Tanking is Chill and All, But the Blackhawks Still Need *SOME* Good Individual Performances

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Tanking is Chill and All, But the Blackhawks Still Need *SOME* Good Individual Performances

Chicago Blackhawks

All season long, other teams have had their scouts/executives in the press box watching the Blackhawks like my kids stare at their wrapped Christmas presents under the tree. But what happens when the packages don’t look as good as they did when they arrived on the living room floor?

Look, we’re all uncomfortably aware of what this Blackhawks season is all about. This team was built with a top pick in the 2023 NHL Draft in mind; the struggle bus was going to show up at some point and the team was going to have a hard time winning games — by design.

But it was also built to give a handful of players an opportunity to grab more ice time than they might have received elsewhere and improve their value to others around the NHL. The hope was that the veterans added to this team would take advantage of their opportunity, play well and give the Blackhawks’ front office options to move them to more competitive destinations — adding additional assets to Chicago’s pool.

In October, when the Blackhawks were surprising people, there was a lot to like about how the team was playing. Not just because they were winning a few games and competing every night, but — keeping the long play in mind — the potential increase in the trade value of some of the pieces on the roster was something to like. A lot.

November wasn’t kind to the Blackhawks at all. And December has been a debacle. Now, there’s concern that the Blackhawks’ futility could start diminishing the value of their assets in the eyes of other executives.

The Blackhawks need a break. They need a puck to bounce their way every once in a while. The majority of the time, they’re competing hard every period of every game. Unfortunately, that compete isn’t paying off in goals and wins. Like…ever at this point.

Since beating the Rangers on Dec. 3, the Blackhawks have scored seven total goals in seven consecutive losses. Three of those seven goals came against Washington, the only game since their last win that the Blackhawks have scored more than once.

The inability to score is becoming contagious. That reality was painfully clear when listening to the comments from Jonathan Toews, Seth Jones and Luke Richardson after the game last night. Which brings us back to the game last night, a microcosm of the issues the Blackhawks are struggling with right now.

Over the first 40 minutes, the Blackhawks looked great in the advanced analytics. They had more high danger chances than the Rangers and had a pretty good puck possession numbers. I might argue the first two periods last night were two of the stronger periods the Blackhawks have had since they beat the Rangers at MSG.

But they looked up at the scoreboard at the end of the second period and the scoreboard showed them chasing a four-goal deficit.

This is where the analytics and the reality don’t seem to align with this team. Are the Blackhawks able to generate chances? Sometimes. But it’s about who’s generating those chances, and making them count, that matters more. And when this team lacks enough finishers to convert on these chances, it breeds frustration. And that was something that was brought up by Toews, Jones and Richardson last night.

With the holiday roster freeze now just a matter of hours away (11:59 PM tonight local time), the Blackhawks could use some energy to provide a little bounce to their attack. They need some mojo, somewhere. And they need to get some of the pieces that could be attractive trade chips to start producing again.

Which begs the question: will the Blackhawks’ front office consider mixing things up to help get the team back in the goal column? Would a minor deal help? Maybe a promotion from Rockford for a game or two just to get the team back in the saddle a little? Defenseman Isaak Phillips was called up with Jarred Tinordi going on IR on Monday morning. We’ll see if that helps change the offense.

The Blackhawks won’t magically start winning games, but at least getting back to scoring 2-4 goals per night like they were in October could help the stock of their assets on the trade market come January and as we get closer to the trade deadline.

They’re dead last in point percentage in the NHL now, so they’ve checked the first box for the season. Now they need to concern themselves with the return they can gather when the trade winds start blowing.

Author: Tab Bamford

Tab is the Lead Blackhawks voice for BN. He is the author of two books about the Blackhawks, most recently "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter at @The1Tab