We’ve got another off day here, which is probably a good thing at this point. I don’t see Blackhawks fans foaming at the mouth to watch this team get back on the ice after the disaster that has been the start of the 2021-22 season.
So let’s take advantage of the off-day and try to make sense of some of the storylines both on and off the ice through the first two weeks of the season, and if nothing else, listen to me vent a little bit. Then you do the same in the comments if you need some hockey therapy on this Saturday afternoon.
Historically Bad Start
You have to go back 24 years to the 1997-98 to find the last time the Blackhawks started a season this poorly. The Blackhawks are 0-4-1 and have just one point through five games, placing them dead last in the Central Division. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers behind their disastrous start.
• The Blackhawks have been outscored 17-3 in five-on-five situations.
• Jonathan Toews has zero points through five games.
• Marc-André Fleury’s GAA: 5.63
• Registered just 15 high-danger chances in the three-game road trip to open the season versus 30 for Colorado, New Jersey, and Pittsburgh.
• Registered 24 high-danger chances in the two home games against the Islanders and Canucks.
• Despite having a total of 39 high-danger chances (6th in the NHL), the Blackhawks rank 29th in the NHL in high-danger shots that converted into goals at 6.9 percent.
• Conversely, Blackhawks goalies have stopped just 66.6 percent of the opposing team’s high-danger shots.
Looking at those numbers, I have a few observations;
The Blackhawks have to start converting on high-danger chances, and that begins with their elite scorers. Check this out:
Kane has been on the ice for 17 high danger chances, but only one high danger goal.
Hagel has been on the ice for 16 HDC's, but only two HDG's.
Dach has been on the ice for 15 HDC's, and like Kane, just one HDG.
DeBrincat has been on ice for 11 HDC's, 0 HDG's. (2/3)
— Patrick K. Flowers (@PatrickKFlowers) October 22, 2021
Veterans like Jonathan Toews and Marc-André Fleury have to be much better; they’ve been a total non-factor and even, in some cases, a total negative. Patrick Kane doesn’t get a pass here either. Not only has he failed to convert on more high-danger chances than anyone on the team, but his defense has also been pretty bad.
Jack Hughes OT winner. What a goal. pic.twitter.com/FghGsrL9uj
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) October 16, 2021
— Hockey Daily 365 (@HockeyDaily365) October 22, 2021
In the Jack Hughes OT winner on Friday in New Jersey, not sure what Kane was doing there. In the Jason Dickinson goal against Vancouver, Kane just kind of waves his stick when the play is by the boards and then drifts away from the play and becomes a spectator.
Look, it was cool for Patrick Kane to focus his efforts on the other end and play lackluster defense when he had deep defensive pairings with Hall of Famers sprinkled in, but this is not the same team. Patrick Kane is a veteran and a captain on this team and needs to play far more aggressive defense. Help these guys out, and if nothing else, set an example for them.
Jeremy Colliton is Safe … For Now
Before Thursday night’s loss to the Vancouver Canucks, ESPN NHL insider Emily Kaplan reported that Jeremy Colliton’s job was safe, at least for now. Kaplan stated on ESPN’s The Point that she has talked to many people inside the Blackhawks front office, and the sense that she gets is that there haven’t even closed-door meetings regarding a potential change behind the bench for the Blackhawks.
Kaplan went on to say that the organization isn’t panicking at this point but did note that if the Blackhawks continue to skid, firing Colliton could be a conversation had amongst the powers that be in Chicago’s front office.
The Blackhawks have failed to get into the win column in their first four games of the season and have not led at any single point in their four games played. The Blackhawks drought of not having a lead in any game to start the season is now at 300:57, the longest such streak in franchise history. The previous? Just last season, again under the direction of Jeremy Colliton, when the Blackhawks went 226:06 before taking the lead in any game to open the season. The Blackhawks finished the 2020-21 season with a 24-25-7 record and missed the playoffs.
The Blackhawks are now 0-4-1 and the calls from the fanbase for a change behind the bench have been deafening, and so have the boos towards the Blackhawks and their performances at the United Center this week.
The Blackhawks are 0-4-1, have been outscored 17-3 at 5-on-5, and get booed off the ice for the second straight game. pic.twitter.com/ACEbxbIQFp
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) October 22, 2021
Also mentioned in that Emily Kaplan report was the notion that the Blackhawks front office feels like they haven’t deviated from their rebuild strategy despite their moves this past summer.
Uh … huh?
I mean, I suppose the fact that Marc-André Fleury is only here for one year is a quick out on what was seen as a win-now move. On the other hand, you can argue that Seth Jones and Jake McCabe join guys like Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach as leaders of the future, not just win-now additions. But, I’d argue that the money and the draft capital expended to acquire them was a massive price to pay, almost negating the defense of them being here long-term.
It’s a paper-thin argument, but it’s one nonetheless. I think that if that is, in fact, truly their belief, then Guys like Erik Gustafsson should be gone, and guys like Ian Mitchell should be playing. Dylan Strome should be playing. Lukas Reichel should be playing. You get the point.
I think it’s a lame excuse for the horrid start by the front office, but Bowman’s gonna Bowman, so why even give it any more thought?
This and That
• Scott Powers and Mark Lazerus of The Athletic do a great job of trying to make sense of the train-wreck that has been the early days of the 2021-22 season in Chicago. You should give it a read.
— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) October 22, 2021
• As I mentioned a bit ago, Dylan Strome should be playing, even if the end-game for the Blackhawks is a trade of Arizona’s former first-round draft pick.
— Patrick K. Flowers (@PatrickKFlowers) October 22, 2021
• Jeremy Colliton isn’t worried about the pressure.
Jeremy Colliton says pressure is ‘always there’ on his job regardless of the Chicago Blackhawks’ 0-4-1 start. Here are 5 takeaways from the 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. https://t.co/2c06r0EA5i
— Phillip Thompson (@_phil_thompson) October 22, 2021
• The adjustments of returning to the traditional 82-game grind for the first time in three seasons.
Last season, the Blackhawks flew about 12,100 miles traveling to and from road games.
This season? It'll be about 43,500 miles.
That's one of many challenges readjusting to the 82-game schedule has presented. Story:https://t.co/zj2Wyj2ap6
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) October 22, 2021