The Chicago Blackhawks were poised to make some progress this season after a couple of years of mediocrity. The Hawks haven’t been true contenders since 2016, and haven’t been close to form since. With an aging core of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Chicago front office went to work this off-season to try and make some moves to get back in the mix. They traded for Marc-Andre Fleury, Seth Jones, Tyler Johnson, and Caleb Jones. All these moves and the return of Toews after missing all of last season gave Hawks fans some hope.
But That All Came Crashing Down.
Recently, Stan Bowman, who was the General Manager and President of Hockey Operations, stepped down amidst a slew of investigations. The NHL had fined the organization two million dollars for “inadequate procedures and mishandling” of a situation where a former video coach had sexually assaulted a former Hawks player in 2010. A 2021 report digging into the team and it’s immense and disgusting efforts to cover this up were reported which led to this result. If you haven’t yet, please go read the report, you will be astonished at how mystifying and gross the situation truly is. This report opened the eyes of the public and painted a grotesque image of the the Blackhawks organization ignored, covered up and swept under the rug when presented with multiple instances of corroborated sexual assault accusations against by their own former employees.
Not to mention, publicly for some time now, the organization has received some serious criticism over the Native American logo the team has sported. Plenty of teams across all the 4 major sports leagues in the U.S. have been met with heavy responses from fans calling for the removal of derogatory Native American logos. Although the stories franchise has said their logo is not meant to offend anyone, it is about time for a change. Unlike the Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Football team and former Cleveland Indians, the Hawks haven’t changed or made plans to make efforts to change their logo amidst this backlash amongst all their other issues.
And That’s Just What’s Happening in the Front Office.
On the ice, the Chicago Blackhawks have had a historically horrendous start to their season. The Blackhawks currently have 0-5-1 record on the season, and in every game they’ve played they’ve never held a single lead. Having played 360:57 of hockey, it’s the longest streak without holding a lead to begin a season since the 1979-80 season. It’s gotten to the point where head coach Jeremy Colliton during a timeout literally gave the dry erase board to his players and told them to draw up a play. This is an original six franchise, by the way.
The team as a whole has not been playing well. Analytically they are horrendous. The Hawks have been getting outscored by a 33-15 margin, including 22-5 during 5-on-5 play. In the chart below, it shows Chicago is letting in way more goals than the league average than they are scoring on other teams. They cannot generate any offense or sustain any quality defense. Meaning at even strength throughout most of NHL play they are one of the worst in the league.
Besides getting booed off the ice by your home fans in all three home games, the Blackhawks have been giving up a goal in the first six minutes of all five of those games. Meanwhile, all their acquisitions have not been panning out as planned.
Seth Jones who was a major piece to improve their blue line, poised for a bounce back season, has but nothing truly short of disappointing. The Blackhawks were outscored 4-1 with Seth Jones on the ice during 5-on-5 play, and in over 100 minutes with Jones on the ice the Blackhawks have been outscored 10-1 this season. Last year he showed signs of regression and had a bad year in a mediocre Columbus Blue Jackets squad. But Jones hasn’t been the memorable all-star defenseman of years past for a while now. The Hawks believed that he needed a change of scenery to help kickstart their defense and his career again while paying a king’s ransom for him. Right now it doesn’t look like either side is getting what they wanted out of this bargain. He hasn’t been performing nearly up to par and the stats show he is at replacement level. Seth Jones started a new eight-year contract next season that pays him $9.5 million per season, which right now is going to be hurting the pockets of Chicago’s salary cap.
Tyler Johnson, although having three points was virtually invisible in four of those games and is a -5 on the season while averaging 15:07 of ice time. Star forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have now been out on the COVID protocol list meaning that for a little while the team is without their two best forwards. Goaltending also hasn’t been great at all. Being stuck behind a borderline AHL defense hasn’t helped their cause, but the goalies are averaging an .861 Save % and a 4.32 Goals Against Average. Marc-Andre Fleury, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, who was supposed to be the centerpiece point of the team’s roster overhaul, has been left out on an island. He has an .839 save percentage in his first four appearances.
It is only six games into the season for Chicago but by no means is this something to push to the side. This team has major concerns in the defensive end and producing at even strength. Subpar play all around has resulted in this team a borderline bottom feeder. There is time to turn it around but by no means are the Hawks on the up-and-up to being contenders again. If they continue at this pace, they may be a lottery team and not even close to sniffing the playoffs. Originally I had predicted them to be just outside the playoff hunt assuming the lineup gelled or played like it did on paper. Now is not the case. The Blue Jackets may be running off like bandits with the haul they got from Chicago, especially their first round pick, if they miss out on the playoffs and fall into the lottery. All in all, for a team with such high hopes the Chicago Blackhawks have turned into Icarus. They flew too close to the sun and now are falling back to the ground with their burning wings, hoping to make a safe fall back to reality so they can turn things around.