Suppose we are folding the tent right now. Suppose the season is officially over and a 3-1 deficit is too much for the Chicago Blackhawks to overcome. It may very well be.
Sure, we may be entertained, the 'Hawks could rally and force a Game 6 at the Joe and people can believe again. Back to reality for a second. With the way the Detroit Red Wings' Jimmy Howard is playing, the way Henrik Zetterberg is clamping down on Jonathan Toews and the lack of production the Hawks have had up front, it seems like things are coming to an end on the 2012-13 season.
So what now?
If I was to bet, I would put money on the same Stan Bowman speech we have heard over the last three seasons. Terms like "We like our group" or references to prospects in the system have become the norm. Yes, that and some very inactive summers. So don't be shocked 'Hawks fans if not a whole lot happens.
If I were to be so daring, though, there are a few major things that the 'Hawks brass should seriously consider.
Moving Dave Bolland
We loved him in 2010 and in the 2011 playoffs, he was the reason the 'Hawks got back into the series against the Vancouver Canucks. But now that's yesterday's news, and there are some serious red flags with his play.
For starters, Bolland is made of glass and you never know when he'll be able to play. Secondly, for a second- or third-line center, it's becoming clear that he is insufficient in the faceoff dot. Thirdly, that offensive punch that he was once able to add has gone astray.
With his contract coming up for renewal in June of 2014 and Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad coming up the season after, expect Bolland to be shopped. This move above the others may be more likely.
Coach Q to Exit Stage Left
When you don't do what your fanbase expects you to do, someone has to take the fall. That someone will be Joel Quenneville. It's becoming more and more apparent in this series that Coach Q is being badly out-coached by Mike Babcock, and he has no answers.
Oh yeah, and that power play is horrendous.
Should Q take the fall on his own? Maybe not, but you already saw one coach (Alain Vigneault) get bounced in Vancouver after Canucks general manager Mike Gillis failed to put a more controlled product on the ice. As much as Stan Bowman should be the one under fire, he probably won't be since the 'Hawks' upper management clearly wants a GM it can pull strings on.
With that in mind, this may be it for Q.
Would the Hawks Dare Consider Buyouts of "Core" Players
Bold indeed, but change has to come, and that should mean parting ways with a popular player or two.
The two that come to mind are Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. Great players, and Chicago has loved them, but they are aging and their skill set for the current Chicago club is becoming more relevant for the regular season only.
Sharp has a contract that is now looking to be a bit of an albatross moving forward. He was injured this season, was great against a poor Minnesota Wild team but has been invisible against the Wings. Sharp is now 31 years old and is owed $5.9 million through 2016-17. One could guess that as early as next season, the Hawks are not going to be fond of that contract.
With a shrinking salary cap, losing Sharp's salary by trade or buyout could go a long way for the 'Hawks to add some much-needed muscle in their lineup.
Insert Hossa's name next. He's masterful, maybe one of the best skill players in the NHL, and it pains me to write it, but his contract is going to handcuff him. His postseason has been solid other than the last three games, hence why this is even a topic.
Let's face facts. When you need to change, it has to be drastic, and this would be it. Nobody is going to touch Hossa in a trade with his $5.275 million cap hit through 2019-20. That's right—that's seven more years. A buyout for the 34-year-old is the only play here. Can you replace Hossa's skill level? No, you can't, but you can use that money toward gritty players and add them to a hockey team that's already overflowing with skilled players.
It's possible, yet unlikely, that we will see the 'Hawks rectify their situation and take the Wings to seven games. If not, Stan Bowman can attempt again to convince fans the team is OK, citing the streak, Presidents' Trophy and a string of misfortune.
But anyone that follows this club closely knows that something needs to be done. They still have talent and some key players to make future Cup runs, but continuing to put faith in those that were a part of the 2010 Cup team, just because they were there, has got to end. Hopefully you'll see the significant changes the team needs to make.
All for now. Thanks for reading.