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No Playoffs For Blackhawks Not Exactly A Bad Thing....

Rock Mamola

Producer/Host on WSCR 670AM The Score.

Just the other day I saw a promotion for the Chicago Blackhawks latest attempt at cashing in on the 2010 Stanley Cup Championship.  A 224 page hardcover book with a DVD included entitled "One Goal Achieve: The Inside Story of The 2010 Stanley Cup Champions" for the low low price of only $39.95.  Of course as I was reading the text on the screen, Blackhawks color commentator Eddie Olczyk said the product is temporarily SOLD OUT and get your orders in now so you can receive the product as soon as it becomes available again.  I thought to myself two things when I heard what "Eddie O" was telling the viewing audience:
#1 - WOW...sold out.  People continue to buy anything associated with Blackhawks.
#2 - What would the inside story of this years' Chicago Blackhawks team be?
Right now the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks would make the postseason but only as the 8th seed.  Now in the NHL (for those of you that do not know) it is not about where you are seeded but just getting into the playoffs.  For instance, since the last NHL lockout there have been three teams that ended up as eighth seeds and advanced at least one round including the 2006 Edmonton Oilers who made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals only to lose to the Carolina Hurricanes.  Being an eighth seed is not necessarily a bad thing in the NHL playoffs, but missing out the NHL playoffs is even worse when over half the teams in the league make the postseason.  
As magical as the Chicago Blackhawks of 2010 was, it is not a bad thing if the 2011 version does not get a chance to defend Lord Stanley's Cup.

I know this has been stated before on The Rock Report, but it rings truer each game.  The Chicago Blackhawks have been playing much better as of late winning four of their last five contests, but it is very hard to imagine this team being any better than the current state of the team right now.  Just looking at the rash of injuries this roster has incurred over the past 38 games, how can Blackhawks fans be upset if this team does not make the postseason?  
As we approach the halfway point in the NHL season what has been the story surrounding the 2010-2011 Chicago Blackhawks?  It has been a story of adjusting to change not only because of the NHL's salary cap but also because of key injuries to key figures on this roster.  What made last year so magical is the stars played like stars and the Blackhawks got better than expected play out of their key role players.  However last season the only key injury the Blackhawks had to deal with when it came to their "star" players (outside of Brian Campbell) was Marian Hossa missing the first 22 games of the regular season rehabilitating a shoulder injury.  Hossa went on to play 57 games last season for the Blackhawks finishing with 51 points.
This season the injury bug has bitten the Blackhawks hard with key losses of Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Dave Bolland, Brian Campbell, and now Jonathan Toews with an upper body injury likely to miss two weeks.  For the lack of injuries that occurred in 2009-2010 the Blackhawks are making up for it in 2010-2011 and it is hitting them where they need the most production from.  In hockey (as in any sport) when your team's stars are not playing due to injury you need the role players to step up their games to make up for it.  However with the amount of turnaround the Blackhawks have had since last season it is hard to get the increased production from players who are still learning to play with one another in the first place.  As I stated on The Rock Report a little over a month ago, looking at just the role players who left this Blackhawks roster in the offseason and who the team replaced them with, the difference in production is amazing.   
Just using last years' statistics for example:
The Blackhawks replaced 11 players who totaled 84 goals, 116 assists, 200 points in 2009-2010 with role players this season who totaled 29 goals, 27 assists, 56 points including five players playing NHL hockey for the first time in their career and one player who did not see NHL ice last season.  {Differential -55 Goals, -89 Assists, -144 points}  
Replaced Players:  Versteeg, Ladd, Byfuglien, Madden, Frasier, Eager, Barker, Sopel, Burrish, Niemi, Huet

Replacement Players: Cullimore, Pisani, Scott, Stalberg, Potulnty, Leddy, Pirri, Smith, Brophey, Morin, Turco, Crawford
In a season where you cannot count on the replacement players to give you the production you got from the replaced players, you need your stars to produce like they should or even better.  The problem the Blackhawks have faced all season long is their stars cannot stay on the ice.  How can the Blackhawks be successful like that?
Without question this is a down year for the Chicago Blackhawks franchise, but smart hockey fans knew this was coming.  While I agree with my fellow ChicagoNow blogger Tab Bamford assertion that Dale Tallon's lasting legacy with the Chicago Blackhawks is the way he constructed this roster to have success for years to come, he also overpaid numerous players which kills their chances at least in the immediate future.  When 16 of 30 teams make the postseason, Blackhawks fans should not be upset if their team is not included in the 16  As much time as it took for the Chicago Blackhawks team of last season to gel and become what they became, it will take the same amount of time/patience for this squad to do the same.  However with each key injury to top tier players it affects greatly the progress this franchise is making which still seems to be stuck in neutral rather than moving forward.
So if this coming April the talk of the town is about the infancy stages of the baseball season rather than the possible path to repeat, I hope Blackhawks fans do not consider that a disappointment.  In fact I hope they take that opportunity (if it arises) to understand the path their team has taken from where they once were to where they are now.  Pop in that DVD and read that book about the ride of the 2010 Stanley Cup champs and remember success in the NHL is not granted year in and year out.....even to the kings of the sport.
John "Rock" Mamola is he Associate Producer of The Mully And Hanley Morning Show and co-host of The Joe O And Rock Show on WSCR 670AM The Score
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Jimmy Greenfield said:


Hey Rock, I wouldn't be shocked if the Hawks don't make the playoffs and I think based on their talent and injuries it's possible. But as far as not being a bad thing, have to disagree. Their young guys need the experience of the playoffs even if it's a first-round sweep to Detroit.

As a fan, I'd be upset to not be able to watch Hawks' playoff hockey. That would also be a bad thing but for purely selfish reasons.

Stylin19 said:


I would be surprised if the Hawks didn't make the playoffs and I would be disappointed. While nothing makes me happier than thinking back to last spring and summer with the Hawks bringing home the Stanley Cup. The Hawks need to make it more than two years in a row to be seen as a legitimate contender not a flash in the pan.
The injuries make it tough but good teams rise through adversity and come out stronger on the other end and that's what they were going through with Hossa and Kane out, which they rose to the challenge and won.
Now with Toews out Kane and Hossa need to prove that they can carry the weight of the team and lead for 2 weeks. In the long run it could make the team stronger and more responsible owning up to your role, contributing and filling in the big hole left by Toews. It will be tough and while I can see the Hawks struggling my hopes are for growth and maturity to come out of this injury and this season. There is no reason the Hawks can't make it into the playoffs as a lower seed as long as the play steps up when Toews comes back. It will be tough but a team with this much talent should be able to do it.

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