By Sidney Brown (@sidkid80)
They fought it for most of the 2018-19 season, but now the Chicago Blackhawks are officially in a postseason-less slump.
After failing to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season, in spite of an inspiring run in the second half of the season, the Men in Red are in their second straight year of not seeing the playoffs after compiling a 36-34-12 season. The last time that was the case was in 2006.
You can list a host of reasons why the Hawks are in this situation now — and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done before Chicago is back in the NHL’s upper echelon — but at this season’s end there is definitely hope that something good lies at the other end of the rainbow, and it could come as soon as next season.
Primarily, the Hawks take pride in knowing their Big 2 of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are still one of the best duos in the NHL. Both Toews (35 goals, 46 assists) and Kane (44 G, 65 A) had career years while second year phenom Alex DeBrincat (41 G, 34 A) made a significant jump in his production as well.
Starting goalie Corey Crawford remained a top example at his position despite injuries and poor defensive play in front of him. Unlike last year, the Hawks had a capable backup to save games while Crow sat out (Cam Ward) and even possibly another net-minder for the future (Colin Delia).
Elsewhere, Brandon Saad (23 G, 24 A) rebounded from a terrible 2018 while veteran defensemen Brent Seabrook (5 G, 23 A) and Duncan Keith (6G, 34 A) kept up play mostly but also continued to show their ages with their play on the ice.
The first half of the Hawks’ season, at least, was defined by the change in the coaching box. Joel Quenneville, with his three Stanley Cups, should remain a legend in Hawks fan’s minds — even as he now is aligned with another team, the Florida Panthers — but his voice grew tired in the locker room and as the season continued on the decision to entrust the further development of this rebuilding team under rookie coach Jeremy Colliton looked like a much better decision with a new approach and a new voice for the younger players.
The Hawks’ power play was top ten in the league while the penalty kill unit (72.8 percent, ranked 31st in the NHL) scrapped up the bottom of the league list from start to finish, the disparity of the two categories providing as clear an example of Chicago’s Jekyll and Hyde season overall.
Also hurting the Hawks routinely this season was the team’s 30th ranked Goals Against Average (3.53).
The most important personnel move of the season saw Nick Schmaltz, who never could be seen as apart of the Hawks future plans, get moved out to the Arizona Coyotes in mid-December for Dylan Strome (17 G, 33 A) and Brendan Perlini (11 G, 3 A) who both proved to be staples on the second line next to DeBrincat.
Moves like the Schmaltz trade and the return of Crawford to everyday play infused the Hawks with energy that made them a threat for a Western Conference wild card spot after the NHL All-Star game but eventually back to back losses at home to Colorado and Dallas in late February, losses to Vancouver and Philadelphia at home in March and an 0-2-1 record against Los Angeles Kings in their last three match-ups with them did in the Hawks and have them sitting at home once again for the season’s most important games.
General Manager Stan Bowman will have a lot of work ahead of him to improve the roster.
The Hawks will have roughly $16 million in cap space to operate with and the top priority should be acquiring a top four defenseman giving the ages of your top veterans and inexperienced youth. Secondary scoring will be another priority to sure up your top two lines assuming that ex-Hawks star Artemi Panarin is signed to another club this summer.
With Colliton having a full season next year to install his system and the finish they had to end this season, expectations will be at a high level. It’s just this simple in the 2019-20 season — PLAYOFFS or bust.
- Points: Patrick Kane (109)
- Goals: Patrick Kane (44)
- Assists: Patrick Kane (65)
- Penalty Minutes: Duncan Keith (70)
- Goals Against Average: Corey Crawford (2.93)
- Goals Per Game: 3.27 (8th in NHL)
- Goals Against: 3.53 (30th in NHL)
- Power Play Percentage: 20.3 (15th in NHL)
Sidney Brown covers the Chicago Blackhawks for WARR