By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Have you ever seen a Chicago team go from so good to so bad at the snap of a finger the way the Chicago Blackhawks have? I haven’t in all my years of couch potato sports quackery.
Like me, many Blackhawks fans feel like they are in the position of a doctor when a patient arrives with some unexplained illness. And like any mystery sickness, every doctor has a different opinion and remedy, and not one has solved anything when implemented.
When the Hawks last won a game on January 20 they were tied for second in points in the Western Conference with the St. Louis Blues and were just one point behind the leaders, the Detroit Red Wings. They have gained one single point since, and somehow miraculously have only fallen to sixth in the West standings.
My biggest worry is not what has gone wrong. Even a C+ hockey student (on a curve, which makes me like a dentist, appropriately*) such as myself can see the poor defense and goaltending, the invisibility of should-be-forces like Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, and the probability that Jonathan Toews just is not physically 100 percent right now.
Such symptoms are pinpointable. The cause of those symptoms, though, is elusive, which is why I am less concerned with the “what” than the “why” of all this.
Players slump, sure. Teams even slump on occasion. But teams that on paper should be really good do not do so for a stretch of nine straight losses.
Might it be a lack of effort or mental toughness on the players’ parts? I doubt it. There is a strong enough group of veterans on this team to not let that happen. And such things are very rare in the sports world today, no matter how much some people would like to be comfortable in diagnosing a player as actually lazy. Professionals are almost never literally lazy, and even if they were, they would not be pros for very long.
Is it coaching? Joel Quenneville gets the benefit of the doubt from me. He has never presided over a tailspin like this with the Hawks and he has never let on that the poor play of late is something he would ever condone or treat with Del Negro-esque flippancy. He doesn’t have the reputation of going easy on anyone and he has never been shy about moving guys around on lines or in goal to try to create a spark.
Do they need to trade for someone? It wouldn’t hurt, but I don’t see a probable trade that remedies this thing. And too often fans want trades just as placebos.
I can’t put a finger on it, and I’ve really tried over the last month. The Blackhawks are sick right now, and I would love to cure them, but this pathogen or imbalance in the humors or whatever plagues them right now is foreign to me.
The only comfort lies in hockey’s unique ambiguity to such causes of peaks and valleys. “It’s just hockey,” I have heard. “They can turn it around at any time.” Even the Stanley Cup Champion team looked ugly for small stretches and then turned on a dime to pummel teams at will, so maybe this is just a less benign case of that hockey carcinoma.
Maybe they will just snap out of it without any more reason than they were in this mess in the first place. Like a patient given Last Rites who just… awakens.
Maybe they’ll find one of them new-fangled cures in New York City when the Hawks travel there Thursday night to play the Rangers — like how my cousin got her grocer’s itch cured there on a school trip to see that statue of the green lady of freedom.
Hopefully we will look back on this in April and shake our heads and chuckle a bit. Hopefully this will be like one of those odd stories doctors like to share with each other and that sometimes make those weird cable shows. “Remember when the Blackhawks came into the office with that ice pick in one ear and through the brain and it ended up not affecting them at all?”
I would much rather have it be an ice pick comfortably lodged in the brain than it be that the Blackhawks just were not any good.
*To my wonderful dentist and his staff, please do not hurt me for that joke or make me look, ironically, like a hockey player.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.