5 things the Chicago Blackhawks might do to change direction of franchise
With the Chicago Blackhawks essentially out of the playoff picture, it's time to look forward.
So let's talk about five thoughts that are on many of your minds:
1. Fire Q?
Go back in time to 2015 or '16 and tell somebody that coach Joel Quenneville may be fired 2-3 years later. They'd have laughed in your face.
But that's where we sit today thanks to a season that has spun out of control. To be sure, Quenneville has struggled as much as his players have.
He has struggled to find the right line combinations and the right D pairings. He has struggled in determining who deserves playing time. And he hasn't adapted quickly enough to a young roster.
Quenneville is famous for his effective 25-35 minute practices, but this team needed more. They needed sessions that lasted 45, 60 or even 75 minutes. Work on the power play over and over until things click. Make guys work until the sloppy play stops. Make guys work to establish a net-front presence.
Many believe a new voice is needed, and that might be the case. But Quenneville deserves one more shot.
If things have gone south with the veterans, he needs to have some heart-to-heart conversations. Make them believe again, admit he has made mistakes and start fresh next season.
2. Fire Bowman?
Ever since he traded Richard Panik for Anthony Duclair and sent Cody Franson to Rockford in favor of Erik Gustafsson, general manager Stan Bowman has been crowing about how great it is that the Hawks have one of the youngest rosters in the NHL.
But younger is not always better. The inexperience of this team has contributed -- at least in part -- to the Hawks going 3-10-2 since the trade for Duclair.
So should Bowman be relieved of his duties?
Last April, two days after the Hawks were swept by Nashville, I asked Bowman how careful he needed to be in terms of dismantling a 50-win team.
Bowman responded by saying, "We can't expect everything to come back the exact same and think we're going to have a different result."
As we see now, the result is much, much, much worse.
While many pundits -- myself included -- praised the Brandon Saad-for-Artemi Panarin deal, it clearly hasn't worked out the way Bowman had hoped. And the loss of Niklas Hjalmarsson has been felt on and off the ice in ways we can't even come close to calculating.
Should Bowman bear the lion's share of the blame for this shocking downfall? It's a good question and one president and CEO John McDonough likely will answer in early April.
3. Play the kids
Barry Rozner nailed it Tuesday morning on WSCR 670-AM. Play the kids, especially on defense.
Allow Michal Kempny, Jordan Oesterle, Jan Rutta, Gustav Forsling and even Connor Murphy to face the best the NHL has to offer.
Make it a trial by fire. Don't worry about matchups -- send them out against the top forwards, the middle forwards and the bottom forwards. They'll learn by failing -- and by succeeding -- and be far better for it next season.
Next, put Alex DeBrincat on a top line and leave him there. Play him with Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane and let's see what this kid can REALLY do.
Promote a Matthew Highmore or a Tyler Sikura from Rockford and give one or both of them a trial 10-game run. Let's also see how John Hayden's game has improved.
These are all things the Hawks should be doing in the final 25 games.
And the sooner the better.
4. Shut down Crawford?
Barring a miraculous finish, the season is over. So should the Hawks shut down Corey Crawford until September?
Honestly, I go back and forth on this one.
Certainly, if Crawford is not 100 percent healthy, there's no way he should play. And with the playoffs basically out of reach, more losses mean a better draft pick come June.
But if Crawford is healthy, it makes sense to get him back into game action, even if it's just for 10-12 games. Make sure Crawford is still Crawford and he can be trusted to be your No. 1 goalie at least until his contract expires in 2019-20.
If it were up to me, I'd go with Option B.
5. Ride Forsberg
The last point will be a quick one: It's time to give Anton Forsberg the net as long as Corey Crawford is out.
The Hawks acquired Forsberg to back up Crawford, so let him do so. Yes, he has had some rough games, but the only way to improve is to play and learn by working through the mistakes.