhawks. If not, well Delia better be ready to take the reigns sooner rather than later. We are in the midst of a youth movement, after all.
Related – Blackhawks’ Youth Movement Is Here
As of the NHL pause, the Blackhawks power play was 28th in the league, with just a 15.2% success rate. While the team has had some streaky success on the man advantage, it certainly has NOT been a strength this season. Heck, if it had been, the Blackhawks could have been in a playoff position right now. So, we’re open to any and all suggestions. What would you do to improve the power play next season?
Power Play Improvement Suggestions
It’s important to put good scorers on the ice during the power play, but it’s also important to deploy a unit that plays well together. And mix it up from time to tome to see what works best.
Since we likely won’t be seeing the Blackhawks play until October or later, perhaps we’ll have to wait until training camp to decide how to improve the power play. However, strong scorers like Kane, Toews, and Dominik Kubalik should be given primary ice time during the man advantage.
If I could fix the Blackhawks’ power play, I wouldn’t be sitting behind a keyboard; I’d be standing behind their bench. The biggest issue they’ve had is no movement. When Kane is on the ice, the other four guys just stand around and hope he scores. Your power play unit needs to be constantly moving to cause confusion and holes within the penalty kill. Players who just stand still are very easy to defend, even with one less skater on the ice.
The one thing I would fix is that the Blackhawks dump the puck in way too much on the man advantage. Because of that, they’re always chasing the puck, and not having enough time to create scoring chances. However, when they do have scoring chances, they don’t take advantage of it.
The net front presence is a big thing they’re lacking as well, and something I would focus on. Keep Kirby Dach in front of the net because he can screen the goalie with his big frame. Andrew Shaw has always been good at that too.
I’ve never been a big fan of Colliton’s affinity to lean so heavily on the first unit. Sure, I get you want to have your best playmaker (Kane) on the ice. But other teams have figured it out. They know that Kane is going to try to pass to Alex DeBrincat. Then they went to school on Kane looking for Kubalik.
There has to be more variation. And I think that could start with giving the second unit more time. Heck, nobody knows what they can do because they haven’t seen them enough. They don’t know what they can do because they don’t have time to set up!
So give Kane and company their minute or so, then change and let the second unit go to work. And balance the units so the strength can be spread accordingly. I’m not exactly sure how the units would look; that could be determined as they went along. I liked what Colliton did for the most recent Sharks’ game.
New Power Play Units
PP1: Toews, Kane, DeBrincat, Dach, Keith (Dach instead of Kubalik)
PP2: Strome, Saad, Kubalik, Nylander, Carlsson (Carlsson instead of the injured Boqvist)
The major change here was Dach and Kubalik were swapped. So instead of the diminutive DeBrincat screening the goalie so Kane and Kubalik could pass and shoot, it was Dach in front of the net for the first power play goal. The second PP goal, by the way, was DeBrincat passing to Kane for once. So yes, your first unit is dangerous. I’ll give you that.
But look at that second unit! Brandon Saad, Kubalik, Dylan Strome! If teams are forced to game plan around a threatening second unit it will diffuse their concentration on the first unit. And shake it up! Let the second unit start the power play here and there. Spread the wealth, and everybody wins!
Life certainly hasn’t been easy recently as the world tries to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. And while there’s certainly more important things than hockey, what used to be an escape from the world is no longer around to distract us. Hopefully you enjoyed our discussion while we wait for the boys to get back on the ice. Until then, stay safe and healthy out there!