Revamped Blackhawks definitely have work to do


Revamped Blackhawks definitely have work to do

Brent Seabrook was talking about the Blackhawks’ young season so far when he made a simple assessment.

“I think we have some work to do,” he said following a 5-4 loss to the Minnesota Wild.

It comes as no great surprise that the Blackhawks didn’t come charging out of the 2015-16 gate. They went through so many changes this offseason there was no doubt it was going to take time. So here they sit, heading into November, with a mediocre 6-5-0 record. As coach Joel Quenneville said, “that’s probably what we should be.”

[MORE HAWKS: Five Things - Artem Anisimov flying under radar for Blackhawks]

The Blackhawks are struggling in areas this season that they haven’t dealt with since the season or two following the summer of 2010 purge. Their left-wing problem has replaced their long-time second-line center problem: they don’t really have the depth on that side right now. Much like they used to try to make centers out of wings, they’re now trying to make left wings out of those more suited as right ones — Teuvo Teravainen is one of those.

They’re also still looking for the combinations to give them that familiar, well-oiled four-line rotation. The lack of that has been glaring, from the multiple left wings used on the top line — Ryan Garbutt got another chance there on Friday night — to the third line changes, as well.

Marian Hossa was one who saw these early season bumps coming.

“We’ve got so many new pieces, it’s going to take some time. It may take 15 games for everyone to buy into the system,” he said recently. “Right now, we’re searching. Our coaching staff’s searching on who’s best with who.”

The search got that much tougher when Duncan Keith was sidelined after undergoing knee surgery. The Blackhawks lost more than a defenseman; they lost a power-play point man, a penalty killer, a massive minutes player and a leader. That’s a lot to replace, even with a team effort; and while the Blackhawks did it fairly well through the first three games Keith was sidelined, his absence has been felt more the past several contests.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The Blackhawks aren’t going through a rebuild. That’s pretty drastic. But they are certainly going through a restructuring. New additions are learning new roles and new systems, and core players are adapting to new partners and linemates, something they haven’t had to do much of the last two or three seasons.

It takes time.

The Blackhawks have to adjust. Everyone will adapt. Keith will return. The Blackhawks know the Central Division is going to be tough. It is every year, and it’s going to take one hell of an effort to stay among the best teams. They can certainly get that necessary chemistry and get more consistent as they get to know each other better.

But as Seabrook correctly surmised, the Blackhawks definitely have some work to do.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?


Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: