Photo by bridgetds
There are a lot of theories about why the Blackhawks are struggling this season.
There are the players they lost in the off-season.
There’s coach Joel Quenneville’s constant line juggling.
There’s the team’s lack of intensity, especially against lesser opponents.
But in general, you can file all of the problems under Stanley Cup Hangover.
The Blackhawks won a grueling Stanley Cup playoffs last season, the same season they also sent six players to the Winter Olympics.
This is a team with a young core that’s tired. Sure, certain teams, like the Detroit Red Wings and the just-as-young-as-Chicago Pittsburgh Penguins seem to float from playoff game to playoff game without fatigue, but the Blackhawks aren’t the three-line-deep Red Wings or the freakishly focused Penguins.
Quenneville is trying to motivate the team with a grueling practice to get the team focused before they take on the lowly Oilers.
I’m not sure missing the playoffs would be the worst thing for Chicago. The trauma of it might actually help the team long-term in terms of teaching the team what it takes to be a competitive NHL team.
If the Blackhawks do manage to fall into the playoffs, their lesson might be that the regular season doesn’t matter and making the playoffs is a given for them. And maybe that would be the correct lesson.
But if Quenneville really wants to scare his team straight, rough practices probably won’t do the trick. In some ways (except job security), he’s better off letting the Blackhawks miss the playoffs and live for a few months with the shame while much of the rest of the league plays on.
When a coach runs out of sticks and carrots, it’s time to try shame.
The shame of missing the playoffs might be the only tool left to get the Blackhawks taking the regular season seriously.