If you’re like me, you were frustrated and confused when the Blackhawks decided to fire Joel Quenneville in November 2018.
Sure, the Hawks had been underachieving, but surely three Stanley Cup victories should earn a sense of loyalty from the team, right?
The truth is that the Blackhawks took Quenneville for granted, diminishing his responsibility for their Stanley Cup victories, and overblowing his blame for the team’s struggles that followed. Chicago had gotten used to winning every year, and when things go bad, the easiest person to blame is the coach.
Like many others, I always believed that as long as Kane and Toews were around, the Blackhawks would be contenders. And while I don’t agree with the decision to do away with Quenneville, I believe that the Hawks are in a better spot right now than it may appear.
Sure, Chicago fans probably wish we were winning more games, but a .500 record is not bad with all things considered. Head coach Jeremy Colliton has assembled a young team around veterans like Kane and Toews, and a lot of these guys are not only still learning how to play together, they’re learning how to play hockey on this level.
One positive that seems readily apparent is the Blackhawks’ ability to identify and acquire young players with talent and potential. A prime example of this comes in the form of Dominik Kubalik, who had a hat trick Thursday night.
Not only did the rookie score three goals in one game, a tough feat for even the best players in the league, he scored them all in the third period alone. Someone with the ability to strike that quickly will surely be a valuable asset to the team as he continues to grow and develop more consistency in his game.
And the core that proved capable of so much is still intact. Kane, Toews, Keith, Saad, Shaw and Crawford are all still playing, and for the most part are the same players that they were during the Hawks’ prime.
They still have several years of elite hockey ahead of them and have the experience to act as mentors and teach the younger guys how to take advantage of their potential and remain composed during crucial moments.
Chicago’s future is going to come down to whether the young players can consistently improve and build chemistry playing together.
I believe that they will, and despite recent history suggesting that they’re not close to becoming Stanley Cup champions again, getting back to the standard of success that we had come to expect from the Hawks may not be as distant as it seems.