An eight-game winless streak has sent the Chicago Blackhawks spiraling down the Western Conference standings all the way to sixth place, when just two weeks ago they were … in sixth place.
Granted, they were tied with the Nashville Predators with 64 points and trailing the Detroit Red Wings by three points on Jan. 30; now, they're 13 behind the Red Wings and five behind the Preds.
The big headline on Monday was that despite their plummeting fortunes, Coach Joel Quenneville was given a vote of confidence by GM Stan Bowman. "That's not the concern for me at all. I'm very confident in Joel's ability, our coaching staff's ability," he told CSN Chicago in an interview.
The players, to a man, also had Coach Q's back. "He's our leader, he's our coach, we play hard for him and we believe in him," Patrick Sharp told the Chicago Tribune. "I know that if something would happen, there would be a lot of unhappy people in the room right now, as far as players putting that on themselves."
So who pays the price if the Blackhawks continue to lose, if not the coach? How about the goaltenders, as Corey Crawford and Ray Emery have taken turns portraying a sieve for the last two weeks?
Nope, they're cool too, said Bowman.
Despite the rising goals-against average, Bowman says bringing someone to replace Corey Crawford and Ray Emery is not a priority.
"We're not focused on goaltending. We're really not," Bowman said. "I know there's a lot of talk about that, but internally, we have to focus on the guys we have, and turning it around from within."
As we've mentioned previously, the Blackhawks aren't going to bury Crawford after (a) committing to him via a 3-year deal last May and (b) seeing him acquit himself well in the postseason.
They've got patience for him, but it's not outlandish to think they'll upgrade Emery.
1. Trade for Nikolai Khabibulin Remember, this is a quick-fix solution and acquiring him wouldn't take much effort. Yes, he's 39 and signed for one more season, but at least he knows the Hawks' system, plus he started out the year as the league's best goaltender. He's faded some, but the possibility exists he finds his game with a return to Chicago. The Tampa Bay Lightning caught some lightning in a bottle last season when they traded for 40 year old netminder Dwayne Roloson. The Hawks should try the same tactic.
What, no Cristobal Huet?
Khabibulin started out the season looking like a Vezina candidate but his numbers trended up after that. He's lost seven of eight starts in 2012 for the Oil; could a change of venue change those fortunes, or will the Bulin Wall never be as fortified as he was in October?
But again: Bowman says goaltending isn't their focus.
So hold off on those Patrick Kane for Ryan Miller suggestions, m'kay?