NHL Playoffs 2012: Chicago Blackhawks Blame Lies Firmly on Their Own Shoulders
Well, that's all she wrote for the 2011/12 Blackhawks.
A season that started with so much promise ended at the United Center with only six postseason games to show for it.
Many of the supposedly solid moves quickly negated themselves. Brian Campbell was traded for cap space, which was used mainly on duds such as Sean O'Donnell, Andrew Brunette and Sami Lepisto. One could easily argue that the only good move of the offseason was bringing in Jamal Mayers.
Still, with Stan Bowman's beloved core in place, the Hawks trudged through the season, despite having a very unbalanced roster. It seemed that any time a team played a tight defensive game and would work hard along the boards, the Hawks would back off and let that team beat them.
Unfortunately for Chicago's fans, the Phoenix Coyotes are just that style of team. In net, Mike Smith was a rock for Phoenix, and was arguably the best player in the whole series.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that the Hawks could have realistically had Smith, as he signed with Phoenix for only $2 million a year over two years, after spending the last few seasons as an unspectacular backup with Tampa Bay.
So, here we are. For the second straight season, the Hawks are eliminated in the first round. A second consecutive season of bad moves by Stan Bowman, a team lacking in grit, and a projected No. 1 goalie faltering.
Crawford was nothing more than serviceable all season long. Say what you want about a "sophomore slump," the loss of Brian Campbell hurt more than anything else.
Were the Blackhawks a failure this season?
The question now is; where do the Hawks go from here?
First off, the team has to find out where Marian Hossa stands long-term. The early exit could well be beneficial to the Hawks' star winger, as there's little chance he'll be rushed back too soon.
Second, answers have to be found on defense. Right now, the Blackhawks have two defensemen worthy of significant NHL minutes: Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. The rest are either too young to truly contribute in a major role yet (Nick Leddy, Dylan Olsen), or just not all that great (Johnny Oduya, Steve Montador).
Third, the Hawks will look to the free-agent and trade markets to try and right the ship. Yes, the team lost a lot after the salary cap crisis following the Stanley Cup victory, but they also willingly traded guys like Campbell and Troy Brouwer.
As we sit here on Tuesday morning wondering "what if," the Hawks' brass will have to ask themselves "what now?"
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