Chicago Blawkhawks

Blackhawks’ woes more performance than personnel: McKenzie

Chicago Blackhawks fans shouldn’t expect general manager Stan Bowman to trade his way out of his team’s current funk, at least not in the short term.

The Blackhawks, losers of six of their last 10 games, are wallowing outside the playoff line in the Central Division 19 games into the current campaign.
NHL Insider Bob McKenzie dropped by the NBCSN studio on Wednesday and suggested that Chicago’s woes stem from a performance issue, and not an issue of available personnel.

“They got to get the power play going, they got to tighten up defensively,” McKenzie said. “While everybody is ready to throw everybody under the bus, in terms of the fans and the media for the way the Blackhawks have played team defence, the reality is they can play a lot better and that the expectation is they will play a lot better.”

McKenzie added the Blackhawks could look within, but bringing someone up from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League, would be exposing another player to waivers or demoting a player who doesn’t need a demotion.

“They don’t want to put (Alex) DeBrincat down, they down want to put (John) Hayden down, they don’t want to put (Nick) Schmaltz down, so the guys that are the easiest to send to the minors are not really the guys you want to send to the minors,” McKenzie said. “You’ve got eight defensemen and 13 forwards right now. It’s tough to make a move.

Meanwhile, McKenzie shed some more light on the continued absence of New York Rangers defenseman Brendan Smith.

Smith, who has been a healthy scratch for the past five games, struggled like many of his teammates as the Rangers went for a dump to start the season.
But the Rangers are now winner’s of six straight and McKenzie suggested that Smith could sit longer if the team keeps adding ticks to the win column.

“He gets scratched and then the next game the Rangers win, and they win again, and they win again and they keep winning,” McKenzie said. “What basically happened was he picked the worst possible time to be a healthy scratch and the team absolutely took off.

“A winning lineup is a winning lineup and (head coach) Alain Vigneault isn’t going to break it up.”

Smith, who signed a four-year, $17.4 million contract with the Rangers at the end of June after being acquired at last season’s trade deadline, has since lost his job, at least in the interim, to Steven Kempfer, who is paired with Marc Staal.

“He’s got to sit until the Rangers lose and Vigneault decides a change needs to be made, or there is an injury or one of the other six guys playing ahead of him doesn’t play very well and then when he gets his opportunity, he’s got to make the most of it,” McKenzie said.

“(The Rangers) believe, long-term, that he’s going to be fine. It will be up to him and the pressure will be on him when he does get back into the lineup.”


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck.