Here at Sporting Daily, my fellow writer Joseph Beaudet has started a series about Detroit teams and if it’s time to hit the mythical Panic Button yet. And since I’m scraping rock bottom for article ideas, I’m doing it too. Is it lazy? Yeah probably. But whatever, this is my article and I do what I want.
After 86 games and a first-round exit at the hands of the eventual Clarence S. Campbell Bowl winners Nashville Predators only a calendar year from the wretched game seven loss to rival St. Louis Blues in the same round, the mighty Chicago Blackhawks have hit an absolute wall in the past couple seasons. This has left many to believe that the three in five “dynasty” has been over since the fabled Cup run in 2015. And this brings up the question…
Is it time to start smashing the Panic Button in Chicago?
And sadly, it almost is.
To show you what I mean, let’s compare the past three seasons for the Hawks and what has caused the downfall and early playoff exits.
|Goals Against||186 (2.26/game)||207 (2.52/game)||212 (2.58/game)|
|Goals For||220 (2.68/game)||234 (2.85/game)||227 (2.76/game)|
|Playoff result||Won Cup||4-3 Blues R1||4-0 Preds R1|
Interestingly enough, every year the Blackhawks improved their record over the previous season by sometimes a large amount. The point total for them is customarily impressive year to year however it’s worth noting the lowest point total for the past three seasons brought a Cup to Chicago.
But what is truly alarming is the decreasing penalty kill and goal differential for the seasons. There has been a noticeable 6 percent loss in penalty kill and a massive 57% loss in goal differential since 2015. This is killer as come playoff time, being unable to kill penalties (as exploited by the Preds in 2017) and a paper thin goal differential that can make a seemingly guaranteed playoff win be close enough for a loss.
However, this is not the reason for the tension in the Windy City. The declining penalty kill and goal differential is simply a byproduct of what is scaring Hawks fans everywhere. This being the cramping salary cap that has plagued Chicago since the very first Cup run.
Every year, the Blackhawks are forced to move on from integral cogs every Cup parade. After the 2010 run, Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien were moved on from. Post-2013 Viktor Stalberg skipped town. But those if we’re being honest, those players aside from Ladd and Byfuglien were not franchise crushing. The core was always still intact and the Hawks were still able to win a Cup after it. Besides, teams are never the exact same the next season.
After the 2015 run, however, was when the Panic Button should have been smashed like a hammer. This is coming on the heels of the infamous identical 8 years, 84 million contracts franchise cornerstones Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews signed in the 2014 offseason and now the Hawks were pushing the very limit of the salary cap.
This is where the collapse had begun as *clears throat* Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad, Johnny Oduya, Brad Richards and Antoine Vermette all were off the roster after that offseason. The very next season brought the loss of Andrew Shaw and Andrew Ladd (again). This past offseason before the 2017 season fan favorites Teuvo Teravainen and Scott Darling were moved.
And despite the refreshing rise of Artemi Panarin, Ryan Hartman, Richard Panik, Artem Anisimov, Tanner Kero and Nick Schmaltz, even all that is unable to fully replace every player lost over the years since 2010. And this is what has destroyed the chances for the Hawks in the past two seasons and why they were eliminated so early every year.
Usual playoff stars are skating for other teams and this is what has caused the Blackhawks downfall. Right now, Stan Bowman is stuck in the hardest vice in sports. It’s near impossible to keep up with the yearly loss of contributors that the Blackhawks have been forced to endure.
But in all reality, the Blackhawks are still a team consistently scoring 100 plus points every season. They still have elite talent with elite coaching. On the surface, the Hawks appear to still be contenders.
And in any other year, I wouldn’t be writing this article of my shared fears of the Blackhawks future. But this past season, we have witnessed a massive power shift in the entire league. The Edmonton Oilers have a superstar who isn’t even old enough to drink yet and the Toronto Maple Leafs have three near guaranteed All-Stars one day under the age of 22. The Pittsburgh Penguins have just gone back to back with two all-time greatest barely above 30.
Right now, the Blackhawks are almost obsolete. Though talented, in comparison to some of the teams on the rise, the Hawks are not going to able to keep up real soon unless they can get a massive influx of strong contributors with team friendly contracts.
And with more and more salary cap dumps every season, the likelihood of the Hawks contending in even as little as two seasons is low. Like. Very very very low. Scarily low. Needing to be able to hold on to Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews with an aging Kane and Toews is a scary thought.
Scary enough for fans to really to begin pressing that panic button. For now, it may not be time yet. But if this upcoming season is a repeat of the past two seasons then it is without a doubt panic button pressing time.
In Bowman we trust.