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Hawk Talk: Gut Check

by Staff Writer / Chicago Blackhawks

As the Hawks approach the midway point of the season, they most certainly are facing a crisis. Any team, no matter the depth, can sustain only a certain number of injuries before it's just too much. The Hawks are now at that point.

Though some of the walking wounded are getting ready to return, even a small losing skid in the interim could be devastating --especially in a very tight Western Conference with only three games left against the East. With obvious skill missing from the lineup, it's going to take some ugly wins and some serious leadership to get through this crisis.

So far, the Hawks have learned how to play AND win without Marty Havlat. Last year that wasn't the case. But with him missing so much time, the rest of the team has been able to adjust, or get somewhat used to playing without him. A new test is now in play.

He may only be 19, but it's pretty obvious what Jonathan Toews means to this team. It may be too soon to call him the heart and soul, but his presence means more than just goals and assists. I may be wrong, but I don't think it's a coincedence the Hawks fell apart against the Kings when Toews left the game. He just has that special 'whatever' that the great ones have.

Denis Savard and Dale Tallon will earn their paychecks during these tougher times. For Savvy, the question is, "do we change our style?" With so many minor league callups, an obvious strategy would be to reign it in and try to play close to the vest.

My guess is the Hawks will not change their style dramatically no matter who's in the lineup. They are trying to become a puck posession team throughout the organization and to change that on the fly would mean a step back. It also comes down to expectations.

If you think your team is a Cup contender, then your actions are going to be different than if you are just trying to take some steps. That's probably why the GM will be slow to pull off a big trade. If THIS was the year for the Hawks to win it all, you better believe filling these injured holes via trade would be a much better possibility than it is now.

The best way to move forward is to keep doing what the Hawks are doing. I know that's tough to hear, but there are silver linings that can be exploited without worrying about "blowing" a chance at the Cup. Experience, weeding out the mentally weak, and understanding who's ready for prime time are just some of those silver linings. Injuries give you a chance to learn about your team, but only if you're not panicking about your win/loss record.

I want the Hawks to make the playoffs, heck, anything can happen if they do. But I would not do one single thing to hurt longer term prospects for winning it all.

Like I said, Savard and Tallon have tough decisions to make in this respect. Not panicking should be at the top of the list.

Biting the bullet may be near there as well.

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