No, but now that I have your attention let’s take a look into the Blackhawks slump of late.
The Hawks are 3-3-4 in their last ten games, yet still hold the second highest point total in the league. Two of those wins have come against top tier teams like the Bruins and the Ducks. Any fans beginning to fret over whether or not this Hawks team has the “heart” or “desire” to compete this year needs to reread that last sentence until they feel better.
John Jaeckel, one of my favorite writers over at HockeyBuzz offers good perspective on streaking teams. “You’re never as good as your think you are when you’re winning and you’re never as bad as you think you are when you’re losing.” Obviously the three game streak the Hawks had earlier in the year in which they scored 19 goals was not indicative of the true state of the club and the current losing/lack of offense streak should not be a concern either.
There are several factors I believe are at play in the Hawks struggles as of late and neither of them are named Bryan Bickell or Michal Handzus. Hockey is a team effort and while the struggles of Bickell and Handzus certainly don’t help the club, they aren’t a complete detriment either. Since the NHL lockout ended about a year ago, the Hawks have played in 102 regular season games and 23 playoff games. That is 125 games in a one year time span. Certainly fatigue has to be setting in for the team as this is the first full season the Hawks and the rest of the NHL has played since 2011-2012. Unlike last year where it was a constant race for the playoffs, it’s unrealistic to expect every Hawk to bring their “A” game each time they hit the ice, and to have target on your back each time you face your opponent, it isn’t the best formula for sustained success.
Another factor in their struggles is the upcoming Winter Olympics. The Hawks had ten players selected to participate with a few others barely missing the cut. It’s naive to think these players didn’t have that in the back of their minds while giving a final showcase to Olympic committees earlier on this season. Since the January 7th announcement of rosters, the Hawks have gone 3-3-3, while giving up the lead late in games. While players won’t admit it, it’s possible the team collectively took their foot off the gas once they found out whether or not they made the Olympic cut.
The final factor is that it’s a long season. Because of the lockout shortened season last year, it’s easy to forget that all teams have their ups and downs throughout an 82 game schedule. The Hawks have set themselves up well to not be too concerned about making the playoffs. Once the Olympics over and the trade deadline passes is when Hawks fans can begin to micro-analyze the teams characteristics and gauge their playoff fortunes. To question the heart of this team is absolute tomfoolery. If we are still seeing the same issues as we are now come April, then we will have a problem. Until then, take this slump as a blip of the radar in an otherwise strong season.