The Chicago Blackhawks have been down this road before.
In 2010-11, after being forced to shed some key pieces of their Stanley Cup-winning roster, they got off to a tepid start and barely made the playoffs.
This year, it’s shaping up to be a similar story, though the ending has yet to be written. Maybe they miss the playoffs, a la the Kings last year. Maybe they make them and win the Cup again. At this point, both options remain very much on the table.
So far, though, the ‘Hawks have simply been a mediocre team. Far from terrible, but not great either. They’re 11-8-2 after 21 games. They’re 13th in goals for — and that’s with the NHL’s leading scorer, Patrick Kane — and they’re 15th in goals against.
“We can be better,” GM Stan Bowman told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Forwards: Kane’s line has been the only one that’s really scoring. He’s got 32 points; Artemi Panarin has 21; Artem Anisimov has 15. The next leading scorer after that is a defenseman, Brent Seabrook.
Which is to say, the Blackhawks could use more from Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Teuvo Teravainen, and they could use way more from everyone else up front.
Defense: Johnny Oduya‘s replacement still remains TBD. Trevor Daley hasn’t looked like the answer. And while Trevor van Riemsdyk has made a decent case, it’s more than fair to wonder if the 24-year-old is ready for a top-4 role in the playoffs.
It’s easy to yes, he’s ready, and assume all will be well. But that sort of diminishes how important Oduya was last spring. There’s a reason the Stars were so happy to get him.
The fact is, van Riemsdyk has never played a vital role on the game’s biggest stage. That’s the big unknown for him.
“I think he should be progressing as we go along here,” coach Joel Quenneville said of TVR, per the Sun-Times “But the fact that we’re comfortable with him against anybody in any situation is a big step and it’s a good accomplishment.”
Perhaps by the time the postseason rolls around, van Riemsdyk will have progressed to the point where he can provide what Oduya provided. But if not him, who? There just aren’t a ton of options in the organization.
As for the goaltending, well, let’s not waste too much time thinking about that. Has Corey Crawford had his struggles? Yup. He’s had a really tough November. But unless he gets injured, there’s very little chance Scott Darling will become the starter. So why bother thinking too much about it?
The ‘Hawks play in San Jose on Wednesday. The game can be seen on NBCSN.