Gregory Shamus, Getty Images
Brandon Saad #20 of the Chicago Blackhawks tries to get control of the puck in front of teammate Corey Crawford #50 and Justin Abdelkader #8 of the Detroit Red Wings in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Joe Louis Arena on May 20, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan.
It seems as though the Chicago media has brought out the shovels and is ready to bury the Chicago Blackhawks.
The finger-pointing has already begun among the scribes in the city, with several of them taking dead aim at captain Jonathan Toews.
Here is what Steve Rosenbloom wrote in the Chicago Tribune today:
“The Hawks also used their speed to force the Wings into penalties, but again, nothing.
“Nothing, period. Nothing is what this dwindling season is turning into.
“The Hawks were looking for heroes. They didn’t need their captain to pretty much waste a period. They didn’t need the rest of the band to pretty much waste a great regular season.”
Rosenbloom summed up his feelings on Toews succinctly in the piece, saying that his was a case of “too much ice time, too little production.”
Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times had a similar take on Toews’ play in the series:
“Michal Handzus took Toews’ place on the top line with Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. Toews played on the second line with Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell. It was one of the few times this season he didn’t have Sharp and Hossa as linemates. It was about as drastic a move as coach Joel Quenneville could make.
“It’s why all eyes were on Toews. Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby has played well in the playoffs. So has Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg. Lots of stars have. Where has Toews been? Mostly blanketed by Zetterberg’s suffocating, borderline felonious defense.”
We could focus our attention on pointing out that Morrissey is a goof for saying that Toews has had Sharp as a linemate this season (he hasn’t), but that really isn’t what the focus should be on.
Even among fans, the mood isn’t any better. Throughout the evening hours on Thursday and the morning on Friday, there has been discussion on Twitter and other mediums about whether or not Quenneville’s job is potentially on the line if the Hawks lose this series. Having lost in the first round two years running, and one loss away from losing for the sixth time in his career to the Red Wings, the Jack Adams finalist is being assailed from all corners for his failed strategic adjustments in the series, as well as his patent inability to outfox arguably the sharpest knife in the drawer, Mike Babcock.
What people are failing to realize is that judging a team or a player by what has transpired over the past four games is nonsensical. Over the course of the 48 game regular season, the Blackhawks were the best team in the league, and it was easy to see why. Their defense was excellent, their offense could score in bunches, and they were one of the best-coached teams in the league.
Despite what the results have been over the past several days for this team, there is no reason to suspect that GM Stan Bowman is in desperate need of a fire sale or of needing to drop a bomb on his roster. This team, as constructed, is a championship contender, and the regular season proves that.
Throwing out all of that regular season data in favor of what has happened in four games against arguably the best coached team in the league is a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water, and anybody seriously arguing for Quenneville and/or Bowman to be canned for this result is guilty of overreacting.
This ability to withstand the allure of a perspective formulated by the anger associated with a team’s failings in a short timespan is perfectly encapsulated by The Score’s Cam Charron, who had this to say in his blog about those who would classify the Hawks as a failure for losing three of their last four playoff series (should they fall to the Red Wings):
“They’re playing a good team, and sometimes good teams beat other good teams….
“Everybody asks about the sample size in a 48-game season. The sample size in a playoff series is even lower than that. It provides a more satisfying end to the season, but you won’t convince me ever that there will be enough games played in a playoff run that shows the true mettle of a team.”
Even if the Blackhawks lose to the Red Wings on Saturday, categorically dismissing this team as one that needs to be gutted and restructured is a fool’s errand.
Yes, Jonathan Toews has played poorly on offense in the playoffs, but his defensive abilities and ability to win faceoffs make him an integral part of this team that can’t be dismissed simply because the puck isn’t bouncing his way.
Yes, Joel Quenneville is probably guilty of overtinkering with his lines, but then again, that ability to dispatch with new ideas without fear of looking like a fool is what made him so successful in the regular season.
Yes, Stan Bowman opted to go with his team as currently constructed at the trade deadline, but whereas the Pittsburgh Penguins have struggled at times with their chemistry, the Blackhawks have remained largely the same group, and therefore have been more consistent than the Pens.
No, Blackhawks fans, the sky isn’t falling because the Hawks have lost three consecutive games. No, the right answer to what ails the Blackhawks isn’t to fire Quenneville and for Bowman to gut the roster.
The correct answer is to keep this team a contender by finding new complimentary pieces, in the farm system and elsewhere, and to build around the core players that the team has now.
Any suggestion to the contrary is short-sighted, and as countless teams have found out thanks to deadline deals and big contracts that haven’t panned out, the road to success is found through the prism of long-term thinking, not by getting swept up in the emotions of the difficult present.