There have been far worse times to be a Blackhawks fan, that goes without saying. But for many of us this last string of losses has conjured up images of Dirk Graham behind the bench, Mike Smith making trades that only a mental patient would approve of, and Steve Passmore flopping around in the crease like a carp that got dropped on the dock. Is this how it begins? Will a six-game skid turn the season into a wash? Are we headed for another five decades of doom and despair? What can snap the Blackhawks out of the funk that they’re in? The boys got together to discuss the current situation, what might be wrong, and what could be done about it in this month’s Round Table…

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The Blackhawks are mired in a 6 game losing streak. Do you put more blame on the players or the coaching staff? Stan Bowman?

Jeff Bartl, Founder and Lead Writer: I’d have place blame on both the players and coaches, meaning Stan has to – will? – make a move to ensure the ‘Hawks compete this season without mortgaging the future. Though we’ve all disagreed with the lineups Head Coach Joel Quenneville has rolled out, there’s still enough talent on the ice no matter what that the ‘Hawks should not be getting outscored 27-12 over a six-game span. With that said, a message from Q saying, “We need a win,” doesn’t cut it. Whether they’re not being pushed enough or simply not responding, both the players and coaches need to step up to right this ship.

Chris Deme, Contributing Writer: Right now, the blame is still on the players. They are playing lazy hockey, particularly on the blue line. I will say that the coaching staff really needs to pick it up on the penalty lines. The power play looks terrible and inept as of late. I won’t place blame on Stan Bowman yet. I think it’s too early to do that. Wait and see what he does by the trade deadline.

Jim Nakis, Contributing Writer: You can place blame everywhere. Stan gave Q an imperfect roster. Q has used that roster improperly (dogging Marcus Kruger, Michael Frolik and Bryan Bickell) and the Blackhawks ‘core’ hasn’t played well enough lately to make up for the rest of the rosters flaws.

Tim Currell, Contributing Writer: They win games when the players execute the coaches’ plans effectively. If the Blackhawks are losing, it means the players aren’t executing. It’s a player problem.

JesusMarianHossa, Contributing Writer: Coaching staff, and more importantly, the players. Stan Bowman built a team that came out of the gates strong and was at one point #1 in the NHL. The parts are all here. They’re just not performing at an optimal level right now. Yes, I have issues with the way the powerplay is being run. I also have concerns about the amount of juggling going on among the lines. Not calling for the ‘stache to get shaved here, but I’d like him to start making changes in strategy, not personnel. The only blame I lay at Stan Bowman’s feet is not picking of a defenceman for our PK. It’s not that pressing yet, so I don’t really have issue with it. Pulling the trigger now could cost him more in compensation with a trading partner and all it would do is placate the fans. GMs work for the owner, not the fans.

One of the most disappointing aspects of this year’s Blackhawks are their special teams. Is this a personnel problem or are the Hawks in need of new strategies?

Jeff: The forward on the point of the power play needs to fucking end. It’s amazing how Q can jumble his lines so much, yet he sticks to the same failed strategy when it comes to the power play. It doesn’t matter who he sends out there, the damn thing doesn’t work. That screams ‘strategic problem’ right there. If you look at some of the top PP teams in the league – Vancouver, Edmonton, Nashville – they mix patience with aggressiveness. Too many times we see the Blackhawks dilly-dally with the puck hoping a lane will open up while four players stand around. Then a desperation shot is taken, it gets blocked, the puck goes out of the zone and the PP is over. There needs to be more behind-the-net play with the man advantage, rather than five guys floating around waiting for something to happen. The opposing kills are having it too easy right now.

Tim: I honestly think this is strategy. Look at the power play from 2009-10. Half of them lasted 30 seconds or less because the ‘Hawks were racking up the PPG like they were playing in an Over-40 league. Cycle in the near corner, open a seam, pass to Patrick Sharp on the far post — BOOM. Where is that this year? Not in our arsenal, and the plays Mike Kitchen is trying have all failed miserably. I know he and Q go way back, but he’s not getting the job done. Time for a change.

JMH: Like I said in question one, it’s very much strategy. I find it hard to believe that a team with this much top 6 talent could be this deficient on the power play. I’ve got the same amount of NHL wins from the bench as anyone else participating here but I think the forward on the point and the back-door play are done being effective. Duncan Keith has no lanes from the point, Patrick Kane has no lanes to pass through and we’re struggling to even get zone entry with one of our forwards on the point.

Chris: It’s a personnel problem. There needs to be a power play quarterback added to the mix before the deadline.

Jim: They need a new strategy on the PP . Echoing Jeff and JMH, ENOUGH WITH THE FORWARDS at the points. How about trying something, anything that doesn’t happen on the perimeter? Special teams are the areas where I think you can point fingers at the coaching staff. You have some of the most skilled players in the entire world out there – it shouldn’t be this hard to at the very least create chances consistently. As for the kill, I tend to think it has more to do with personnel, especially on the defensive side. They don’t block as many shots when they are a man down and players like Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa are starting to look worn down. I’d like to see Kruger, Jamal Mayers and Frolik get a little more prime kill time.

