NHL Free Agency: 3 Problems Free Agency Won't Fix for the Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks have had a very quiet summer.
With the offseason coming to a close, their only addition of note is former Anaheim Ducks defenseman Sheldon Brookbank.
Despite speculation of possible trades, no triggers have been pulled, and the Hawks are looking much the same going into the fall as they did when they bowed out to the Phoenix Coyotes in six games this past spring.
Some may criticize Stan Bowman’s stagnant approach to the market; but to be fair, the market did not offer much in the way of talent this summer.
The Blackhawks are a very talented team with a few kinks to work out; and while these areas are in need of attention, free agency is not the route to fix them this time around.
Here are three things that free agency won't fix for the Blackhawks this offseason.
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Two years ago, when the Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years, the entire league was aware that they had the talent to do it. That Hawks team also had something that converts a team from contender to champion: chemistry.
That was the team that was down 5-0 against the Calgary Flames and eventually came back and won. That was the team that tied the Nashville Predators in the dying seconds in Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals and won the game in overtime.
In recent years, the Hawks have tagged a core group of players to lead the team into the future, and the team has plenty of talent. However, they have yet to re-learn the chemistry that brought them a Cup two years back.
Chemistry often comes with perspective, experience, and the ability to assimilate yourself with the coaching staff and your teammates. It’s unrealistic (especially so late into the offseason) to believe that the Hawks can improve their overall chemistry through free agency. It will most likely have to develop on its own.
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Listing the Hawks’ principal necessities as a whole is like continuously beating a horse that died three years ago, but I’m going to do it again here.
Since the beginning of the offseason (and even prior to it), the Hawks have needed help on special teams; a second-line center; bigger bodies (both on offense and defense), and goaltending support.
From the beginning of the free-agency period, there wasn’t much available for the Hawks to grab-and-go with on the market. They pursued Zach Parise to no avail and signed Sheldon Brookbank as a spare defender to support the bottom pairings, but otherwise, the Hawks have remained smartly inactive.
The shallow free-agent class of 2012 had some talent and many depth players, but the Hawks would be smart to make certain that every piece added to the puzzle from here on out has an exact purpose.
Arbitrarily plugging holes with rental free agents and trade acquisitions has not worked the past couple of seasons; there’s no reason to suspect that it should start working now.
Team Personnel Behind the Bench
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After two straight first-round playoff exits for his team, Blackhawks' coach Joel Quenneville has to be feeling the pressure to rebound.
This summer, he relieved assistant coach Mike Haviland of his duties and hired Jamie Kompon—a former assistant of his from Quenneville’s days in St. Louis and also a member of the Stanley Cup-winning Los Angeles Kings’ coaching staff.
Now both assistants working under Quenneville were handpicked by him, and the team’s progress and production will be scrutinized heavily taking this information into account.
Quenneville has been an above average coach for the Blackhawks during his tenure in Chicago, but Hawks’ management, owners, and fans alike expect better results from his team.
His team has enough talent to contend much better than they have recently. It’s up to him and his staff to use that talent practically and effectively.