Blackhawks continue to struggle

Rookie+Alex+DeBrincat%2C+one+of+the+best+players+the+team+has+had+this+year.

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Rookie Alex DeBrincat, one of the best players the team has had this year.

Will Sieracki, Reporter

     The Chicago Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups in the last several years, led by star forwards like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Marian Hossa, along with good defense on the back end from Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Goalie Corey Crawford has been solid for a long time as well. But the truth is that the core the Blackhawks currently have isn’t going to get them another championship, maybe not even a playoff spot based on how they’ve looked this season.

 

     The beginning of the end started two seasons ago with a first-round playoff loss to the St. Louis Blues. The Blackhawks almost came back from a 3-1 deficit, but a bad defensive play by Erik Gustafsson led to a late goal by Blues winger Troy Brouwer. Fast forward to the next season. The Blackhawks look great. They’re playing so well, in fact, that they clinch their division win with just over ten games left in the regular season. And that is the exact moment when things began to fall apart. They played a terrible final week of regular season hockey, and then were swept out of the first round by the Nashville Predators, which was considered a major upset at the time. General Manager Stan Bowman responded to that by making two major trades that summer. Winger Artemi Panarin was sent to the Columbus Blue Jackets, and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson was traded to the Arizona Coyotes. In return, the Blackhawks reacquired Brandon Saad after trading him to Columbus after their last championship run in 2015. That trade doesn’t look bad. Saad has slowly brought back captain Jonathan Toews’ production after two down years in a row. On the other hand, in exchange for Hjalmarsson, the Blackhawks received defenseman Connor Murphy and forward Laurent Dauphin. Murphy has been okay, but Dauphin spent all his time in the organization with the Rockford IceHogs and didn’t play a single game in the NHL. Also, Dauphin was just traded back to Arizona in exchange for Anthony Duclair and Adam Clendening.

 

     The real kicker over the offseason was losing Marian Hossa, a longtime fan favorite and elite goal scorer. He’s missing all of this current season due to an illness, and he might never play hockey again.

 

     So when all of those factors are combined along with Corey Crawford being out for the long term, having age catch up quickly to Keith and Seabrook, and poor inconsistent play from Toews, Saad, Schmaltz, and Hartman, you have a very average hockey team. They’re on the verge of a playoff spot, but even if they do make another playoff trip you have to wonder how well they’ll fare against tough, arguably better teams like the Winnipeg Jets, the Vegas Golden Knights, or the Nashville Predators. The Blackhawks certainly have the talent to beat all of these teams and make a deep playoff run. The only thing getting in their way is themselves.