Sidney Brown writes on the Blackhawks and the NHL for WARR
The Chicago Blackhawks’ 2017-18 season, a.k.a., The Season From Hell, has finally come to an end with the team posting a record of 33-39-10, standing in last place in the Central Division along with missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
A horror show on the ice may be over but there are issues that need to be addressed between now and the start of next season. After being swept last April by the Nashville Predators, Hawks general manager Stan Bowman addressed the media and stated that the results of that year were unacceptable and promised that changes were going to be made. Changes were made to improve to the roster and to get younger and to be frank, most of those changes just didn’t work.
The season that just passed was one filled with injuries, inconsistent play, impending salary cap issues again and age, either too much of it or too little (experience). To put it plainly, the Hawks have to find a new identity.
On any team, veterans are leaders and the Hawks have leaned on them during this recent run of Stanley Cups. Whether it’s age, miles on the tires, injuries or lack of execution, Chicago’s elder statesmen did not deliver consistently when it mattered most.
Jonathan Toews: 20 goals, 32 assists
Brandon Saad: 18G, 17A
Duncan Keith: 2G, 30A
Brent Seabrook: 7G, 19A
Patrick Sharp: 10G, 11A
Patrick Kane: 27G, 49A
Some bright spots did emerge throughout this tough season, and with injuries and a long time of relatively meaningless hockey needed to be played after an early dispatching from the playoff race, more opportunities were given to many rookies and future prospects. The list of players who took advantage of their ice time gave a glimpse of hope to Chicago returning to glory possibly sooner rather than later and identified just who will likely lead that revival.
Alex DeBrincat: 28G, 24A
Nick Schmaltz: 21G, 31A
Dylan Sikura: 6 games played – 3A
Victor Ejdell: 6 games played – one assist
Matthew Higmore: 13 games played – 2G
Jan Rutta: 6G, 14A
Jordan Oesterle: 5G, 10A
It was obvious that the absence of goaltender Corey Crawford to injury for most of the season did most to expose the many issues that the Men In Red have. Crawford’s presence in net was as important in 2018 than ever in keeping the Hawks in games that they had no business being in. Since existing stage left after December 23rd, the role of backup goalie was a revolving door with no consistency to it and it’s a position that must be addressed again this summer.
In Need of Backup Goalie
Anton Forsberg: 10-16-4 record; 2.97 Goals Against; .908 Save Percentage
Jeff Glass: 3-7-3 record; 3.36 GAA; .898 SV%
J-F Berube: 3-6-1 record; 3.78 GAA; .894 SV%
Another issues that plagued the Hawks was team defense. Yes, the absence of Crawford was noticeable but inconsistency from veteran defensemen Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook along with Connor Murphy, brought in via trade last summer, contributed to the decline of giving up bad goals along with taking bad penalties that put an already struggling team at a disadvantage for too many minutes of play.
Oh, How The Years Go By
2015: 220 goals scored, 186 goals allowed
2016: 234 goals scored; 207 goals allowed
2017: 240 goals scored, 212 goals allowed
2018: 228 goals scored, 254 goals allowed
For now, both coach Joel Quenneville and GM Bowman will be back for the 2018-19 season. The question is now how will one or both survive the entire season to come if the team struggles out of the gate or misses the playoffs again?
Both men were treading water this past season, but now the body of water is shrinking fast and the upcoming task at hand in trying to reshape this roster and win at the same time may be harder to accomplish than once thought.
The health of Crawford will be the first and maybe deciding element to determine the course of next season, following that will be the need of a top four defenseman and another top line forward. Is there hope to be had on the West Side of Chicago for 2018-19? Now’s the time to wait for the question to be answered.
To Patrick Sharp, who plans to hang up his skates after a stellar 16-year career (including 11 years in Chicago) where he won three Stanley Cups along the way.
Its not assured that the Hockey Hall of Fame will be calling Mr. Sharp anytime soon, but he will be remembered for a long time by those devoted to the Blackhawks and his impact on the ice should not go unnoticed, his presence made his line mates better on the ice.
Patrick Sharp Career Stats
*Regular Season: 287 goals, 333 assists
*Playoffs: 47 goals, 40 assists
*Best regular season: 2014 — 34 goals, 44 assists
*Best playoffs: 2010 — 11 goals, 11 assists
*Finished 12th in Hawks history in goals scored (249) and 15th in points (532).
Points: Patrick Kane (76)
Goals: Alex DeBrincat (28)
Assists: Patrick Kane (49)
Penalty Minutes: John Hayden (54)
Goals Against Average: Corey Crawford (2.27)
Goals Per Game: 2.8 (21st in NHL)
Goals Against: 3.1 (23rd in NHL)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 79.1 (20th in NHL)
Power Play Percentage: 16.0 (28th in NHL)
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