The Chicago Blackhawks are in the midst of yet another bi-polar stretch in the wonderfully unfolding Western Conference playoff picture. After losing nine in a row, they have defeated the Rangers at Madison Square Garden and handled the St. Louis Blues as part of a three-game winning streak.
Despite not winning for a couple weeks, Chicago still sits in sixth place in the Western Conference and has re-created some breathing room between themselves and seventh place with their recent run.
But with the trade deadline approaching, the issues the Blackhawks had magnified during the losing streak have become the central focus of the latest trade rumors.
The Winnipeg Free Press indicated on Saturday that Chicago GM Stan Bowman was in the building, likely taking a look at some potential trade targets on the Jets' blue line. Johnny Oduya, Randy Jones and Mark Flood are named in the article.
However in the wake of the trades involving Nicklas Grossman, Hal Gill and Pavel Kubina, it's questionable if Bowman would forfeit the assets to land a perceived rental on the blue line. ESPN.com indicated Thursday that Chicago contacted Dallas on Grossman, but wouldn't move top prospect Brandon Saad in a deal.
Last weekend, the Toronto Globe and Mail published a report that the Blackhawks weren't happy with their goaltending. In that article, David Shults mentions New York Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov and Edmonton Oilers netminder (and former Chicago Blackhawks) Nikolai Khabibulin as possibilities.
On Thursday, Andy Strickland of TrueHockey.com said, "Sources close to [Buffalo goalie Ryan] Miller confirm his frustration with the Sabres organization and tell me he’d waive his modified no-trade clause to go to Chicago."
Even before the losing streak ended, Bowman told Chris Boden of CSN Chicago that the organization wasn't focused on acquiring a goalie before the deadline. Which, of course, was before Corey Crawford won three straight games and stopped 84 of 88 shots (.955 save percentage) against two very good teams in the Rangers and Blues.
While some might have speculated, there is little/no truth to any alleged rumors involving Patrick Kane, according to the Daily Herald's Tim Sassone.
The truth is, the Blackhawks are a fascinating team heading towards the deadline. Bowman has indicated on numerous occasions that he's looking to add depth to the team's blue line, but rookie Dylan Olsen has looked very good in his return to the NHL lineup; he led the team with six hits in Sunday's win over St. Louis.
When Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador return from injuries, the organization will have to make a tough decision in either staying with Olsen or playing a veteran in Sean O'Donnell or Sami Lepisto.
What should the Blackhawks do before the deadline?
Chicago also needs help on their power play, which has been terrible lately. But, again, do they look outside the organization for size or do they stick with an in-house answer. Rookie Jimmy Hayes, who is listed at 6'6" and 221 pounds, has seven points (four goals, three assists) in 15 games with the club, and has been very disciplined.
Indeed, in the game in Columbus on Saturday, Derek MacKenzie took a run at Olsen, and it was fellow rookie Hayes that dropped the gloves with MacKenzie later in the shift. Veteran plays like that keep the eyes of upper management on you, and Hayes has impressed.
There is talent in Chicago, and they've shown the ability to play at a high level before (they were on top of the NHL in mid-January). The question is whether or not they need to make a trade to spark a run through the final 22 games of the regular season, or if Bowman will work with assets he has inside the organization.