Before the Blackhawks left home to embark on a crucial five-game road trip in Western Canada, general manager Stan Bowman told NBC Sports Chicago that the organization is going to take as much time as possible before deciding what to do at the trade deadline.
At that point, it was two and a half weeks out from the Feb. 24 deadline and the Blackhawks were making a surge. They were 12-5-2 in their last 19 games and had picked up at least a point in eight of their last nine to pull within legitimate reach of a playoff spot.
But after dropping their third straight game in regulation and fifth overall (0-3-2) on Wednesday in Vancouver, the Blackhawks are watching their playoff hopes quickly dissolve. The road trip isn't over yet, but coming up empty against three teams ahead of the Blackhawks in the standings is giving Bowman and the management group a clearer picture of where things stand.
They will have a much better idea on the state of the team by the end of the weekend, but signs are pointing towards the Blackhawks being sellers rather than riding out the current roster, which appeared to be the more likely scenario less than a week ago. They have no choice, especially if the Blackhawks fail to finish the trip on a positive note.
The Blackhawks will wake up Thursday morning six points out of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference with a game in hand. By the time they play their next game on Saturday in Calgary, only nine days will be left until the deadline. Time is ticking.
It's unfortunate that the Blackhawks are in this position because it didn't have to be this way.
They held a 2-0 lead in Winnipeg on Sunday but gave up a shorthanded goal in the second period, which completely changed the game and allowed the Jets to finish with five unanswered goals. They held a pair of one-goal leads against the Connor McDavid-less Oilers on Tuesday but couldn't seal the deal.
Then on Wednesday, the Blackhawks turned in arguably their most complete 60-minute effort of the season with a season-high 49 shots on goal and giving up a season-low 20 shots. But they went 0-for-5 on the power play and ran into a ridiculously hot goaltender in Jacob Markstrom, who saved his team 3.66 goals relative to a league average goaltender, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Three winnable games. Zero points. A real gut punch during their most significant stretch of the season.
The Blackhawks aren't losing hope. At least, not publicly.
But time is running out to make a final case on keeping this group together for a playoff push. If a case hasn't been made already, that is.
"Got no other choice," Jonathan Toews told reporters following a 3-0 loss to the Canucks. "You can sit around and sulk about it for 20 minutes, and then you've got to make a decision on how you want to react and get ready for the next one. So that's all we can do right now."
Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.
Time is running out for Blackhawks to make final case before trade deadline originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago