Chicago’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

February 24th, 2015 was not a good day for Chicago sports fans.  Not only did Derrick Rose’s sad, injury-plagued career take yet another turn for the worse when it was announced that the star point guard would need to undergo his third knee surgery in as many years for a torn meniscus in his right knee, but Patrick Kane, the all-world right winger for the Blackhawks, fractured his left clavicle in a game against the Florida Panthers and is expected to miss 12 weeks.  To put it simply, this is a knockout combination of nearly unprecedented proportions.

So what does this all mean for the Bulls and Blackhawks, respectively?  And what does it mean for the NBA and NHL playoff scenarios?

Clearly Derrick Rose’s injury (the exact same malady he suffered in 2013) is a crushing blow for the Bulls’ title hopes. Despite the surprising success of the upstart Atlanta Hawks, the Bulls have heretofore been widely considered the team most likely to represent the Eastern Conference in the Finals when all is said and done.  But if the Las Vegas sports books are to be believed (and they should be), that perception will be proportionally shredded along with Rose’s meniscus.  Indeed, according to ESPN, the Bulls’ championship odds in Vegas have already plummeted from 8-1 all the way down to 20-1.  While the Bulls certainly possess enough residual talent to present a formidable playoff challenge to anyone, their assured downfall is good news not only for the Hawks and Raptors, but also for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers; whose odds of returning to the Finals continue to improve by the day.

Patrick Kane’s sudden and shocking clavicle injury is no less jarring in the Windy City.  In fact, unlike Derrick Rose, Kane has thus far enjoyed a mostly injury-free career.  His 10-12 week rehab timeline essentially means that he will miss the remainder of the season unless the ‘Hawks are able to reach the Western Conference Finals (and even then his return would be no guarantee).  Though loaded to the gills with talent (including the OTHER all-world winger, Jonathan Toews), the Blackhawks have hardly been world-beaters this season.  With 77 points in the standings as of this writing, they are only four points clear of the Winnipeg Jets, who currently occupy the first wild card position.  Still, Kane’s 27 goals and 37 assists in 61 games has unquestionably been the club’s bright spot this season.  Conventional thinking in hockey circles is that the quasi-dynastic Blackhawks would be able to “flip the switch” come playoff time and kick their game into a higher gear, but without Kane occupying the right wing of Joel Quenville’s top line, that prospect has taken a massive hit.  Like in the NBA, hockey’s two western divisions contain a vast majority of the league’s top talent and it is extremely difficult to imagine Chicago making it through that gauntlet without its best player.

The long term prognosis for both the Bulls and Blackhawks is also somewhat up in the air.  Derrick Rose’s career is quickly turning into a sad lament and the Bulls will have some excruciatingly difficult decisions to make in the very near future.  The seemingly blessed Blackhawks, meanwhile, have issues of their own.  Even when Patrick Kane returns at 100% next season, the team as currently constructed will certainly be quite a bit different.  Thanks to the NHL’s hard salary cap (something the NBA very desperately needs), the ‘Hawks will have no choice but to part ways with many of its key players over this upcoming summer; left winger Patrick Sharp will almost certainly be one of the cap casualties.  Thus, both clubs will be entering what promises to be a tumultuous off-season full of agonizing roster decisions.  Will February 24th, 2015 be looked back on as the day Chicago winter sports died?





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