The answer is simple if you’re referring to the pathetic 2003-2004 Chicago Blackhawks. That team finished 30th in the NHL and the only reason they didn’t finish lower was because there were only 30 teams in the league.
Now if you’re talking about what’s wrong with the 2013-2014 Chicago Blackhawks, the answer is even more simple – nothing.
Nothing is wrong with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Not only are the Chicago Blackhawks the defending Stanley Cup Champions, they are also the only team in the salary cap era to win it twice, having also won it in 2010. The Hawks are not running away from the other teams in the NHL’s Western Conference, but they are also only five points from the top spot.
This year’s team has all the key players back from last season and have been relatively injury free (other than Marion Hossa’s current upper body injury, which is not expected to keep him out of the line up for more than a few games). And that points to an important factor in the chances for the Hawks to repeat. It is much more critical to enter the playoffs healthy and fresh than to stagger into the postseason injury ridden and exhausted from trying to make the playoffs or top seed.
I’m sure you get the “making the playoffs” part, but does finishing first matter? Not necessarily.
In the last 27 years, the squad that won the President’s Trophy as the team with the regular season’s best record has only won the Stanley Cup eight times, or 29%.
The only team in the salary cap era to even appear in consecutive Stanley Cup finals were the ’07-’08 and ’08-’09 Detroit Red Wings. Incredibly, two President Cup winners (the ’92-’93 Rangers & the ’07-’08 Sabres) did not even make the playoffs the following season. Also remember that a few years ago, the LA Kings made the playoffs the final week of the season. They never had home ice advantage during the playoffs, yet won the Cup while taking an incredible 11 straight road games in the process.
So what makes the Cup so difficult to win in back-to-back seasons?
There are several explanations. One factor is due the salary cap, teams lose key players. Injuries are another.
The Stanley Cup hangover effect is often cited, whether caused by too short of an off-season, or the inability to heal from injuries and train properly. It is typical for players to lose 10-15% of their body weight (mostly muscle) by the end of the season, especially if they went deep into the playoffs. Since it takes time to rebuild that muscle, a short summer makes that difficult – especially if they also had to heal from an injury.
Should they try to finish first or gain the highest possible seed? And what price should the Hawks pay to expend that effort?
Rested and healthy is the way to go.
Finishing first or attaining home ice advantage throughout the playoffs is not all it’s cracked up to be. Although the Hawks currently lead the NHL in scoring, they are only 15th in goals allowed which has to do with a bulky penalty kill unit that is a lowly 24th in that category.
The good news is that they have been better as of late, and have 19 games to shore that up.
They have the big guns such as Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Marion Hossa having fine years – and that illustrious group has a strong supporting cast that allows Coach “Q” to roll four lines every night.
The defense is solid. They can carry the puck, make plays, and block shots with the best of them.
The Hawks puck possession system also takes pressure off Hawk defenders, and eliminates wear and tear by not having them involved in bruising board battles. The Hawk’s quick outlet passes keep the puck out of their end and puts the pressure on the bad guys.
I suppose if there is a question about the Blackhawks, it’s between the pipes. First, there is no adequate backup to Corey Crawford. If he gets injured or his game goes into the dumpster, the Hawks are in deep trouble.
Crawford also has his critics. He’s accused of giving up the occasional “bad” goal, and for having a vulnerable glove hand. Every goalie gives up bad goals, and Corey is no different. If he has a weakness, it’s that he keeps his glove a few inches too low and that does occasionally cost the Blackhawks.
I’m not a qualified goalie coach, nor do I have a Stanley Cup ring – but I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to Crawford. And speaking of that ring, the Hawks do not win it last year without Crawford’s clutch play.
So what’s wrong with the Chicago Blackhawks? Not much.
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