Marc-Andre Fleury joined the Chicago Blackhawks via trade this offseason. The Vegas Golden Knights gifted Fleury to the Blackhawks and kept his contract. It was up to Fleury if he wanted to retire or play one season in Chicago. As we know now, he decided to play this season. Let’s just say the season has been eventful so far.
Last year, Fleury was the best goalie in hockey. What helped him was the amazing defense in Vegas. He played great hockey and won the Vezina Trophy. He was 26-10-0 as a starter, saving 92.8% of the shots on goal, and gave up just 1.98 goals per game. This year is a different story. He already has seven losses as a starter.
In 2021, Fleury isn’t the same player. The defense he had in Vegas isn’t comparable to the one in Chicago. On paper, the Blackhawks have a middle-of-the-pack defense. On the ice, it might be the worst in the NHL.
The Blackhawks are currently 1-9-2. Fleury has been left out to dry for most of the season. In moments where he has been helped, he still hasn’t been impressive. It’s still not all his fault, though. A team with Seth Jones, Connor Murphy, Jake McCabe, Calvin de Haan, and Erik Gustafsson should be playing better on defense. Instead of watching the puck go in between their legs and praying Fleury makes, they have to step things up.
Just watch this goal from Friday’s loss to the Winnipeg Jets. It explains Fleury’s entire season. Poor defense and being left out to dry. Unfortunately, goalies are statistically responsible for poor defensive play. de Haan and Jones watching the puck slip right past them isn’t shown on Fleury’s stat sheet. The goal is.
Blackhawks Defense is Struggling
Looking at that play, Jones isn’t a player worth $9,500,000 per season. That amount of money is against the Blackhawks cap each season until the summer of 2030. It takes players some time to adjust to their new role on a new team, but he’s played so poorly, it makes Stan Bowman’s final parting gift look even worse.
Though all of the players on defense have struggled big time, Jones is the most disappointing due to his massive contract. Can he turn into a star on defense? Yes. Is he ever going to be worth $9,500,000 per season? No.
For Fleury, he’s been stuck in bad spots all season. Kevin Lankinen hasn’t played much better either. We’ve seen Lankinen start a few games and come in when Fleury’s been chased out of next. It’s not as if the Blackhawks have a goalie they could switch to. It’s the defense, they haven’t been able to do anything. Both goalies have tried and failed due to a lack of defensive help.
Fleury has struggled this season and hasn’t been impressive, but he hasn’t had much of a chance to do either. To say it’s all his fault is a stretch. It’s more to do with sloppy play on defense and a lack of urgency from the team. One could assume it has to do with the coaching. That is on the Blackhawks’ front office.
Jeremy Colliton doesn’t coach with any urgency. He’s way too calm and that hasn’t worked with the veteran players. With the team having just four points in the standings after 12 games this season, Colliton’s leash has to be very short. It won’t be a surprise to anyone when he’s finally relieved of his duties as the Blackhawks’ head coach. Until then, don’t expect much change.
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