Hockey

Where Do We Go Now?

You know we aren’t here to bullshit you, dear reader. This Hawks team is done this year. They’ve looked disjointed, uninspired, and boring when they needed to do the exact opposite most. But they aren’t as far off from being a contender as it seems. So, where do they even go from here, and what do we, as fans, look forward to with this team?

Firing Jeremy Colliton

The Blackhawks must fire Jeremy Colliton as soon as possible, and we should relish when it finally happens. Jeremy Colliton has no business coaching this NHL team, now or in the future. The Hawks were a top-10 team in terms of goals just last year, and this galaxy-brained wiener has devolved it into an on-ice fatberg.

Following the Arizona game that the Hawks won in the shootout after the break, they were two points out of the last playoff spot. They had a pretty soft schedule ahead of them. If they could keep the coals hot until they hit their last big hell trip at the end of February, the ineptitude of the Western Conference might have pushed them into a playoff spot they really didn’t deserve.

Instead, we got a slate of losses to teams like Edmonton without McDavid and the Rangers, who are in complete, unabashed rebuild mode. We got an entire power play unit filled with left-handed shots and Patrick Kane on his off side just cuz. And at the tip of it all is Carbuncle Colliton, whose only moves are to triple shift Patrick Kane and then blame the effort when his team loses important games. He’s the model coach for a front office born on third. When in doubt, blame everyone but yourself.

The guys on the ice don’t buy his system because it blows and is a gigantic embarrassment to all within it. All of Colliton’s smarminess about how the lines don’t matter and they need more effort hasn’t and won’t change that. A coach who gets all of his players off of their games, as Colliton has clearly done, isn’t a coach at all.

Jeremy Colliton sucks at this. Yes, thank you for scratching Brent Seabrook, but you can go now. Firing him won’t fix everything, but it’s the first and most necessary step toward making this team fun again.

(And yes, you can lump Stan Bowman in here too. I won’t expound too much on my feelings about him here simply because it’s rare for GMs to get fired mid-season, and you can always revisit this.)

Trading everything that isn’t tied down

Trade Gus, like they should have last year. Trade Lehner for whatever you can get, because his diaper is full and his efforts empty. Fuck, trade Brandon Saad if you can get a Bowen Byram, as much as it would hurt the heart. As much as we want this team to win now, this is not a win-now team. If you were an overly optimistic idiot like me, you could have squinted at it right after the break and thought “well, maybe.”

But no longer. The blue line is one of the worst in the league. Until they fix that and get that sometimes-bespectacled asshole out from behind the bench, nothing else will matter. The only way they can even start doing that is by selling whatever they can before the deadline ends.

Because this team isn’t that far off. They need one faster, contributing forward to round out the top 9. Assuming Mitchell signs and isn’t a sewer, they need one solid defenseman to go with Murphy, Boqvist, Keith, de Haan, and Mitchell to be representative at least. It’ll take some doing, but it is doable (just maybe not with Bowman at the helm).

Young blood

In Adam Boqvist and Kirby Dach, the Hawks have two young, skilled players. At worst, you can see them being no less than good players. At best, they’re franchise cornerstones of the next wave of success.

Boqvist has the kind of speed that the Hawks can use to break through the neutral zone more fluidly than the unbearably predictable drop pass. He’s got a sharp wrister and excellent passing skills that will be a cornerstone of the power play. But as we’ve seen all year since he’s come up, he’s hesitant and overly deferential. How he’s played this year is entirely at odds with what he’s done before he got here. If nothing else, you have to fire Colliton to at least give Boqvist a chance.

Dach is a smart positional center with good on-ice vision, and not just for a 19-year-old. His passing choices and finish are only going to get better with more experience. Dach’s development should be at the top of the list for the Hawks, and as of now, it looks like even they realize that.

And of course, there’s Dominik Kubalik, who might end up with 35 goals in his rookie year. You and I both knew he was going to be good going in. It took Coach Carbuncle way too long to get that, because he sucks at this.

Crow’s last hurrah

This might be Crawford’s last year as Blackhawk. He doesn’t deserve to go out like this. He’s still a high-quality goaltender who’s managed to keep the Hawks in games they had no business sniffing. Chronically underappreciated, Crow will go down as a top 2 goaltender for the Hawks, topped perhaps only by Glenn Hall.

If the Hawks were smart, they’d try to bring him back for another year or two. But they aren’t. And even if they were, Crow would be completely in the right to tell them to eat shit and ply his craft elsewhere.

Crow will always be The Goalie here. Fuck Robin Lehner, you can have him and his dumbass neck tattoos and finger pointing. No one has done it better than Crawford as quietly and efficiently despite everything he’s gone through. It’s unlikely anyone will again for a long, long time. Cherish it.

Some of the young pieces—Boqvist, Dach, Kubalik—are in place. Alex DeBrincat is still here, even if he’s having a rough go this year. If they can get Strome for $5 million per over three years and put him back at fucking center, the Hawks’s center depth is really good. Kane is a freak who continues to deliver, though you can’t help but wonder whether he’s feeling like Mona Lisa Vito, playing for a team that’s pissing itself throughout his prime. Toews continues to prove everyone who thought his best days were behind him wrong. Murphy’s Murphy, Keith can still do it, and a healthy de Haan is a good depth D-man.

The framework is there, but not for this year. It’s time to sell, fire Colliton, and do everything they can to make this godawful blue line at least NHL-representative. Anything else would be a dereliction of duty.

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