Daily Herald
Hawks wasting favorable early schedule
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Columnist
Published: 10/31/2007 12:11 AM

The holes you see in the Blackhawks' roster are the same ones general manager Dale Tallon sees.

This is not to suggest Tallon is close to making a trade, but believe he is out there looking to do something sooner than later.

The Hawks still need another veteran defenseman, a good one, and they look to be a scorer short up front -- especially if Sergei Samsonov, Rene Bourque and Yanic Perreault are going to continue to be unproductive.

Tallon can read the schedule just like the rest of us. The first half of the season was when the Hawks were supposed to gather the points if they planned to be playoff contenders in the second half.

The Hawks already have let several precious home games turn into losses against Columbus, Atlanta and St. Louis, and they are 3-4 at the United Center. Good teams don't lose those games on home ice.

This was the favorable first-half schedule with 21 of the first 36 games at home, but if the Hawks don't turn it around soon, it's going to be Jan. 1, all those home games will be gone, and they'll be facing the nearly impossible task of trying to play catch-up on the road to reach the postseason.

Right now is when the Hawks need to do some damage and get points. It's getting later than they might think.

Same old song: Patrick Kane can be forgiven because he just got here, but Hawks fans had to cringe after Saturday's 3-2 loss to Atlanta when they heard the 18-year-old rookie explain what is not going right with the offense.

"We need to finish our chances," Kane said.

Ugh.

Am I the only one tired of hearing how the Hawks need to finish chances, or drive to the net harder, or create more traffic in front? It seems as if we've been hearing these same explanations since the Hawks had their last great offensive team in 1995-96, when Chris Chelios, Jeremy Roenick, Gary Suter, Tony Amonte, Bernie Nicholls, Eric Daze and Joe Murphy each had more than 50 points.

The Hawks scored 273 goals that season on the way to racking up 94 points. The Hawks haven't scored more than 211 goals since 1999-2000, and over the last six seasons have averaged fewer than 3 goals per game.

A lack of offense is looking to be a serious problem again after 11 games, but it's hardly the only reason for there to be concerns. Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin hasn't been as sharp as the Hawks need him to be, either.

Perhaps it's time for Tallon to find out if there is a contender out there unhappy with its goaltending, one that might be interested in Khabibulin and able to take on his $6.75 million salary.

Moving Khabibulin wouldn't be easy, considering he has next season left on his contract as well. Do the Hawks need Khabibulin to make the playoffs, or could Patrick Lalime and Corey Crawford get the job done in tandem? It just might be a question Tallon has been asking himself lately.

tsassone@dailyherald.com