Rozner: Chicago Blackhawks should find hunger in anger

  • With the way these NHL playoffs have developed, coach Joel Quenneville and his Chicago Blackhawks can only wonder what might have been.

    With the way these NHL playoffs have developed, coach Joel Quenneville and his Chicago Blackhawks can only wonder what might have been. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 5/10/2016 8:32 PM

It's been two weeks since the Chicago Blackhawks cleaned out their lockers for the summer, heading their separate ways and wondering how they let a chance to repeat get away from them for a third time.

When the wound is fresh and the heart is broken, it's probably the wrong time to take stock, but with a deep breath and maybe some quality time on the links, the Hawks can probably see what happened.

 

It's not that complicated, really.

They lacked urgency, which put them too far behind the Blues in their opening series.

It was a gallant comeback, but, as was the case against Los Angeles in 2014, they left themselves no margin for error and lost because of a single play.

They lacked the size and physical play necessary to withstand a ferocious beating.

This is nothing new. They've been knocked out by big, physical teams four times since winning their first Cup in 2010.

The Hawks like their style and believe ultimately that they can absorb every one of those hits, make plays and win games. The reality is every one of those hits adds up and takes a toll, and the only people who think hits don't matter have never been hit.

But this is a team that's already won three Stanley Cups and has a chance to win several more, size or no size.

They lacked depth of scoring.

This is what happens when you win Cups. You lose players and your depth is challenged.

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They lacked energy and young legs.

True enough. The Hawks have logged a lot of miles the last seven years and could use some time off. The World Cup will be fun to watch, but no benefit to the local hockey team.

More than anything, they lacked a fourth defenseman.

You knew it was a problem going into the season. You knew it was a problem during the season. You knew it was a problem going into the playoffs. It's still a problem.

And yet, despite it all, they probably should have taken out the Blues and they'd be sitting pretty right now with no Anaheim or Los Angeles waiting for them, and maybe headed for a rematch with the Lightning.

Tampa has been truly impressive, but there's no other team left standing that would have been a frightening proposition for the defending champs, and they must be seething while acknowledging the opportunity missed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It's odd to watch hockey this time of year and not see the Hawks at the center of every NHL conversation, but it's also a reminder of the great run they've had since 2009.

There's an overreaction when the season ends before it's supposed to end, and this year's hysteria was no different.

Fire the general manager because he can't put a winning team on the ice. Get rid of the coach because he's stubborn. And while you're at it, Rocky Wirtz, sell the team because, well, just because.

This is normal around these parts, where anything short of a parade is a disaster.

It's a remarkable change from a decade ago, when few were watching and even those who did knew there was little hope and there would be little change.

The truth is the Hawks are still very good and their core is exceptional.

They are getting older and they haven't done much to bring youth into the mix, in part because the GM makes moves to try to win every year, dealing off youngsters and draft picks, and in part because the coach is not a fan of inexperience.

This is all part of winning and the price you pay for it, but it's hardly the end of the run. They are certainly past the end of the beginning, but a single play against St. Louis doesn't signal the end of postseason hockey in Chicago.

It's merely the normal panic you experience when there's a disappointing outcome, and if you're still watching the playoffs what you see are teams still playing that the Hawks know they could defeat.

When the Hawks met the media for the last time, Joel Quenneville talked about remembering the awful feeling of going home, and using that anger next year to get excited about playing hockey again.

Watching someone else dance with their Stanley Cup next month should be all they need to remember.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.

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