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In the coming month, the Blackhawks could make a trade to give Jonathan Toews some help. The deadline is
February 28 2 p.m. on March 1st.
Or Toews could just start playing better.
That was what he did Sunday evening, when the Captain assisted on the first two goals, took advantage of maybe the Hawks' luckiest bounce of the season (off the boards behind the net) to knock in the game-winner late in the third and then set up Marian Hossa for an empty-netter. It all added up to a 4-2 victory over the improving Canucks. It was Toews' first goal since January 6 and only his eighth this season.
The victory gave the Hawks 65 points (30-14-5) and pulled them back into a tie with Minnesota atop their division and conference. But the team from the Twin Cities does have three games in hand (30-11-5). And while it doesn't count in the standings, there is also the matter of a Wild goal differential that is slightly better than the Hawks'.
If it has felt as though the home team has been eking out wins night after night after night during this campaign, it's because they have. Despite their impressive record, the Hawks have scored only 15 more goals overall than they have given up. The Wild is a plus-46.
So yeah, maybe the Hawks need to upgrade. And sure enough, specific targets have been leaking out during the past week.
It has also started to leak that the Hawks won't trade draft picks in the coming NHL talent disbursal because the event will be in Chicago this year and the home team wants to make sure it has a pick in the first round to pique (and peak) local interest.
Um, that not only defies belief, it also doesn't make a ton of sense. Last I checked, the Hawks are in the business of winning Stanley Cups every hour of every day (at least for the past decade). If they have a chance to use a pick to make a trade that would significantly upgrade their chances to win, they'll make the trade. Of course they need to hang onto some picks to build for the future but they are in a championship window right now.
And if Hawks fans are feeling good about the home team, especially if they've just won another Cup, they'll come out for the draft whether the Hawks have a pick in the first round or not. I hereby promise to purchase at least a pair of tickets to the festivities to do my part.
But would the team's traditional (at least in the last eight years) end-of-the-first-round draft pick be enough to buy a truly impactful top-six forward? It seems unlikely. Here is where things get dicey.
If the Hawks want to make a trade that will give their top two lines a real boost, they'll almost certainly have to move a very good player. That and the fact they have a surplus of defensemen means . . . the smartest guy to trade might just be veteran defenseman Brent Seabrook.
People, take it easy. I know Seabrook is an absolute core player, one of the true hockey warriors who has been a massive part of three championships around here. But if the Hawks are going to keep this thing going, they are going to have to take some chances on trading a few guys too early rather than too late.
That is the concept first formulated by someone smarter than me that says sometimes a team has to trade a player it thinks might be nearing the end of his peak while knowing that he might not actually be there. That way you get maximum value for the asset before it is too late. But the guy might very well turn around and have another cluster of great seasons post-trade, proving he was traded too early.
The Hawks need to make a few moves like this in the next few years. Now Stan Bowman and Co. may decide that hanging on to top defensemen Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson (both untouchable in my book) and Seabrook is so important in the near term that they are staying put and that would be OK with me.
But if you decide you absolutely positively have to have another big-time forward, just trading an end-of-first-round draft pick or a couple of prospects probably won't get it done.
And the Hawks have to be careful about trading groups of prospects after they have gone that route the past couple of seasons.
There is still plenty of time to think about this. Blackhawk trade talk started to heat up after a rough weekend before last but the deadline is, after all, still more than a month away.
And since that rough two-game stretch, the team has won three straight. The Hawks host the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday and Thursday, respectively, then break for the All-Star game in Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon.
After that, the possibilities are endless.
Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.