All-Star weekend festivities have ended and the second half of the season is set to begin. Although officially the season half was about 10 games prior to the All-Star break, many teams look at the break as the halfway mark.
Coaches, GMs and scouts are all gearing for a run deep into the playoffs. Many teams will look to pad their player ranks with rental players and make the punch. Many will use this unload salaries and start the rebuilding period knowing a playoff spot is out of reach.
The Chicago Blackhawks are no exception to the rule—what will coach Denis Savard and GM Dale Tallon be looking for?
Some speculate that a prominent center and a little more defensive depth are additions the Blackhawks will look to make. A few days ago Savard called out many of his players after loosing to the Blue Jackets. He was not happy losing within the division and made his point in a message to his players, telling them if they’re not willing to commit to the team they be playing somewhere else. This message was backed Tallon.
The Blackhawks are still without top rookie Jonathan Toews who is out with a knee injury and is not expected back for a few weeks. At this point in the season the coaches believe the Blackhawks team is ready for a playoff berth and they believe the pieces are there.
Players have to commit to the system and play hard every game. With the end of the All-Star break, practice sessions are back in full swing. Several players seem to have received the message loud and clear and are ready to take the next step in getting the team over the hump.
Chicago currently sits in last place in the Central Division, only six points out of second place and six points out of that very playoff position they seek. The talent on this team is for real and, despite being laden with injuries, the potential is definitely there to make their first playoff appearance in several years.
If Martin Havlat, Robert Lang, Martin Lapointe, and Yanic Perreault all start playing to their potential this team could take off. Remember Jason Williams, Kris Versteeg, Dave Bolland, Kevyn Adams, and Jonathan Toews are all out and have been placed on injured reserve.
Veteran leadership will serve this young team well and will be an emphatic part of their success. Finding a working nuclease will be up to Savard; finding the right pieces to fill in will be Tallon's job.
The players are all professional and know what is expected of them. It will now be in the hands of the players to see just how far they really want to go. If the Blackhawks fail to reach the playoffs those older players will be gone in the next year or two and they will be replaced by those willing to make the commitment the Blackhawks organization are looking for.
Looking for positive energy for the remainder of the season, I would not expect to see big changes in the roster unless that magical deal falls into the hands of Tallon. Look for coach Savard to push these players like they were some rookie squad and for a vast improvement in the overall play of the entire team. Look for starts to be health scratches if they don’t produce and look for no change in the Blackhawks game plan.
After all, they want wins and commitment from everyone.