Blackhawks Banter: Shaw, Fleury, Struggles Out of the Gate

Hello Chicago Blackhawks fans, and welcome to another Blackhawks Banter preview post! My colleagues Greg Boysen, Brooke LoFurno, Shaun Filippelli, and myself (Gail Kauchak) get together every week for our Blackhawks Banter show, where we talk all things Blackhawks. This post serves as a sneak peak into our more well-rounded discussion, which drops every Tuesday.

It’s a brand-new season, and we’re working on some excellent upgrades you won’t want to miss! So for today’s preview, we all picked a subject we would like to further discuss as we enter the 2021-22 campaign. Enjoy our submissions below, and tune in on Tuesdays for our show!

Brooke: Moving Shaw’s Contract

Hockey insider Frank Seravalli recently tweeted that the Blackhawks are actively trying to move Andrew Shaw’s contract. Who could be an ideal trade partner this early in the season? When it comes to Shaw’s contract, it will probably be traded to a team with cap space. Therefore, some of the teams that come to mind are the Arizona Coyotes, Ottawa Senators, Columbus Blue Jackets and the New York Rangers.

Andrew Shaw Chicago Blackhawks
Can the Chicago Blackhawks find a taker for Andrew Shaw’s contract? (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

These are also teams that have struggled recently and have draft capital. So the Blackhawks could get something substantial back if they add in a sweetener like Dylan Strome.

Shaun: Not Fleury’s Fault

Everyone was excited to see what Marc-André Fleury would bring to this new-look Blackhawks lineup, fresh off his first ever Vezina Trophy win in 2020-21. The level of success he’s maintained throughout nearly two decades in this league, including three Stanley Cups along the way, created an understandable level of optimism around how he’d impact his third franchise.

Related – Marc-Andre Fleury Poised to Make (More) History With Blackhawks

Well, his debut in Chicago’s season opener against the Colorado Avalanche might be one Fleury wants to forget. Especially if he can erase the first 10 minutes, in which he allowed three quick goals.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Chicago Blackhawks
Marc-Andre Fleury’s debut for the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t exactly go as he wanted. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

That said, let’s take a step back before we point directly at Fleury for Chicago’s failures. Not only were they facing a Stanley Cup favourite, but their lack of familiarity – given all those new names – didn’t help their cause. The speed of the game worked to Colorado’s advantage, given that theirs is a cohesion that already exists. Add that Fleury faced 20 shots in that first period alone and the storyline becomes a little more clear. He did what he could, but simply needs those around him to step up and do their part too.

Greg: New Season, Same Old Problems

I should preface this rant with “we are only two games into an 82-game season,” but I’m not. The issues we saw against the Avalanche and New Jersey Devils have plagued this team ever since Jeremy Colliton was put behind the bench. Sure, there are 80 games left to improve, but we are seeing the same mistakes and all same dumbfounding personnel decisions and strategies on repeat.

Related – Blackhawks Daily Download: Recap, Stats, Injuries & News

The Blackhawks were slow out of the gate in both games. They looked completely unprepared and shell-shocked in the first period in Denver. Sure, they got better as the game went on, but digging a three-goal hole on the road against a Stanley Cup favorite is not an ideal scenario. Then they gave up the first goal to the Devils just 17 seconds after the opening faceoff. Continually not being ready to play is on the coaching.

Head Coach Jeremy Colliton
Head coach Jeremy Colliton’s decisions will be questioned as the Chicago Blackhawks struggled in their first two games. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

Then there are the in-game decisions. It was obvious very early in the Colorado game that the line of Alex DeBrincat, Tyler Johnson and Patrick Kane are a train wreck in the defensive zone. Yet, they stayed together and were on the ice together for another goal against. Kane was on the ice for three of the four goals against. And why is Erik Gustafsson on the ice in overtime? These problems are not just going to magically go away. We all know the source, but will the front office do anything before it is too late?

Gail: Blackhawks’ Line Blending Woes

As expected, Colliton went with the same lines he had established in training camp to start the season in Colorado. We all know that was pretty much a disaster. By the end of the game the lineblender was at work, in an effort to get something going.

Colliton moved Henrik Borgstrom up to the top line with DeBrincat and Kane. Johnson was in turn relegated to the fourth line. The young and green MacKenzie Entwistle was promoted to the third line. So, the newest members of the team were promoted. I think perhaps Colliton forgot it’s not a rebuild anymore.

Henrik Borgstrom Florida Panthers
New Chicago Blackhawk Henrik Borgstrom has been given plenty of opportunity in the first few games. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

There’s something to be said for consistency, and Colliton pretty much went with the same original lines to start the second game. The only thing he changed was substituting Adam Gaudette for Ryan Carpenter on the fourth line, and inserting Gustafsson on defense instead of Ian Mitchell.

Blackhawks starting lines and pairings vs. the Devils:

DeBrincat-Johnson-Kane

 Kubalik-Toews-Kurashev

 Borgstrom-Dach-Hagel

Khaira-Entwistle-Gaudette

McCabe-Murphy

de Haan-Jones

Stillman-Gustafsson

I was actually surprised Colliton didn’t shake things up more. Sure, as Greg alluded to above, the DeBrincat/Johnson/Kane line is abysmal defensively. And they’re all so tiny! We saw Kirby Dach in this spot at the end of the game, and I think we will eventually see him there. The only problem is he can’t win a faceoff to save his life! Johnson can, which is why I think Colliton is dragging his feet here.

Related – Blackhawks Bytes: Fleury, Kubalik, Defense & More

I was happy to see Entwistle get the call again and secure a little more ice time in the Devils game (10:42 vs. 9:32 minutes). Let the kid get his feet wet and really dig in! That being said, he’ll probably be scratched next game.

I’d better stop now since this is just a segment and not a full article. Just one more note about defense. The pairing of Connor Murphy and Jake McCabe has struggled immensely in these first two tilts. But let’s also remember they’re drawing the toughest competition and taking the weight off Seth Jones. I’m all for keeping them together and letting them find their chemistry. Especially since Jones looked much better in his second outing than the first.

Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones
Former Columbus Blue Jacket Seth Jones looked much more comfortable in his second game with the Chicago Blackhawks. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)

The Blackhawks are definitely at a disadvantage with both Wyatt Kalynuk and Caleb Jones out. Mitchell just isn’t ready, and Gustafsson is a defensive liability. Let’s hope they can weather the storm until one or both of them returns.  


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