ST. LOUIS — One year ago today, the Blackhawks were enjoying an off-day after snapping their second eight-game losing streak of the season with a 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Adjustments were still being made under new head coach Jeremy Colliton, but there was at least some optimism that light would be at the end of the tunnel once they all got on the same page.
The Blackhawks have an off-day on Friday, but they’re in a much different place this time around. And not in a good way.
After losing for the ninth time in 12 games (3-7-2) and third straight (0-2-1), the Blackhawks are making standings watching irrelevant in Chicago in a year where it shouldn’t be. Their playoff chances are slipping away quicker than an odd-man rush and nobody wants to start looking ahead to the 2020 NHL Draft class because they shouldn’t be in this position again.
The inconsistency issues are real, the injuries continue to mount, the losses are getting uglier and the schedule is only getting tougher. The Blackhawks aren’t just losing hockey games. They’re not even giving themselves a chance.
In their last six losses, the Blackhawks have been outscored 29-11 for a minus-18 goal differential. They’ve given up at least five goals in four of them and have one regulation win since Nov. 17.
And it’s hard to see how it can get better.
The easiest in-season change to make when a team with playoff expectations is underperforming is to change the voice and message the players are listening to. But the Blackhawks played that card last season.
In 2015-16, the Blackhawks deservedly earned a pass for running out of gas in the first round after coming off a season in which they captured a third Stanley Cup in six years.
In 2016-17, the Blackhawks called being swept in the first round by Nashville as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference a "wake-up call" and promised changes.
In 2017-18, the Blackhawks pointed to Corey Crawford’s season-ending injury in December as a reason for their second-half spiral.
In 2018-19, the Blackhawks preached patience after making a coaching change for the first time in 10 years.
In 2019-20, there is no excuse. The Blackhawks had another long offseason to get it right and Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were coming off career statistical seasons at age 30. The roster is better but the product on the ice hasn’t changed.
The tide eventually might turn for the Blackhawks, but right now it's difficult to see a path for how it will.
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