The Blackhawks are off to their worst start since the 1999-2000 season when they went 0-4-4-0 in their first eight games. And it went from bad to worse on Sunday.
Less than 24 hours after the Detroit Red Wings were routed 6-1 by the winless Montreal Canadiens, the Blackhawks were run out of their own building for their sixth consecutive loss and booed off the ice on a night the home sellout streak ended at 535 games. The Arizona Coyotes are the only other team without a win this season, and the frustration is growing by the second.
"It’s a horrible feeling," Jonathan Toews said following a 6-3 loss. "I don’t think there are many guys who have been through anything like this before, especially to start a season."
The Blackhawks were able to take away some positives in their previous two games, whether it was a strong defensive effort or a special teams unit that continues to have success. They couldn't do that after Sunday's performance.
It was a deflating loss, and head coach Jeremy Colliton looked as dejected and disappointed as ever.
"It’s a step back from the last two games," Colliton said. "Too much of tonight is a slip back into things that got us in trouble on the road trip and we paid the price. There’s no secrets as far as what we have to do. I think everyone knows. We have to find a way."
The Blackhawks are desperately searching for answers, and that dialogue appeared to continue immediately after the game. Toews was the first player to speak to the media, but it took an unusually long 25 minutes from the time the final horn sounded to when he stepped to the mic, which indicated some sort of meeting happened behind closed doors.
"Specifics of what’s said in the locker room always stays in the locker room," Toews said. "But you could imagine we’re just trying to dig ourselves out of the hole that we’ve gotten ourselves in for six games here. It’s not a good feeling.
"At the end of the day, the solution’s in our locker room. It’s everybody. So I think everyone’s trying to take responsibility on how they can be better and help our team and get the win column."
Of course, when a team stumbles this badly out of the gates, the heat typically rises on the bench boss, even though the temperature should be rising for everyone at this point, including President/GM Stan Bowman. The expectations were not Stanley Cup or bust going into the season, but the Blackhawks were absolutely expecting to be a playoff team and they look far from one right now.
Patrick Kane was the first to express his faith in Colliton during the road trip, and Chicago's head coach received more votes of confidence from his leadership group on Sunday when they were asked directly about it.
"100 percent the team has faith in Jeremy," Seth Jones said. "I’ve been here a short time, but his message has been great for us. What it really comes down to, there’s only so much a coach can do. He's not going to lace them up for you.
"At the end of the day, this isn’t a coaching problem. This is a locker-room thing. This is the players on the ice playing the game. We all have to find a way to get on the same page and have a common goal on how we want to play and what our identity is."
The Blackhawks' captain echoed those sentiments.
"Of course," Toews responded. "There’s details to our game that, when we’ve done them and stuck to them, we have four lines rolling that do things right, it’s a fun way to play and everyone feeds off it. But we just haven’t done it enough.
"As a group, we want to decide to do that, commit ourselves to each other. It’s not like we decided to wait six games to do it, but there’ve been times where we have, it just hasn’t been enough and hasn’t been good enough.
"We have to find a way to commit to each other and I think that’s what we want to do. We want to start winning games, we want to have some fun playing hockey because we know we’re performing much less than we can. So, it’s underwhelming."
Colliton has been asked multiple times whether he feels pressure and his response hasn't wavered. Even after Sunday, he still feels he has the support of the management group.
But Colliton has never been one to worry about his job status. What keeps him awake at night is how he can make the Blackhawks better and dig this team out of a hole.
"There’s no secrets for how we have to play," Colliton said. "We know what we have to do. It’s up to me to find a way to get that to translate."