It’s been a year since the Chicago Blackhawks fired Joel Quenneville and hired Jeremy Colliton to take over as head coach. The change was greeted as a changing of the entire methodology of the Blackhawks, with the 33-year-old the harbinger of renewal and refurbishment.
So, how’s that working out?
The Blackhawks, not to put too fine a point on it, are not doing well. Ahead of Thursday’s contest against the Vancouver Canucks, Chicago finds themselves with a 4-7-3 record – good for 11 points. That ties them for second-to-last in the Western Conference and puts them one point ahead of the Los Angeles Kings.
The Blackhawks have scored just 33 goals as of press time, putting them at the bottom of the NHL. Ahead of Wednesday’s action, they were 29th overall in goals per game. At the same time last season, they were in eighth place in goals per game.
If there is a bright side, it’s that these Blackhawks are more defensively impressive. So far.
Right now, Chi-town’s allowed just 44 goals against.
That has a lot to do with the performance of goalie Robin Lehner, who’s 3-3-2 in eight starts with a 2.33 goals against average and a .935 save percentage. Those are incredible numbers for a goalie on a losing team, especially when set against Corey Crawford’s digits. He’s just got the one win, with a 3.74 goals against average and a .892 save percentage in six starts.
Lehner’s numbers are so good in large part because he’s been absolutely bombarded. The Blackhawks, ahead of Wednesday, have allowed almost 36 shots against per game. Lehner’s faced 293 shots against in 491 minutes of play. Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy has seen just as many shots, but as of Wednesday he’d played about 48 minutes more and allowed nine more goals.
Apart from Lehner, Chicago’s roster’s been one ceaseless deluge of disappointment. Patrick Kane has 13 points in 14 games, but just four goals. He’s a minus-five. He’s also the only Blackhawk with double-digit points. Jonathan Toews has just two goals and six points in 14 games.
Colliton has been trying things out. A decision to scratch Brent Seabrook went over like a lead balloon and the veteran blueliner has just one point in a dozen games. For a dude carrying a $6.875 million cap hit through 2023-2024, the situation isn’t the greatest.
Kirby Dach could be a bright spot, but it’s hard to see much mobility with the team doing this poorly. The play of Adam Boqvist also has potential.
But the larger issue is that of identity. The questions are legion and it’s long past time to establish if the Blackhawks can turn themselves into a winning hockey club or if they’re another version of the Los Angeles Kings: a slow and antiquated organized in need of major readjustment and realignment, from top to bottom.
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