The Blackhawks have struggled lately, leading many to wonder, "What the hell is going on?" Well, here is your Spencer Hansen-approved checklist of what needs to happen.
Sit Corey Crawford
In several situations, the Hawks have tied their own hands by refusing to bench the players they WANT to be good in favor of those that are actually playing well. Corey Crawford was replaced for a time by Ray Emery in early-mid December while Crawford tried to figure out what he was doing wrong. Emery played excellently while Hawks fans sat there with a knot in their stomach. Not because Emery wasn't playing well (he played excellently), but because everyone had this feeling of, "I thought Crawford was our guy. We just paid him. What are we supposed to do if he becomes the backup?" So what we did was gave Corey some time off, but eventually stuck him back in there because we WANTED him to be the guy.
So what am I saying? Crow isn't the guy? No, but he's not the guy right now. I don't know what his problem is, but he's not what he was last year and that isn't going to cut it. What the Hawks need to do is truly go with the hot hand. Play Emery consistently with a few breaks until he starts to slip. Continually plugging in a guy with nearly a 3 GAA and watching him get pounded isn't helping anyone.
Sit Bickell and Frolik, too
Bickell is another guy that the Hawks have kept allegiance to without much reason. He plays night in and night out, doing little or nothing besides taking penalties. Frollik plays hard, but really doesn't make anything happen either. The problem is that the Hawks are paying Frolik $3M this year and are not likely to waste money by sitting him. However, Bryan Bickell is only pulling down what must be the league minimum, $525K. What is there to lose by sitting Bickell? Sending him down to Rockford would require him clearing waivers, but who would honestly take him? And if they do, so what? Why not bring up Jeremy Morin, who's probably one of the best prospects we have in the system? And if you feel like you can handle bench Frolik for a game or two, I think Jimmy Hayes was doing just fine in Chicago. Well, him and Ben Smith.
Deal for a defenseman NOW
It's been tough to deal at the deadline this year, mostly because everyone seems to think they're in the hunt. However, the Hawks need to make a trade for a defenseman happen NOW. Trading Brian Campbell was a necessity because of his ridiculous contract, but his absence has had a well-documented negative effect on the Hawks. (Go look at how the Hawks did when Campbell was out with a broken collarbone in the spring of 2010). Towards the end of last season, I thought that Chris Campoli would be a good replacement. He was fast and could play the power play. However, Campoli had an over-inflated view of his value and argued his way out of Chicago.
The Hawks don't need another Brian Campbell or Chris Campoli, but they need someone else who doesn't suck. Similar to Corey Crawford, Nick Leddy had an excellent year last year, but his sub-par performance in addition to Nik Hjalmarsson's disappointment leaves the Hawks terribly thin at the blue line, and it shows.
Find a way to get Patrick Kane on fire
The Hawks simply can't survive without their stars scoring. Kane is a tremendously streaky player, but this has to be one of the worst streaks of his career. Quenneville is a masert at shifting lines and here's a change I'd like to see him implement. Put Kane on a line with Andrew Shaw. Remember how Kane was on a line with Carcillo? Carcillo made sure to check people and keep them off of Kane long enough for him to score. Shaw is player who has shown similar grit and enough scoring potential to play on a line high enough to be paired with Kane.
Implement one or more of these changes and watch the Hawks dominate the second half.