Photo: CBS Chicago

Every Blackhawks pundit, journalist and blogger has asked the same question during the playoffs the last two years. In fact, most pundits, journalists and bloggers for the Blackhawks’ opponents have asked the question also. So far, we don’t have an answer.

When is Marian Hossa going to show up?

This would be just a mere curiosity if we were talking about some bottom-six winger two years into a three-year deal at the league minimum salary. But we’re talking about a player with elite talent who just wrapped up the second year of a 12-year contract with the Blackhawks worth over $62 million.

The mere fact that we’re asking the question at all — and in the playoffs no less — is more than troubling; it suggests that we may have bought a horse whose Derby days are behind him. It also makes one think it might be better to find another buyer before the situation gets even worse and the market dries up completely.

Marian Hossa used to be a point-per-game player. His best years were on pathetic teams like Atlanta and Ottawa, where arguably he was the sum total of the offensive firepower. Since arriving with the Blackhawks his production is off by about 10% during the regular season. During the playoffs you want your top players to step up their game. Well…

2007-08 with Pittsburgh: 20 games, 12 goals. He literally gave the Red Wings (*spitting noise*) fits for the entire series. That’s what we thought we were getting when we shelled out 62 million beans. But in 2009-10, the Stanley Cup Championship year: 22 games, 3 goals; 2010-11 season: 8 games, 2 goals – both in the same game. We kept asking the question: when is Marian Hossa going to show up? When you’re speaking of the playoffs, when it counts, he never did. Not last year, and not this year.

People are quick to point out that Hossa is a talented two-way player, which is true. But when the game is on the line and the team is about to get knocked out of the playoffs, who cares about defense. Leave it to the defensemen, that’s their job and they need to do it. The job for guys like Marian Hossa at that point is to appear out of nowhere and knock in the game-winner. He did it once last season, jumping into the play after serving a 5-minute major penalty and slamming home the winning goal in overtime a few seconds later.

Anybody seen him do that since then? Anyone? Bueller?

$7.9 million for the next 5 years, and then he becomes a “bargain” at $4 million or less after that. I hope he earns it during the regular season, because based on his playoff performance to date he’d help the team more by stepping aside and opening up a roster spot for guys like Ben Smith: young, fast, hungry, and willing to do a face-plant into an up-turned skate blade if it meant getting a game-winning goal in the playoffs.

They say that European players don’t fully grasp the gravity of winning the Stanley Cup, and for that reason they aren’t as motivated as North American players during the playoffs. Well, Hossa has already won the cup. Now that he’s tasted Lord Stanley’s bounty, has all the motivation been sucked right out of the guy? Are we now stuck with somebody who has his millions locked up and his Stanley Cup ring in a Swiss safe deposit box, and who is going to coast through the next 10 seasons? Has this horse put himself out to pasture?

Shockingly, I cannot find any source that suggests Hossa’s massive contract is saddled with a no-movement clause. So whoever wrote the contract left the Blackhawks an “out.” Hossa is still a very solid player during the regular season. He can provide veteran leadership to a younger team. He is still good for consistent 20-goal, 50-point seasons.

But for that kind of salary cap hit, we can get two talented young guys that will step it up when the chips are down. That’s what we’re not getting from Marian Hossa — the kind of bust-ass hustle and game-changing play he gave Pittsburgh and Detroit (*spitting noise*). I want to see more from him next year, and if we don’t, I want the Blackhawks’ management to be shopping him for the kind of player(s) that will get us back into contention for Lord Stanley’s Cup again.

And honestly, I don’t care which way that situation resolves itself. The honeymoon is over, Marian: Blackhawks fans deserve more than just seeing you skate in circles every night. They deserve the world-class sniper they were expecting when you arrived here. At $62+ million, you owe them that. And if you won’t deliver, I won’t shed a tear if you end up on the block, and I don’t think ‘Hawks fans will be too upset to see you go.