There is nothing quite as painful as watching the team you love mired in a slump. This is made even worse when you are a Chicago sports fan.
Championships have been few and far between in the Windy City.
To be fair, Chicago has multiple World Series titles! All right, that's a lot of sugar coating. There has been only one parade in recent memory. The 2005 White Sox brought a WS championship back to the city after 88 years. Until last summer, they were the exception to the trend.
Of course, the poster child for sports futility in this city—and arguably in all of sports—is the Cubs franchise that just completed 102 years since its last championship.
The Bears, who gave Chicago so much hope this past season, fell in the NFC title game to the rival Packers, and have now gone a quarter of a century without raising the Lombardi trophy.
Though the Bulls, led by Derrick Rose, are exciting again, the thrills of the '90s—Jordan, Pippen and six trophies—are become a fading memory.
And that brings me to the Blackhawks.
Last June, they brought the Stanley Cup back to Chicago for the first time in 49 years. The city was electric. Fans from the diehards to the newcomers were enjoying the club's magical ride. Everyone of course was expecting a repeat of last season.
Regrettably, there were salary cap issues that got in the way of a replica of last season’s team. This year, with 36 games left in the regular season, the Blackhawks may not even be able to defend their title.
Yes, the defending Stanley Cup champs are in danger of missing the postseason altogether.
Currently the Blackhawks are three points behind the last playoff spot—held by Calgary—in the Western Conference. A costly loss to the Flames on Monday night didn't help matters. Chicago is 11th in the conference, Calgary is eighth, Los Angeles and Minnesota are ninth and 10th respectively.
The All-Star break has passed, and just two games in the Blackhawks look no different from the beginning of the season.
Both Marty Turco and Corey Crawford are being rotated as goalies. Fans believed Crawford would get the nod as No. 1, yet at this point it still seems up for grabs.
Marian Hossa has been in a relatively bad slump. In 37 games Hossa has only managed to produce 29 points. Bearing in mind Hossa’s capabilities, it is worrisome as to what is really going on with him. He may nursing an ongoing injury as some have concluded. Whatever the case, Hossa needs to get it together or go on IR. The Blackhawks need a healthy team to be competitive and consistent.
Few players on the Blackhawks have excelled this season.
As for the forwards, the captain, Jonathon Toews, of course is astounding as always in his short career. Patrick Sharp has stunned countless NHL experts with the season he has had, and could without a doubt be a Hart Trophy candidate in 2011. Tomas Kopecky is hot and cold this season. But, he is fourth overall on the team in points.
Some will even say Patrick Kane is having a high-quality season, but his enthusiasm still does not seem to be all there for the 2011 season.
Troy Brouwer is starting to stand in the crowd. It is a contract year for Brouwer, and hopefully he can stay true to form if re-signed by Stan Bowman before the start of next season. Brouwer has four points in his last five games and has been more of a goal scorer as of late.
It seems as though Dave Bolland has stepped up in the scoring department, but his face-off percentage keeps on damaging his star status for the team.
The defense...it is almost impossible to understand them. One second they look great, the next you wonder when the hurting will stop.
Brian Campbell has been one of the best in all areas for the Blackhawks. Overall, he is a plus-22 (seventh in the league) and is one of the brighter skaters on the ice this season.
The pairing of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook has been torn apart on many occasions. This only cripples the defensive pairings of Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brian Campbell, considering this has split them up numerous times as well.
Then let’s not forget the mysterious third line of defense for the Blackhawks.
It is almost as if you are playing "Who’s On First?" Is it Jordan Hendry? Nick Leddy? No…wait John Scott…this time I got it…Nick Boynton!
With all the confusion of the third line pairing, or just a pairing of defense for the Blackhawks all together, how can anyone build chemistry, or more so, consistency?
The Blackhawks had a great number of roster adjustments this past offseason. It appears it is going to take the team longer than expected to mesh.
They still have a chance to make it to the playoffs. They are not far behind to at least catch the eighth seed. Teams like the San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames have been on a hot streak heading into the All-Star break.
The Blackhawks can gear up for the stretch run by starting their own hot streak tonight against the Edmonton Oilers. And this can be put in the books as another season in which a Chicago sports team gave their fans a nervous breakdown.
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