John Jaeckel: Hawks Fall Again/Maloney in Rockford

219

Follow JJ on Twitter @jaeckel!

At what point does a swoon become a swan dive? The Hawks lost 6-3 at home last night to Dallas, after dropping a 4-2 decision Friday on home ice. They’re 5-5 in their last ten.

This, no doubt about it, is a team in disarray.

The calm, rational answer is: they go through this January-ish swoon every year.

They’ll pull out of it soon enough. And they might. In fact, they probably will.

The other side of that coin is in 2010 and 2013, the swoons, if there ever really were any, were very brief. Hold that thought for a moment.

And this swoon feels different.

Even when the Hawks aren’t getting outshot by their opponent, the shot totals for opposing teams are high, game after game. The rationale that so many Hawk fans cling to is that it doesn’t matter if the Hawks get outhit; they will outshoot the opponent—and win a lot more than they lose.

That’s not really happening any more.

Corey Crawford got hurt and missed extensive time—and the Hawks played basically lights out behind Scott Darling and Antti Raanta. Crawford comes back and struggles a bit, but now he’s looking really solid and the team is struggling. So the problem, as I’m getting at in a roundabout way, does not seem to be in net.

An interesting theory put forth on my message board I think might have some merit. The Hawks are arguably improved at center over last year, with Brad Richards taking the place of Michal Handzus and another year of experience for Marcus Kruger.

But Kruger, Richards and the other center not named Toews, Andrew Shaw, all look very tired right now. They’re all also smaller players being asked to go up against bigger centers most nights. Shaw has been moved to 4th line RW and replaced for now by Teuvo Teravainen.

I continue to be more and more impressed by the smart individual hockey plays Teravainen makes. I’m not going to label him, and his “stature,” the problem. So let’s set him aside for now. The Hawks will probably keep him around until her falters and/or Kris Versteeg comes back. Fine.

But Teravainen’s not a savior right now either, and certainly not for the issue that Hawk forwards’—and maybe particularly the centers—seem to get worn down against bigger teams that can also skate.

Enter

I heard from a good source yesterday the Hawks are feeling around about the Arizona centerman.

That rumor gained momentum just now, when I heard that Don Maloney is at the Ice Hogs game this afternoon, and I’m told had a lot of questions for my source around one Adam Clendening.

Sure the Yotes are in Chicago, but it is a little interesting that their GM would trek 90 miles to Rockford on a day off.

It’ll take more than Clendening to get a Vermette deal done and the Yotes would have to take back some NHL salary as well. But the plot has thickened on that rumor.

Another theory is that this team has not remotely, adequately replaced Nick Leddy. The truth is, Leddy was once a trainwreck in his own end. Over the last couple of years, however, he visibly and statistically improved. And Leddy is having a strong season with the Islanders in a top 4 role. So the bottom line is this, neither Tim Erixon nor David Rundblad is the equal of Nick Leddy. It’s not even close. Trevor van Riemsdyk? Yeah, if/when he comes back healthy, he has shown he can be solid. So that might help.

Depending on if/when he comes back, and how healthy he is.

All this leads to some questions. Next season the new contracts of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane hit the books, and Brandon Saad, whose stock continues to rise, is due a new deal. Meanwhile a flat or even falling cap is predicted by some.

Various prognostications, therefore, have the Hawks filling a number of roster spots with even more van Riemsdyks, Teravainens, Rundblads and Erixons. Some of these guys might have huge upside. But it is unlikely a dramatically younger roster, with lots of on the job trainees, will vault the Hawks to a Stanley Cup next year.

There might be another Cup window for this franchise in the next five years or so, especially once some of Philip Danault, Mark McNeill, Stephen Johns, Klas Dahlbeck et al gain some experience, but early evidence suggests it probably won’t be next season.

So this season matters.

And do the Hawks wait and see on TVR? Or do they pull the trigger sooner and add another veteran defenseman?

I’ll have a Yotes preview tomorrow. Sure this blog will get lots of discussion.