As recently as a few weeks ago, it was presumed that Stan Bowman was looking to acquire only a defenseman at the deadline. Does his strategy change at all in light of the recent losing streak?

JMH: I sure as hell hope not. Stay strong, Stanley. Don’t let Brian Burke or Pierre Gauthier push you around. Your dad can beat up their dad.

Jeff: I really don’t see how. Bowman won’t make a move for a goaltender given the options of what’s available and the price of what it would take to pry a top-notch guy away from someone else. The ‘Hawks, despite their recent offensive struggles, are still one of the top scoring teams in the league. Meanwhile, the defense has looked lost lately. The only feasible moves to be made are on the blue line, or so it seems.

Chris: Absolutely not. The defense has looked absolutely terrible during the losing streak. Bowman needs to add new energy to reduce minutes and take some pressure off the current top 4 defensemen.

Jim: They obviously still need another defenseman. But I think Stan should add another depth forward to his wish list as well to get that 3rd line rolling again. They score more goals than just about anyone in the league, but it seems it all comes from the top two lines. Dave Bolland’s line has to get moving again.

Tim: Will it? Probably not. Should it? Well, it depends. If this skid continues, nothing short of a miracle will get this team into the playoffs. So why waste picks or prospects to acquire a rental that won’t save our bacon anyway? If Stan is convinced he is one or two pieces away from putting together a perfect puzzle, then we’ll get what we need. Otherwise, we’re going to be sellers at the deadline.

In the early stages of the season, many claimed the Blackhawks had a ‘good problem’ in net. It now appears the Blackhawks have two subpar goaltenders. What does Q do if Ray Emery falters over the next few games?

Chris: The goalies have been sub-par as of late. It’s troubling. I am not 100% confident that these two guys can take us deep in the playoffs. I will say that Corey Crawford wasn’t terrible last year when his defense was better. I’d like to see how new defensive additions help out the goalies before I start pointing fingers in their direction.

Jim: If Emery falters the Hawks have no choice but to turn back to Crawford and this see-saw thing they have going on will continue. Whoever sucks less come playoff time will be in net. Today we heard some rumblings that Bowman may be looking for another goalie, so obviously that calculus changes should that happen.

Tim: Write the season off and platoon them until April. If your goaltenders are letting in one goal for every 8 or 9 shots, and your defense is as ineffective as ours has been of late, you’re going to have to try to win games 4-3 or 5-4. Move to a stretch-pass breakout plan and try to generate odd-man rushes.

JMH: This is where I’ve got no solution. I know some of us are calling for a goaltender to be acquired but that doesn’t make sense to me. Emery and Crawford, while struggling recently, are still capable. This team was built from the blue line back, not the blue paint out. While the goalies are in a bit of a rut, the guys in front aren’t helping any. Keep riding Razor for now. Crow has hit a wall. There won’t be an outside solution.

Jeff: Pray? In all honesty, it’s going to come down to who grabs their sack down the stretch and is playing the best of the two – even if ‘the best’ isn’t all that great. Again, trading for a goaltender won’t happen. So when the playoffs roll around – and let’s not forget the ‘Hawks still have the fifth-most points in the conference, they’re going to make the postseason IMO – Q needs to hope one of them at the very least is being strong mentally and not taking the recent struggles to heart. It’s too deep into the season to start calling people up – who would you call up anyway at this point? – and a trade is highly unlikely. Q doesn’t have much of a choice but to stick with the lesser of two evils.

Patrick Kane played his best game in at least a month and a half against Colorado. Was Tuesday night the start of Kane’s reemergence?

Chris: Hopefully it’s a reemergence. Hopefully it’s contagious. Only time will tell. It was really comforting to see his level of energy. The Hawks have needed it all season. Now would be a good time to get it going and end the losing streak.

Tim: Doubtful. Q changing who he plays with multiple times a game is not the way he performs best. He needs to get in a groove with one pivot, and we all know that’s not going to happen. I wouldn’t get too optimistic about a rebound from Kaner the rest of the season.

JMH: I hear the road-beef in Denver is pretty stellar. I’ll give credit to the blonde haired, blue eyed ladies I’ve heard about in the area for raising Kaner’s game. That, and they’ve got solid craft breweries there. But seriously… hopefully it is the start of a good run for 88. It’s not for lack of effort, that’s for sure. It’s between his ears. Last night he was firing on the net. More of that, Humpty Hump. The points will come.

Jeff: There’s really no good way to answer this question without making some sort of a prediction, so I’m going to just say that I hope so. Forgetting the goal that helped get him out of his scoring slump for now, Kane played pretty damn well overall. His passes were crisp, he was aggressive, and that backhand was a thing of beauty. He also played a solid game against Edmonton, too. If anything, that might be the game that could be the “start of his re-emergence.” Bottom line, that re-emergence better be full-blown damn soon.

Jim: That’s very hard to say. All I know is that he looked damn good yesterday night and I sure hope it continues. I know I’ll be stopping by Holy Name this week to light a candle for him.

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