Why The Chicago Blackhawks Are Not A Playoff Team

I attended the Blackhawks game against the Blue Jackets on Friday night, and it was glaringly obvious why these Blackhawks are not a playoff team.

It has nothing to do with superstars carrying the team. Heck, all three goals were scored by the money-players on the team. Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are, in my opinion, the best line in hockey right now.

It has nothing to do with what players do in their spare time. Deadspin might love dragging Kane through the mud whenever a “new” photo arrives in their email, but the simple reality is that Kane is still performing. Deadspin makes TMZ look like the Wall Street Journal, so putting stock in what they report is foolish anyway.

It has nothing to do with coach Joel Quenneville missing the last two games, either. The Hawks have won half of their games with Quenneville, so splitting two games without him is consistent with the rest of the year.

This team is not a playoff team because they have no depth, and the coaches have no confidence in their roster.

At the 10 minute mark in the third period last night, I half-jokingly said to Steve and Lori (who have season tickets next to me) that the Hawks should run a rotation of six forwards and five defensemen the rest of the way.

And they did.

This roster has enough high-end talent to win games. We saw that last night. But games are won and lost in the third period, and, when your best players are double-shifting for the final 30 minutes of the game, it’s hard to find an extra gear. Look at the ice time from the forwards last night:

  • Jonathan Toews – 24:16
  • Patrick Sharp – 22:11
  • Patrick Kane – 21:36
  • Marian Hossa – 22:47
  • Dave Bolland - 21:16
  • Tomas Kopecky – 16:29
  • Troy Brouwer – 15:29
  • Michael Frolik – 13: 22
  • Bryan Bickell – 11:24
  • Jake Dowell – 4:20 (nine shifts)
  • Viktor Stalberg – 4:14 (seven shifts)
  • John Scott – 2:18 (four shifts)

What’s wrong with this picture? The ice time for Kopecky, Bickell and Frolik is probably pretty appropriate at this point in the year, but look at the minutes from the top lines! How can a defending champion and playoff-hopeful justify handing a uniform to a guy that’s going to skate four shifts? And if Stalberg is going to take stupid penalties and wind up in the doghouse twice a week, why isn’t he doing it in Rockford? (note: Stalberg would have to clear waivers to be demoted… I would take that chance.)

There were 67 faceoffs last night. Toews took 30 of them, and Bolland took 24.

If you’ve read this site at any point in the past you know that I have done nothing but defend every decision made by Blackhawks’ management in the last 12 months. I’m not sure I can any more.

When the 2010-11 Blackhawks roster was constructed, the house of cards was built on a foundational belief that the team had replaced the skills that had left. Stalberg, Scott, Dowell, Fernando Pisani and Jack Skille were going to step in and perform well in their new roles and reward the organization for putting faith in them as players.

Well, what we’ve seen this year is the “bad” column on every one of their scouting reports.

Stalberg has all the physical skill in the world, but appears to be clueless. He never put it together in Toronto, and hasn’t done it in Chicago, either.

Skille spent five years in Rockford for a reason: he sucks. Stalberg and Skille showed us over 50 games that neither is an NHL player right now. And Skille is now in Florida.

Scott has a big body, but should have gone into boxing instead of hockey. He can’t skate and hasn’t shown the ability to do anything with the puck. He is not an NHL hockey player.

Pisani is an outstanding defensive forward who’s a special teams ace… when healthy. Fans in Edmonton told us he wouldn’t play more than 60 games this year, and they might be right after all.

Ryan Johnson might be a faceoff ace, but there’s a good reason he was still a free agent more than a month into the season: he can’t do anything but win faceoffs. At least John Madden scored a few points last year.

These Blackhawks needed to receive exceptional performances from their role players to make a run this year, and they’ve received little more than disappointment. Now that the money is on the table, and every game means everything, we’re seeing exactly what the suits on the bench think of their roster.

After Friday night’s loss, acting-head coach Mike Haviland said, “(Columbus) started outworking us. That’s unacceptable at this time of year.” what’s also unacceptable is thinking you’re a playoff team while the coaches only trust seven forwards enough to put them on the ice for the last 10 minutes of a critical game.

This team’s roster is handicapped, and it’s killing them. With nine days to the trade deadline, we’ll see if they do anything to fix it.

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9 Responses to Why The Chicago Blackhawks Are Not A Playoff Team

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  2. Michael Stasiak says:

    Ryan Johnson may not be the cure to what ails the Hawks but the guys can play on the PK, he can block shots and as you said, he can win faceoffs. That last skill alone, could have helped the Hawks win a game last night. The turning point was the two power plays Columbus scored that were the direct result of our centers (Bolland & Dowell) losing the draws. Each of the PP goals came seconds after they lost the draws. This has been a season long problem that Bowman has failed to address. Only Towes has shown the ability to win faceoffs with any kind of regularity. Why sit Johnson so you can play Scott for 2 1/2 minutes? Again, Johnson is no superstar, but if you have to go with what you have, and what you have is a choice between Johnson or Scott, it would seem to me that decision is a no brainer. Furthermore, I also thought or defense, particularly the play of Keith, Seabrook and Campbell was very poor last night at best. I was also hoping that Hossa could extended his streak of dominate games to two. I guess that was asking too much as him and his line was pretty much non existent after the first period. You are right Tab, this team is definitely not a playoff team and its about time some of the blame for that extends past the players and to the management that put this team together as well.

