Even with four days off, there’s hardly any time to pivot from the end of the greatest coaching career the Hawks have ever seen to the era of Jeremy Colliton, whatever it might be. Maybe you shouldn’t look to bury your news on Election Day, hmmm? Another discussion for another time.
The Hawks may still be in a state of shock, but the schedule kicks into gear again tomorrow night and it doesn’t let up after that. The Hawks won’t have more than two days off in a row until Christmas, and only two days off in a row twice in that span. It’s 24 games in 45 days, and at the end of it the Hawks will have established that they can in fact be in the playoffs or it will be over and thoroughly so.
So there isn’t a lot of time to implement whatever changes the Hawks and Colliton want (and we can only pray these are the same, though they have to be). So what can Colliton do?
Up the speed: The roster isn’t going to change, so this isn’t going to become a good defensive team anytime soon. The biggest change I think we’ll see with the Hawks is them getting up the ice as fast as possible. Help the defense by not playing it as much. The Quenneville Breakout (TM) will be consigned to the trash. I think you’ll see Hawks d-men putting the puck off the glass or chipping it over the opposing d-men or attempting stretch passes far more. And that’s with two Hawks forwards bursting out of the zone instead of one. One waiting along the half-boards to either squeeze it out along the boards or hit a moving center in the middle of the ice is something you won’t see a lot of. Get the puck into space, let your fast forwards skate onto it, and try and score on the rush. Get into the offensive zone before teams can get into shooting lanes.
Even if you don’t score, you can cause chaos off the ensuing rebounds and loose pucks that further prevent teams from collapsing into their slot and keeping everything to the outside. This will lessen the responsibility on the d-men who don’t have to worry about options and tough passes on the breakout and can just get pucks to space instead of sticks. It might not help them much actually defending, but the idea is that the puck will spend more time in dangerous spots on the other side of the ice.
Back pressure: The hope is that this new, faster style of attack will lead the Hawks to losing the puck less and less around the blue lines. This has been a huge problem, because over the past season and a month now you’re awfully familiar with teams getting to use the neutral zone as a launchpad with no Hawks forwards in the picture and 3-on-2s all day steaming into the Hawks’ zone like a Mongolian horde. Or they turn it over at their own line, with forwards caught heading into the neutral zone, and it looks like the last scene in “Inside Out” when the “Girl” alarm goes off in the boy’s head (this is also what happens in my head when confronted by a girl)e.
The Hawks defense can’t really step up beyond their blue line if there aren’t forwards supplying the back pressure to crash those puck-carriers into the rocks. This was a Q staple, and something the Hawks need to find a way back to. They can’t do that when they’re turning it over from the opposing circles and above. If they play faster into the offensive zone, get more space, and force teams to start their forays forward from deeper, they can. Again, this will relieve some pressure on a blue line that really isn’t up to it.
Load up the first PP unit, fuck the rest: This seems so simplistic. Your first power play unit is Patrick Kane, with three right-handed shots staring at him from across the ice. Whether that’s Seabrook or Jokiharju at the blue line, no one fucking cares. Top Cat at the other circle, because he also has the ability to send that pass back to Kane for the same results. Schmaltz in the middle of the box. Toews bouncing between the slot and behind the goal line. This gives Kane all sorts of options and forces the PK into making decisions and leaving something open. Leave them out there for 90 seconds at least each opportunity. You don’t have enough for two killer power play units anyway, so give the first one all the chance in the world.
Oh, and take that “Push ‘Em Back” entry and push it back into your ass. Thank you.
Put Schmaltz at center: Welp, already boned this.
Seriously, if the Hawks’ intention here is to go plaid all the time, then it’s hard to know how Artem Anisimov can fit into that. That said, the Saad-Kampf-Fortin line has a ton of speed and defensive know-how, and if the idea is to get them into space more and more that could be fun. So for the first few games, I guess it’s worth seeing.
Communication: As we said on the podcast, this seems to be the #1 thing the Hawks want to change. And it’s not surprising to hear that a host of young players were on edge because they didn’t know why they were in a certain spot in the lineup or out of it altogether. No longer will answers to the press of “We need more,” suffice. The Hawks clearly need to maximize Kahun, Schmaltz, Jokharju, Gustafsson (who’s on that young really), Forsling when he’s up, Kampf, and Sikura when he arrives (which I’m sure is shortly). Having them feel comfortable, appreciated, and with clear tasks only helps that.
If Colliton can do that and the Hawks still fall short, we’ll know exactly where the problems are (I mean we already do but you get it).