A Look at the Chicago Blackhawks' First Half

Tony HagenContributor IJanuary 8, 2008

The Chicago Blackhawks have seen a turnaround in team play, ownership, and even the players. 

Most teams in the NHL have used the Blackhawks as a punching bag. 

Well, all that’s changing, and this team is for real. 

Chicago’s young talent and their strong vets are turning this proud franchise around.

Chicago’s record is no indication of this team’s enthusiasm or spunk.  The addition of rookies Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane—both in serious contention for the Calder Trophy—has brought a fresh breath to a great Original-Six franchise. 

This year, the Blackhawks started out the first 25 games with a record of 14-9-2. Last year, over the same time frame, the Blackhawks record was 10-13-2.  Kane and Toews are a huge part of the explosion in Chicago. 

However, Chicago has been ravaged by injury. Martin Havlat, Jason Williams and James Wisniewski, Brent Sopel, and now Jonathan Toews all out of action.  Martin Havlat recently rejoined the team and has been working on getting his timing back. 

Chicago’s power play is 16th in the league, and their penalty killi is 15th. If Chicago gets their special teams clicking and can better their current rankings, the winning column will become better than what it is.  The little things will make this team even better. An And Chicago really needs to find a way to finish on the road.

When the Blackhawks lineup is up and running at full-tilt, with everyone playing on the same page, coach Denis Savard will be cutting the boys lose, and fans better be ready.  This team is for real. 

No? Well, name another team that has beaten the Detroit Red Wings four times.  Yes, I said it—four times, the Blackhawks have beaten the best team in the NHL, and that is no fluke. 

Once everyone is healthy, like at the beginning of the season, the Blackhawks' lines will start to gel and their timing will once again be where they need it to be.  The coaching staff is working hard to get the line combinations working, and will be down several key players for a while, but players and fans will soon be enjoying a winning Blackhawks team.

Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon probably will not be looking for a big trade this season, but may some moves over the summer to find that one or two pieces of the puzzle.  Tallon will take the rest of the season and build from there.  The Blackhawks are just in need of one key player—and a few more healthy bodies—in order to take it to the next level.

Rocky Wirtz has also made a big statement in Chicago. Fans are now coming to games, supporting their team after the recent passing of William Wirtz. 

Bill Wirtz forbid the television world from seeing his Blackhawks, and forced fans to either visit the United Center to view the games live or read about the play in the paper the next day.  Rocky has turned all this around, catering to the fans' needs and even allowing people to view games on television. 

During a recent game, the Blackhawks were selling standing-room-only tickets—something which has not happened in many years.

The fans deserve a lot of praise for their support in turning around this great team.  The players, ownership and coaching staff are starting to feel the life being pumped back into the Chicago Blackhawks franchise.  In pre-game and post-game interviews with the players, one of the first things they say is how great it is to see fans in the seats and how loud the fans are becoming. 

Sure, the Blackhawks are riddled with injuries. Sure, they have a long road ahead. And sure, things will change.  One thing that is certain—it will be sooner than later.

I leave you with this: When I started this season out discussing teams that were turning things around, everyone—well, most everyone—was on the St. Louis Blues' bandwagon.  But I said it would be the Chicago Blackhawks and they have surely done just that. 

People are talking about Chicago, and Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp and will soon be household names.  Maybe the Blackhawks will make the playoffs this year, and maybe not—but they will be in the hunt for the elusive Stanley Cup over the next years, which is not that bad.