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Fleury Shelled, Time For Change, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Chicago Blackhawks

I am obligated to talk about the Chicago Blackhawks today. Last night was yet another start to a game where the Blackhawks got the doors blown off of them and had no response. No life. No inspiration. No answers. Again. How many times do we have to see this script, a script we saw all last season and many times the season before, before the organization can figure out what the common denominator is? This Blackhawks team is too talented and too experienced to look THIS bad, consistently.

•   Marc-André Fleury made another return to Pittsburgh last night. Starting against the Penguins, a team he helped rebuild to prominence in the first portion of his career, Fleury deserved so much better from his newest team.

•   Instead, what he got was an uninspired start, a shelling, and the hook.

•   After giving up the first three goals of the season in under ten minutes against the Avalanche, and giving up the first goal of the game against the Devils in 17 seconds, the Blackhawk set a new low-bar with the opening goal against the Penguins coming just 15 seconds into the game.

•   15 f-king seconds.

•   The response? Turnovers, unsustained offense, odd-man rushes, and miscommunication.

•   2-0 just like that. After giving up three goals to the Avs in the first ten minutes, the Blackhawks decided that wasn’t bad enough. They were down 4-0 in the first 11:25 of the first period. Marc-André Fleury was pulled and the game was over.

•   Another night where the Blackhawks were coming out of the gate having tripped over their own skates all the way down the tunnel without figuring out that someone had tied their laces together. Just for the hell of it too, someone put tape on the skate blades so the Blackhawks could fall flat on their face again once they stepped on the ice. It was a cavalcade of embarrassment for a team that is supposed to contend for the playoffs. Playoffs? Are you kidding me?

•   At least they know they sucked for Fleury.

•   Look, professional athletes don’t become professional athletes without some form of internal motivation and sense of individual preparedness for what they have to do in practices and in games. But it’s not all on the athletes to prepare themselves. If that was the case, what would be the purpose of coaches?

•   The slow starts, the uninspired play, the confusion on the ice, those things come down to coaching. And when teams are playing poorly and not living up to expectations, the first and most likely change to be made will inevitably be the coach.

•   Joel Quenneville took over for Denis Savard back in 2008 after Savard had a 65-66-16 record as a head coach. Jeremy Colliton took over for Joel Quenneville in 2018 after the Blackhawks got off to a 6-6-3 start after missing the playoffs the season prior. Colliton has an 86-85-25 record as the head coach of the Blackhawks, having missed the postseason twice, three times if you don’t count the NHL expanding the postseason in 2020 to accommodate Chicago and Montreal.

•   So what more do we need to see before the next change is made? Is this the first time that Colliton is having a full offseason, full training camp, and full 82-game schedule ahead of him? Yes. Does that change the fact that the Blackhawks have been the same iteration of the same team no matter who has been playing for them since he took over? No. Savard and Colliton’s records are on the same trajectory and Savard had considerably less to work with in his time as head coach of the Blackhawks. So what now? What more needs to happen?

•   Patrick Kane continued to be a bright spot for Chicago to begin the season. Even if he looks not like “himself,” Kane still has a team-leading four points through the first three games. Adding a powerplay goal in the second period to stop some of the bleeding last night.

•   Kane spoke after the game, expressing the disappointment he and the rest of the team felt for their performance in front of Marc-André Fleury.

•   I would not blame Fleury for reconsidering his decision to play this season with Chicago. In his two starts with the Blackhawks, he has seen way too much action in his own end, and not enough on the other side of the ice from him.

•   There was not enough from the Blackhawks to right the ship last night. But Kane believes they still can do that for the 2021-22 season.

•   For some reason, I don’t believe him.

•   Kane was one of the first of the major veterans to speak out in support of Jeremy Colliton when he took over the Blackhawks. Kane has had some incredible seasons under Colliton and has been then player behind the wheel of the Blackhawks’ successes in that time. I do not believe that he is the only one, but what I do believe from what I’m seeing on the ice and what I notice from the bench, is that there cannot be collective trust in Colliton from the players.

•   When you don’t hold the locker room, what do you hold as a coach? I could be wrong, but I’ve seen enough hockey and hockey player body language to know when guys are “bought in” or not. I don’t see it from these Blackhawks.

•   Another bright spot for the Blackhawks this season has been Kirby Dach. He got on the board again last night, his second goal in as many games.

•   Dach is part of the future of the Blackhawks. He was paired with Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane last night, a move that should have been made in training camp. I want to see that trio on a line the rest of the season. Treat Dach and DeBrincat, two of your cornerstones, like cornerstones.

•   I turn to Mark Lazerus of The Athletic to summarize more of the angst behind what we were told these Blackhawks would be and what they have shown us so far through three games.

•   “It’S juSt OnE GaMe.”

•   This team STINKS and something needs to change.

•   Now.

•   There needs to be a change of culture in the organization in many different ways. The higher-ups for the Blackhawks need to go for their management of the team and their troubles off the ice with the lawsuits against the team that are currently being investigated. It comes with a change in your Hockey Operations department and with Stan Bowman. It comes with a change behind the bench, not just Jeremy Colliton, but the whole lot. Top to bottom, change. Otherwise, you waste another season and the exits of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews from your organization become a stain on the franchise.

•   In better news last night for the organization, the Rockford IceHogs got their first win of the season. A 5-3 win over the Chicago Wolves saw a few of the big names from this preseason making an impression.

•   2020 first-round draft pick Lukas Reichel scored his first goal of the season last night to tie the game in the second period.

•   That’s what you love to see.

•   Alex Nylander also made an impact on the game last night, scoring twice to pad the lead in the third period and add an empty-netter late in the game.

•   Good for Nylander to get on the board as well. Confidence building is what you want to see from those kinds of players with the IceHogs to begin this season.

•   Also happening in the AHL last night, the first female referee in league history made her debut!

•   The AHL will have ten female referees and lineswomen working in the league this season.

•   Speaking of history, the Chicago Sky have a chance to win their first WNBA Championship this afternoon, taking on the Phoenix Mercury with a 2-1 series lead in the WNBA Finals.

•   The Mercury were the team that swept the Sky back in 2014, the last time Chicago was in the WNBA Finals. So some poetic justice could be served today.

•   Also happening today in the Chicago sports landscape, another edition of the Bears and Packers rivalry. It could also be the last time Aaron Rodgers plays at Solider Field.

•   Big day in the Windy City.

•   I’ll leave you with some levity from last night since this was a more depressing edition of Bullets. Chris Kreider and Alexis Lafrenière are big fans of smelling salts and sharing.

•   You ever try one of those things? Good lord is it terrible.

•   That will do it for today. Hope you all have a good Sunday and Go Bears!



Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.