Blackhawks low on energy, lower on chances in loss to Canucks
The Hawks’ 3-1 defeat Monday was far less interesting than news about general manager search advisers and a United Center sportsbook plan.
On Jan. 20, entering a difficult stretch of schedule heading into the All-Star break, interim coach Derek King knew the Blackhawks needed to make their push up the standings immediately.
“You always hate saying our playoffs start now, but we have to approach it as if that’s our goal,” he said then.
Eleven days later, the difficulty of this recent schedule has been evident, and the Hawks have not made any progress.
A 3-1 loss Monday against the Canucks was their fifth defeat in six games since Jan. 20, with only one more game — Wednesday against the Wild — left before the break.
Forget the playoffs — the gap between the 14th-place Hawks and 13th place in the West looks increasingly insurmountable now.
“I really do believe we’re trying,” King said. “Sometimes they don’t try the right way. They work hard at times, and then sometimes, they don’t work smart.”
The Hawks mustered little energy and generated even fewer chances, testing Jaroslav Halak with only 21 shots on goal and beating him only with a slap shot by Connor Murphy with 6:59 left.
The ensuing comeback push, slight as it was, faded once the Hawks committed an inexcusable too-many-men penalty with 3:07 left. The Canucks finished with a 70-38 advantage in shots and 24-17 edge in scoring chances.
“We were flat for most of the game, and it’s hard to score goals when you’re not moving much,” Alex DeBrincat said. “We’ve got to be way better.”
Three former Hawks, all very familiar to fans — Eddie Olczyk, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa — will headline an advisory committee for the team’s general manager search.
“Marian, Eddie and Patrick are respected hockey minds who have great knowledge of the game,” CEO Danny Wirtz said in a statement. “The perspective this group will provide is instrumental to this process, and we are excited to have them assist the club with this important decision.”
Olczyk’s inclusion probably eliminates him as a possible candidate for the GM role. Although he had been a popular name among fan speculation, he always seemed better-suited for a president-type role, which the Hawks aren’t creating and hiring for.
Interim GM Kyle Davidson remains the front-runner, but the Hawks are clearly investing in the interview process, which begins this week.
Wirtz and his dad, chairman Rocky Wirtz, likely will provide more information during their public appearance Wednesday.
UC sportsbook planned
FanDuel announced plans to “build out” from the United Center atrium a two-story “sportsbook lounge.”
Details on exactly where the lounge will be built — and when it will be open — are scarce, and the project is still pending Illinois Gaming Board approval, but it’s expected to feature “state-of-the-art viewing and sports-wagering technology, as well as a full-service team,” according to a press release.
Sportsbooks inside or next to arenas have become increasingly common — Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena has a PointsBet bar, for example — but it would be a notable addition in Chicago.
Toews at arena
Jonathan Toews remains out in the concussion protocol, but he was around Fifth Third Arena before the Hawks’ practices Saturday and Sunday — a good sign that he’s doing OK.
“It’s just a stage [of] step by step going through the protocol,” King said Sunday. “But he seemed like he was in good spirits, a good mood. He wasn’t moping around. That was nice to see.”
Jujhar Khaira also remained out with his lower-back injury, and Seth Jones played after missing both practices for maintenance.