Monday, February 13, 2012
Five ways Hawks may be able to stop skid
By Jesse Rogers
Nikolai Khabibulin isn't the long-term answer, but he may be able to help stop the Hawks' losing ways.
The Chicago Blackhawks are mired in an eight-game losing streak and in jeopardy of falling out of the top 8 in the Western Conference. Short of firing their head coach, here are five quick-fix solutions to ending their drought:
1. Trade for Nikolai Khabibulin Remember, this is a quick-fix solution and acquiring him wouldn't take much effort. Yes, he's 39 and signed for one more season, but at least he knows the Hawks' system, plus he started out the year as the league's best goaltender. He's faded some, but the possibility exists he finds his game with a return to Chicago. The Tampa Bay Lightning caught some lightning in a bottle last season when they traded for 40 year old netminder Dwayne Roloson. The Hawks should try the same tactic.
2. Make Drastic Changes to Special Teams For whatever reason Joel Quenneville has been stubborn in this area. His strategy and personnel are flawed, especially on the penalty kill. He needs more of a “straight up” kill where wingers take the point and prevent shooting lanes. Plus, he should simply keep Marian Hossa and a couple of other stars off those units. Let the role players go all-out to kill penalties. Desperate times call for desperate measures and desperate play. You're more likely to get that out of Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger then you are out of stars who think score first, play shot-blocking defense later. On the power play, Hossa should be at the point with Brent Seabrook on the first unit with Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp on the other. That gives each unit a pure shooter from the point.
3. Keep Lines Together Juggling lines has found a spark in the past, but 56 games into the season Quenneville should know what works and what doesn't. Leave them alone even if they're struggling. Chemistry can only be found with time, though the Hawks don't have much. The players don't say it, but a guy like Hossa doesn't like having a different center every other game. He's said as much in the past. Maybe it's time for Sharp to move to the middle. It's not ideal but it's about the only thing they haven't tried on the second line. Otherwise leave Kruger between Hossa and Sharp with Jonathan Toews centering Patrick Kane and Andrew Shaw. Viktor Stalberg is ideal for the third line with Dave Bolland. You can fill in the blanks from there.
4. Make Any Trade Yes, in this case a trade for trade's sake might help. Shake up the locker room. Call Dallas and see if you can re-acquire popular former teammate Adam Burish. He's not necessarily the answer on the ice, that kind of big trade might be hard to pull off. But he could help liven up a dead room and provide some levity. The Hawks are squeezing their sticks, waiting for bad things to happen. Heck, get Burish and Ben Eager back. At least the Hawks would have a fore-checking fourth line, something they've sorely missed since both left town. Shaking things up might be a cliché but at this point it could be the right thing to do.
5. Play One Desperate Game To a man the Hawks say they need one win to turn it around. Just one, confidence-building win. So go out there and get it. It's easier said then done but any team that treats a game like it's Game 7 of the playoffs can go out there and get a victory. Especially a team as talented as the Hawks. After that, who knows, they might go back to losing, but for now, one win would at least break the slump. Play all out. We haven't seen that during this streak. Not even close, starting with special teams. Treat the next game like it's do or die and see what happens. Of course, if they lose that one, then where do they go?