It’s Monday so time to answer the mail. Angry and confused, or not.
Q: The sky is falling. [John] Madden and several other guys have commented recently that the Hawks have not been playing as hard as they can. Who is guilty of this? Who are the cancers on this team? Can you call out a few players who need to significantly step up their game? -- Jeff, Chicago
A: I don’t know about cancers, but I just think they have forgotten -- for lack of a better word -- what kind of work ethic it takes. Start with the fourth line. Where is the banging and crashing that they are suppose to bring, especially with Adam Burish back? It’s more of a collective feel than any one or two individuals, though. Jonathan Toews has a “C” on his jersey for a reason. He, Marian Hossa, and a guy like Madden need to lead the way. I don’t think Toews will stand for how things are going much longer. Wouldn’t mind seeing him lose it.
Q: What is the big secrecy around Kim Johnsson? He apparently received a concussion that has put him out for several weeks, yet we have never seen the hit that caused it or heard any details about his condition other than "day-to-day.” -- Lynette, Naperville, Ill.
A:They are secret about it because the NHL allows them to be. I don’t see why they have to be. I don’t remember the hit either, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Quenneville called it a collision, more than a hit, and he says he remembers it. As far as any details, there aren’t any more than he hasn’t been cleared to skate because he’s having problems, obviously. I’m assuming headaches and the like. So until that clears up, there is nothing more to report, though I wish they could be more open about it. Why Quenneville just can’t say, “He’s having bad headaches, say a prayer for him, and hopefully he’s back soon,” is beyond me. Obviously, it’s a serious injury for him to be out this long.
Q: Jesse, It seems Q has lost the team at this point. I know it's not ordinary to suggest a coaching change at this point of the season though it has happened before. The Hawks have not been good since mid-January and Q's mishandling of the goaltenders has made me question his tactics. Yes, we are missing two top-notch d-men, but we were not in January and the team was struggling then as well. -- Trent, Edmonton
A: I won’t argue with your basic point, but I will say this: Coaches make a lot of money and have a pretty good life when they have a talented team, but there are times when the special ones have to make a difference. This is that time for Q.
Q: So with all this big worry about the current state of the Blackhawks, I was curious if you had any insight as to how Toews is handling arguably the first real adversity he's faced as a captain. Is he stepping up to the challenge? Should he focus more still on just leading by example to get them out of their funk? -- Merideth, Los Angeles
A: Good question. My answer is, the jury is still out. I’m hoping he’s biding his time or doing it very quietly behind closed doors. I’m sure there are things going down that we don’t know about, just like on every team in any situation. Most keep it behind closed doors, and that’s a good thing. Having said that, as I wrote earlier, I wouldn’t mind him losing it a bit. No one wants to win more than him. I don’t doubt that. He has to make sure everyone else wants it as well. If not for themselves than for each other and the fans that pay the freight. And he needs to be out in front of the media even more. He’s the face of the franchise from a leadership standpoint, and he needs to be it every day from here on out.
Q: Simply put: dude, what's going on?! Today is the first time I'm worried. Coming off that embarrassing loss and the team meeting, you would think they would have come out [Saturday night] with a vengeance. Instead they got out-hustled and outworked by an inferior team. -- Dave, Crystal Lake, Ill.
A:Simply put, dude: I don’t know. If I did I’d be coaching. I’m with you, the second Columbus game woke me up to their problems, and it is a work ethic thing, in part. Especially on offense. I’m not sure what is happening from a team defense point of view, but at least we can say maybe they are adjusting to playing without Campbell and they are missing Johnsson. What’s the power play’s excuse? It can’t be all No. 51. A small part of me still believes we will see them turn it on as the calendar changes to April, but that’s only in a few days. The last five games will be telling for me.
Q: Hey Jesse, can you briefly describe the Chicagoland fan’s feelings on the current state of the team going in to the playoffs? -- Graig G., Fairfield, Calif.
A: Panic. That brief enough?