By RYAN DELAHANTY
After the 4-1 loss in Nashville on April 20th the Chicago Blackhawks disappointing postseason came to an abrupt end after a fantastic regular season where they finished first in the west with 109 points.
The question now is where do the Blackhawks go from here?
Is it time to completely hit the panic button and start to rebuild or build around the roster they already have?Two straight years of one and dones in the playoffs is not the result Stan Bowman and the rest of the front office expects. The core of the 3 Stanley Cup victories in the past seven years still remain on the team, though some aging and starting to lose production. Duncan Keith will be turning 34 this offseason and has showed signs of his age with his sluggish play in the Nashville series. Patrick Kane also looked off in the postseason lacking puck control and handles. Still in his prime at 28, Kane should be back to his normal self next season.
Still Bowman claimed soon after last week’s devastating sweep at the hands of the Nashville Predators, “Everything is on the table…” for the Blackhawks going forward.
There are many directions the Hawks could go, the best (and probably most popular) being be to keep the core of Toews, Kane, Keith, Seabrook intact, while investing in younger talent such as Ryan Hartman who ended his rookie season with 31 points in limited ice time.
Depth becomes very important throughout the playoffs and the Blackhawks simply did not have that this year. They need to beef up their 2nd and 3rd lines as they were not productive this postseason. All of the Blackhawks power is on the 1st line with Kane, Toews and Panik. The first line cannot always score the need for goals from the 2nd and 3rd was prevalent throughout the series against Nashville.
The Blackhawks need to get literally up to speed with the pace of the NHL game, a pace they set back in 2010 with their first Cup run, but are now lagging behind. The game continues move quicker and the lack elite skaters was a paramount cause for offensive ineptness against the Predators.
Crawford has played well overall but is it time to give the starting position to Scott Darling? Darling has the potential to be a very solid starting goalie for the future. Though Crawford has arguably earned another season in the net, it may be time to move the two time cup winner as part of a mega-deal.
As ugly as the team’s departure was from this year’s playoff picture, no major changes in the coaching staff appear eminent. The fire in Joel Quenneville still burns hot. Perhaps a shake up in his assistants could be in order, but this should be Coach Q’s call.
The Hawks as helmed by Bowman have shown an uncanny ability to regroup on the fly and remain an elite NHL franchise. Change will be coming soon. The extent of which, remains to be seen.