9:18 AM CST, February 14, 2012
The question of Joel Quenneville’s job security had to be asked.
His Blackhawks are 0-for-the-longest-road-trip of the season, they didn’t win away from the United Center even before that, and they have fallen from the top of the league to the bottom of the Western Conference playoff spots.
Quenneville is “absolutely’’ the right guy, Hawks general manager Stan Bowman told Comcast SportsNet. So, good question, good answer.
Besides, it would be pretty cowardly for the GM to fire the coach when the GM failed to upgrade the roster the way he indicated he would.
That talk of a No. 2 center and a top-four defenseman has been going on since, I don’t know, forever.
The problem isn’t Quenneville. It’s the players, both those who are here and those who aren’t.
The Hawks’ best players are some of their worst. See the power play for details.
No, wait. That would be letting the guilty off too easily. Naming names:
Patrick Kane has one goal on the trip. One. This, from a guy who can’t kill penalties or check anyone, so he must contribute by putting the puck in the net, and he’s only sixth on his own team. Kane is 50th in the NHL in salary and woke up Tuesday tied for 119th in goals.
Marian Hossa has no points and is a minus-6 in the six losses on this trip. Why bother?
Jonathan Toews has no points in the last four losses, has only two assists on this trip, and is losing a ton of faceoffs, which tells you he isn’t healthy and stands a good chance of getting worse.
Keith has two assists in the last six, but is a pathetic minus-8, meaning the guy who gets the most icetime gives the team the worst results. That’s Nick Leddy bad, is what that is.
Brent Seabrook has two goals and two assists on the trip, which sounds hopeful until you see that he’s also a minus player.
Patrick Sharp has two goals and six points, more than Toews, Hossa and Keith combined. “Congratulations, Kroger, you’re at the top of the Delta pledge class.’’ Fittingly for this bunch, despite all the points, Sharp, too, is a minus player.
I know the Hawks have moaned about their defensive play, but if they scored more, if they had the puck more, if they showed speed in their puck-possession game, then their opponents would be chasing, and that’s the best defense of all.
Either way, the Hawks’ best players have to be their best players, or the maintenance crew can get on with melting the ice and leaving the hoops up in the United Center.
But the Hawks’ best players also need better teammates.
If Bowman thought Brendan Morrison was the answer at center, then the question must’ve been: “Who else is worse than what we already have?’’
And remember, this is a team that already had another Bowman acquisition at center, Michael Frolik, who can do some nice things as long as none of them involve actually finishing a play around the freakin’ net.
Funny how Dale Tallon still gets criticized around here for building a Stanley Cup winner while Bowman goes untouched despite failing to fill holes on a team in a death spiral this season and one that needed a last-day miracle to squeak into last year’s playoffs.
But you know what? Everyone should just take a deep breath.
It’s hard when a team stinks like the Hawks do at the moment, but remarkably, the Hawks still hold a playoff spot.
And remember, the Hawks had a long stretch of lame late in the season they won the Stanley Cup, losing seven of nine in March, a far more panic-inducing time than this month.
For what it’s worth, San Jose lost six in a row and eight of 10 in the middle of last season, and everybody thought Todd McLellan was a goner, but the Sharks reached the conference finals.
It’s going to take an ugly goal to end this misery. Or maybe a goalie win. Probably both, especially if it’s going to happen in Nashville tonight because ugly and boring are two of the Predators’ four major food groups.
When you figure that the Hawks are spending so much time thinking about defensive play and coverage on their side of the red line, and then you factor in Nashville’s unimaginative and stifling trapping style, this game will be the uniformed equivalent of Bowman’s speaking style.
But so what? As long as the Hawks win. They seem too talented for this to continue to ruin a promising season.
But if it does, if the Hawks can’t get it done on the ice, then the question of job security ought to be addressed higher than Quenneville on the food chain.
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