Last weekend coach Denis Savard said he would favor bringing back the current Blackhawks for next season.
Considering the team will finish well out of the Western Conference playoff chase, the statement was a bit surprising. Or perhaps Savard believed a full year coaching the current group would make up the ground.
Or Savard could just be facing reality. Given the amount and the nature of the contracts the Hawks have committed to for next season, it's possible the team that dropped its fifth in a row Thursday night, 2-0 to the San Jose Sharks at the United Center, will not look dramatically different.
The Hawks now have had five losing streaks of at least three games and three of at least five. They have been shut out six times in 61 games and have scored two goals or fewer in 32 games.
Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo, who formed such a dynamic duo last season, had the goals for San Jose as the Hawks had good scoring chances but nothing to show for them. In fact, through the first two periods, the Hawks' best chance to score may have come on their own goaltender.
On a power play late in the second period, Tuomo Ruutu nearly slipped the puck past Patrick Lalime as the Hawks were trying to regroup.
Anything is possible at the trading deadline, when teams sometimes panic into making ill-advised deals, but it's likely the Hawks will only move players whose contracts expire at the end of the seasonsuch as Bryan Smolinski, Lasse Kukkoken or either of the backup goaltenders, Brian Boucher or Lalime.
Assuming that's the case, the Hawks already have five defensemen signed for next season in Adrian Aucoin, Jassen Cullimore, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Cam Barker. James Wisniewski will be a restricted free agent the Hawks will try to re-sign.
Another spot to fill will be the backup goaltender to Nikolai Khabibulin and that will make for an interesting decision. Do the Hawks once again go the rookie route and have Corey Crawford, the heir apparent who is having a stellar season in Norfolk, as the backup, or decide on either Boucher or Lalime and give Crawford another year in the minors?
That leaves another defensemaneither re-signing Jim Vandermeer or perhaps Dustin Byfuglien or Danny Richmond from Norfolk, and maybe as many as three forwards.
The problem is the Hawks' greatest need at forward is among their top six, even if they re-sign Handzus and have Toews.
Last summer general manager Dale Tallon pulled off the best deal in his tenure when he acquired Martin Havlat from Ottawa.
He may need that same kind of magic, and perhaps a little luck in the free-agent market, again this summer.
If not, Savard may have his wish. And as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.
Barker was having X-rays taken on his bruised foot before Thursday's game. Barker injured the foot blocking a shot Wednesday in Detroit and didn't play in the third period. Barker's injury allowed Cullimore to return to the lineup. Cullimore was paired with Wisniewski. Ruutu was given a major penalty and a game misconduct for boarding San Jose's Kyle McLaren in the final minute in a play that may be reviewed by the league office.
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