Hawks need defensive help if they want to win Stanley Cup again
By Joe Cowley firstname.lastname@example.org January 12, 2012 10:00PM
Hawks winger Jimmy Hayes (39) scores a second period goal to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead as the Chicago Blackhawks battled the Minnesota Wild Thursday January 12, 2012 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: February 14, 2012 10:22AM
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman need not lift a finger from now until the NHL trade deadline Feb. 27.
You want to sit in your leather GM chair and play Words With Friends with three of your closest cellphone buddies? Have at it. Heck, ‘‘Quenneville’’ would score big and use up that nasty ‘‘Q.’’
You want to flick some pencils into the ceiling? Good luck with that. Whatever passes the time.
Without a phone call to an opposing GM, without a glance at the standings to monitor who is waving the white flag, this Hawks team would skate into the postseason as is. Too much talent, too much offense.
Thank goodness that’s not where the bar is set for this organization. It wasn’t two seasons ago, and it still isn’t.
If there’s one GM in town who actually has been doing things the right way the last few seasons, it’s Bowman. He has handled his business, and business is good right now. He has earned the leap of faith from the Hawks’ fan base.
But that doesn’t mean he’s not earning a bit of criticism these days. It’s right there for all of us to see. Exhibit A once again was on display 61/2 munutes into the Hawks’ game Thursday against the Minnesota Wild.
Marek Zidlicky, Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi flew through the Hawks’ defense like it was the morning skate, with Setoguchi putting the Wild ahead 1-0.
The Hawks ranked first in the NHL in shots against at 25.1 in their Stanley Cup-winning season in 2009-10, slipped to sixth at 28.7 last season and now sit 11th at 29.6.
The funny thing about hockey is, when the shots against you go up, your goalie seems to have a bit more red flashing behind him. That’s the kind of lighting that kills the mood and gets you ousted in the first round of the playoffs.
This team is screaming for a trade that will bring defensive help.
‘‘You need to address them if guys aren’t performing well,’’ Bowman recently told the Sun-Times when trade talk came up. ‘‘That’s [more] how I look at it than in terms of production. How has their performance been? Have there been consistent efforts? Have they not been making costly turnovers? Have they been filling their role? And if they’re starting to not do that, then you have to look at it.’’
The Mayans predicted the end of the world for December 2012. Who would have guessed the fading Blackhawks would be the precursor? Since Jan. 1, they had only one victory in five games entering play against the Wild.
It’s time to look at it.
The obstacle Bowman and GMs from other contending teams have to deal with is that looking at it doesn’t mean addressing it immediately. You need a partner for this dance, and the gal who’s willing to do the tango right now is ugly and resides in Columbus, Ohio. The Blue Jackets are really the only team that seems willing to accept the reality that their season already is over.
‘‘As it is right now, there are a number of teams that are probably long shots to get in [the playoffs],’’ Bowman said. ‘‘They’re not going to give up on their season yet and trade their players away. It’s a big waiting game.’’
Plus, Bowman is shopping for a position where there’s a line. Defensive help in the NHL is the equivelant to adding relief help in baseball: There are more buyers than sellers, and it takes only one desperate GM to turn your Plan A into a crumpled-up piece of paper.
What Bowman does have when other teams become more willing to deal is almost $5 million in cap space, as well as a willingness to part with draft picks and prospects to improve the product.
As Thursday showed, scoring goals isn’t the issue. Stopping them come April and May will be.