Dustin Byfuglien. Brent Sopel. Colin Fraser. Kris Versteeg. Ben Eager. Andrew Ladd. Adam Burish. Antti Niemi.
Eight key contributors from the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup championship team are now playing elsewhere in the NHL — several of them dispatched to the Atlanta Thrashers just two weeks after the Cup was won by the Hawks in Philadelphia on June 9.
This isn’t the Blackhawks’ fault — obviously, they’d have loved to keep most if not all of those players. But NHL salary cap rules meant the Hawks had to divest some players in order to keep stars like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
The early returns show it’s not working. The Hawks lost only eight games at home all last season. After last night’s loss to the Phoenix Coyotes, they are 4-7 at home this year, and at one point last night, coach Joel Quenneville got so frustrated he benched Duncan Keith:
Keith’s defensive miscues prompted Joel Quenneville to bench his Norris Trophy winner the last 3:53 of the second period. Keith ended up playing a season-low 20:55.
“Everybody has stretches when they’re on top of their game and they’re at their best and some games where you’re looking to try to keep yourself in the game and get through it when you can better yourself,” Quenneville said of Keith. “He can be better.”
When asked if he had benched his star defenseman for poor play, Quenneville replied, “Yeah.”
The Hawks will soon embark on the two-week “Circus Trip”. The way they’ve played at home so far, maybe being away will help them find the right combination. They’ll visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.