With the Blackhawks season ending on Monday night at the hands of the St. Louis Blues, it seemed appropriate to write some sort of a recap or eulogy about the Blackhawks 2015-2016 season. But the more I thought about it, the more disappointed I became in the Blackhawks season as a whole.
I know this is the place where I'm supposed to write about what a wonderful Blackhawks season it was. This is where I write about the success the Hawks had and all the skill they had to end up where they did. This is where I write about how, despite the on-ice disappointment of a first round exit, it still doesn't feel like the season was a failure. The only problem is, I can't say all that.
The season does feel like it was a failure. It doesn't feel like the Blackhawks ended up where they were because of skill, but rather because of luck. Don't get me wrong. On paper, there's not a better team in the NHL than the Blackhawks. But throughout the entirety of the season, it seemed like the Blackhawks relied heavily on luck and less on skill.
The irony is the Blackhawks had everything but luck during the offseason. Forward Patrick Kane was the subject of a rape allegation in his hometown of Buffalo. The allegation shook the Blackhawks fan base and the NHL as a whole. Most of the offseason celebration of winning that Stanley Cup was curtailed because of these allegations. While Patrick Kane was eventually cleared in the case, the allegations kept a dark cloud over the Blackhawks and Kane as the season began.
Just last month, Blackhawks prospect Garrett Ross was arrested and charged with revenge porn after posting explicit material of his ex-girlfriend online. The charges were eventually dropped because the act was committed in Michigan, which does not have a law against revenge porn like the state of Illinois does.
And just this past week, Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw was suspended for one game after using a homophobic slur towards a ref during Game 4 of the First Round series against the Blues. Shaw was also fined $5,000 for flipping off said ref during the same game.
My point in all this is not to demean the Blackhawks season, but rather to point out that maybe it's not a bad thing that the season is over.
In March, most of Chicago didn't expect the Blackhawks to go anywhere come playoff time. They were struggling against playoff opponents and couldn't win a game against a team worth beating. The Blackhawks turned it around towards the end of the season, but it still never felt like the Blackhawks were poised to make a deep run in the playoffs.
When the playoffs came around, it was more of the same as the Blackhawks dropped two straight games at home and found themselves in a 3-1 deficit facing elimination in St. Louis. The Blackhawks rallied back to win the next two games, one in St. Louis and one in Chicago, to force a Game 7 that they would eventually go on to lose 3-2. (Game 7 recap below:)
The Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups in six years. They have accomplished more in those six years than most teams dream of accomplishing in 15+ years. In those six years, the Blackhawks have made the playoffs each year and lost once in the first round to the Phoenix Coyotes in 2012 and once to the LA Kings in OT of Game 7 of the Western Conference Final. This will be the first time since 2012 that the Blackhawks will not play a game of hockey in May.
Is it silly to be disappointed in a team that collected 103 points, made it to the playoffs
and lost a Game 7 in the first round? Probably. But with the success the Blackhawks have had in the last several years, the fans come to expect more from them. And for many, a first round exit falls well sort of their expectations.
Despite all of that, there is a bright side. The players will get some much-needed (and deserved) rest before reporting back to training camp in September. There will be no celebrating with the Stanley Cup this summer. There will be no parade in Chicago. There will be no banner-raising ceremony when the Blackhawks open up the 2016-2017 season.
And you know what? That's okay. Until next season, Blackhawks.