  3. Tab Bamford says:

    Johnson wasn’t eligible to play last night because he’s on IR. Pretty simple answer to that. And how many guys can you have on a roster that bring NOTHING to the offense? If Johnson’s going to be the nothing-but-defense forward, then Pisani can go. Having two of them on the same roster is a waste. Especially w/ Scott wasting a spot, too

  4. Brad Stevenson says:

    Tab…bang on…but here’s the thing…what can be done??? Ultimately? NOTHING, unless it is a big trade…there simply isn’t any room left to add much of anything…yes, we can release outright Nick Boynton (hurray), and attempt to trade Victor Stahlberg, but who would take that deal or what would get in return, and even if we parted with our top 1 or 2 prospects (not in favour of that), for someone with real talent, that person comes with a price and we simply don’t have the room…

    Either Bolland goes, or Campbell goes or Hammer goes, so that there is actual room to work with…

    The sad reality is you are right…this is NOT a playoff team and there is very little that can be done about it this year, and even next…we are going to become another footmark of history…win the cup and then miss the playoffs…hello Carolina…

    Take care my friend…awesome as always.

  5. Jerome says:

    It’s a matter of depth, something the Hawks don’t have.
    While we talked prior to, and early in the season, that the core of the team remained intact after the dismantling of the team during the summer, the issue of depth wasn’t addressed.
    Toews, Kane, Hossa and Sharp can’t play 30 minutes a game and thus the Hawks become very vulnerable as the game goes on.
    Dale Talon did an excellent job of assembling a Stanley Cup winner, but was it a one off? Why is he not still here? After all, successful managers are not so easy to come by these days.
    I’ve no doubt Stan Bowman (with some help from dad) will make certain that this is a very sort term hiccup.
    This year? I don’t think so.

  6. mike says:

    I thought this article was dead on. I am not sure what Stan Bowman has done to earn the loyalty of so many fans, but your criticism of his failed attempt at building depth on the team is correct.

    The Hawks need to blow up their salary structure by moving one or two high priced players and building up the bottom two lines and third defense pair. Hjarms has not played like a 3.5 million player. Hossa has not been worth his contract with such little production, and what is troubling is the number of years still left on that contract. It concerns me his production is so low so early into the deal.

    Package those two guys in trades and you could really rearrange the structure of the team.

  7. Brad Stevenson says:

    As much as I like Hossa, as he is a true 2 Way Forward (as in NOT Patrick Kane), he simply is NOT worth what we are paying him now and in the very distant future. His salary is simply not possible for us to keep and win another Cup…the same is true with Brian Campbell…and whether we trade him or simply cut him loose next season, he has to go…I know Campbell is finally playing the kind of hockey we demand from him, but as a 3rd DMan, he is simply not worth $7million…and while the Hammer is not playing up to his salary he is a distant third to these two main culprits. In fact, I would also put Bolland ahead of Hammer. I like Dave Bolland for the most part, but we simply cannot afford to pay $3.5 Million to a 3rd line centre…

    So, as you say, either we move at least 2 of these 4 killer salaries, or we will be right back in the same boat NEXT YEAR as well…Bowman cannot expect to rebuild another Stanley Cup champion from a couple of millions dollars and a 3rd or 4th line centre.

    The future is bright with the plentiful talent in the minors, and they can be accentuated by one or two other key additions, but only if we have the money and space to do so…

  8. Lori says:

    Hey TAb thanks for the shout out and you are correct. We all share the frustration of watching our handful of superstars working so hard every game, trying to maintain energy, urgency and a big push through the entire 60 minutes. Repeatedly it just doens’t happen. This team is too shallow to keep too many one-trick ponies around, Scott has got to go, I love him in a fight but as you said this is hockey not boxing, and as for the big contracts that need to go Stalberg is not doing anything consistantly enough to warrant keeping, and Hammer may be my biggest disappointment. After daring someone to make an offer and paying the price, he just hasn’t shown the consistant performance that he should be . Others I won’t miss Boynton, Bickell, and while I appreciate Bolland, maybe he is one that will get us something of real value. I hate saying this but the only thing my Hawks will win this year is that famous Chicago lament:” maybe next year???”

  9. Steve says:

    Tab, I agree with the Article, but it begs the question… Why isn’t Stahlberg performing better??? He looked ok, or serviceable for the handful of games that he played on a talented line, but being stuck with Scott, Skille or any of the other rejects is going to make most players look bad… Perhaps it is deeper than his inability to find the back of the net (which finally happened yesterday). Perhaps the real questions are “Why is Scott and Boynton still holding roster spots? Why is our top defensive pairing turning the puck over in our zone so frequently? Why has Marian Hossa been so inconsistent?”

    I concur that they cannot continue to dress Scott, and I am glad to see Skille disappear, and I hope that we see our friend Kopy on the 4th line with less minutes in the very near future. I think one of the most over looked aspects though, is that our #1 defensive pairing from last year is playing terrible. I am amazed how well Crawford is playing considering that half of Ducan Keith’s passes end up going to someone in an opponent’s sweater… I am glad that they split up Keith and Seabrook, I hope it benefits them both. Hopefully we are headed in the right direction now, and I hope we have seen the last of Scott and Boynton. I will pay for the donkey that drags both of their dead asses back to Rockford, along with their wasted contracts.

    Oh yeah… GO HAWKS!

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