For the second straight season, the Chicago Blackhawks suffered a first-round exit in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Some teams are happy just to make the playoffs, but after making it to the Western Conference Finals in 2009 and then winning Lord Stanley's Cup in 2010, this is unacceptable.
Last season. the reason for the struggles were blamed on all the roster turnover. This season, a lot of blame has been thrown at the goaltenders and supporting cast.
When will the blame fall at the people responsible?
The power play has struggled all season long, including converting only once on 13 chances in the first four games of this series. Who mostly makes up the power play unit?
The stars, otherwise know as the core of the team.
By the core of the team I mean captain Jonathan Toews and assistant captains Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith, as well as Patrick Kane, Dave Bolland and the injured Marian Hossa. Except for Hossa, all those players entered the season on the right side of 30.
Do you know who scored the lone power play goal this series?
Actually Bickell and Michael Frolik have combined for four goals this series, which is just as many as the core. The team has scored 12 goals in the series and only four have come from those six core players.
How can a team, which has struggled all season with the man advantage, be 3-0 when pulling the goalie to tie the game?
That's right. Three times against Phoenix, the Blackhawks pulled goaltender Corey Crawford to give them a man advantage, and all three times they succeeded in tying the game. This team only seems to perform well when its backs are against the wall, except of course for the egg it laid in Game 6.
The Blackhawks outshot the Coyotes in every game, but many of those shots were not great ones. Sometimes throwing shots at the net is all you can do, but against a goaltender like Mike Smith, sometimes it is better to get quality over quantity. In Game 6, after coming out on fire in the first period, they seemed to lose that fire as Smith continued to shut them out.
So what can be done?
They could make a coaching change. In no other league does changing the head coach seem to give a positive result. Year after year, teams fire coaches and that sparks them. Just look at what Ken Hitchcock did for the St. Louis Blues.
Another option could be to break up the core. Maybe the Hawks have too many stars and not enough middle-of-the-road guys. Could packaging Sharp and Kane bring back a pure scorer like Rick Nash?
Drastic times call for drastic measures, and something has to be done to break up the complacency.
Whatever the answer is, I don't envy the job general manager Stan Bowman has to do this summer. He already has been unfairly criticized for dismantling the championship team and now the fans will show no mercy if he trades a member of the core.
Good luck Stan, you're going to need it.