If you wanted to make a good first impression on a goaltender you absolutely need to be at the top of his game for your team to make the playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks are showing everyone exactly what not to do. The Blackhawks are now 0-2-1 to start the 2021-22 season — the second loss a particularly ugly one as goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was chased from the net after allowing four goals on 10 shots in 11:25 seconds.
The question in Chicago should be, does Fleury not have it? Or, are the Blackhawks not ready to have a goaltender of his caliber on their roster?
Considering Fleury won the Vezina Trophy last season, the former seems less likely than the latter. Sure, the Vegas Golden Knights are a better team than the Blackhawks, which means Fleury’s numbers would be better. But, Fleury has a whopping 7.06 goals against average in two games and a lowly .826 save percentage. He didn’t go from a Vezina winner to this in one summer. Not only that, but it’s doubtful Fleury wanted to crap the bed against his former team (the Penguins) and in front of fans who absolutely adore him.
Patrick Kane said of the Blackhawks’ start to the season: “We obviously have to be better. There needs to be some urgency to get in the win column and play better and have better starts. I think we’re a good enough team, well-enough coached to get out from underneath this and turn it around.”
Kane said multiple times he has confidence in the team’s coaching staff to help right the ship but what happens if that doesn’t come quick? How long before the Marc-Andre Fleury trade talk starts heating up?
Fleury Won’t Be Up For This For Long
The veteran goaltender is in the final year of his $7 million contract. Before joining the Blackhawks, he considered retirement because he wasn’t keen on playing outside Vegas, where he had built a home, a life, and was hoping to retire. It took some time, but he took to the idea of moving to a new city and trying to make it go in Chicago. This is probably not what he signed up for.
Chicago spent a lot of money this offseason to improve their team and what they’re showing early is that it didn’t make a difference. As was evident on Saturday night, Fleury can’t win these games on his own. He needs help and as the second goal against demonstrates, he’s not perfect. If the Blackhawks aren’t going to show up and give him the assistance he needs, one has to wonder how long before the team looks to move the 2020-21 Vezina Trophy winner and recoup something for him.
He’s got a 10-team no-trade list he can submit if things really get bad this season. It wouldn’t be hard to envision a scenario where he expands that list if the Blackhawks continue to struggle. This may be the last year Fleury plays in the NHL. He certainly won’t have a lot of interested parties who come calling if his numbers look anything like this 20 or 30 games into the season.
Too Early, But Worth Watching
Perhaps suggesting Fleury would be trade bait this early in the season is a bit of a sky-is-falling painting that remains very much unfinished. Still, this is a storyline worth watching as the season rolls along.
Fleury didn’t come to Chicago to be embarrassed in what could be his last season in the NHL. If the Blackhawks aren’t going to compete, do the man a favor and move him sooner than later.
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