Analysis: Where do the Blackhawks go from here?


Well, most of Blackhawk Nation has spent most of the last 24+ hours, mostly roasting a front office that basically pooped the bed spectacularly this trade deadline. So spectacularly, that it’s fair to say that only the few remaining One Goal True Believers would give Stan Bowman or John McDonough a pass at this point.

But somewhere in the calls to #FireBowman or #FireEmAll, the reality of the business of hockey settles in: mass firings and turnover in the front office would only add to the harsh economics of what the Blackhawks are dealing with. They have a lot of money invested in a “core” that is aging and starting to decline. The Youth Movement that was supposed to turn the franchise around, every year since 2015, is only now starting to gain a little traction in the form of Adam Boqvist and Kirby Dach—and still has a long way to go. And needs more prospects like those.

Put another way: abruptly firing John McDonough, Stan Bowman and Al McIsaac (among others) would cost a lot of money in terms of current employment contracts/severance agreements, etc. Again, with revenues to the team on the decline and perhaps about to go in freefall. It’s not easy, and I’m glad it’s not my money.

All that said, it’s not like Rocky Wirtz has spent the last 5 years meditating in the Himalayas. He’s hired and empowered this front office—and watched them in action— so he now very much also owns what they’ve done.

So what follows are some suggestions I have, based upon what I’ve observed in successful franchises—as well as some insightful fan suggestions on Twitter.

  1. Separate the business and hockey functions. Immediately, firmly, and permanently.

This is perhaps an even bigger, but simpler order. The Blackhawks need less cooks in the kitchen of hockey decisions. They have for some time.

There are those who continue to argue that based on what they’ve “heard” from “highly placed” sources, McDonough or “John” as some call him (GAG), never meddles in hockey decisions. However, by McDonough’s own oft-repeated account, he wants lots of visibility into hockey decisions, and there are many other sources who intimate that far too many hockey decisions at 1901 W. Madison have to go through extensive review and discussion by a lot of individuals.

Think about that. And then think about how the Hawks so often seem to wait too long to strike, and box themselves into a corner by waiting so long. Like they did yesterday.

There is a common sense argument, not to mention proven real world practice, that the only people making hockey decisions should be hockey people: scouts and general managers (preferably who come from a scouting background). Sure, by all means you have to get buy-in on the money, and the cap implications, from someone with a talent for numbers and an encyclopaedic knowledge of the CBA. Ironically, back when the core of the Hawks Cup teams was allowed to be perfected by Dale Tallon and Marc Bergevin and others, that numbers guy was, in fact, Bowman.

Let’s be clear, even with former Norfolk Admirals GM McIsaac as his official Hockey Whisperer, even though he’s allegedly shown up at at least one practice in a Hawk coaches’ warmup, McDonough is not nor has he ever been a hockey guy. And no, checking out Drew Leblanc’s “youtubes” does not make you one.

So maybe, even if you can’t part ways with McDonough for whatever reason, make him President of Business Operations, and hire a co-equal President of Hockey Operations (a person form a pure hockey background)—a structure utilized by other NHL teams and teams in other sports, like the Chicago Cubs.

If the current staff doesn’t like it and wants their old power back, let them go find it elsewhere. Life is full of choices.

Or clean house and start over with that structure. Not my circus, not my monkeys. Just use some common sense. For a change. Leave hockey to capable hockey people—and no one else.

And let me be clear, if Bowman, or even Bowman and Jeremy Colliton become the sole fall guys for this mess, but nothing else changes, do not expect the results to change. Bigger change is needed.

2. Be honest—finally—about the direction of the team

Ironically enough, this has become a popular refrain on Hawk twitter of late. Welcome to the party. We’ve been saying it over and over again for the last 2-3 years.

From what I can glean, Hawk fans have reached their saturation point with this marketing department’s BS and its influence on, if not the actual direction of the team itself, then at least how that direction is communicated (or not) to fans.

Fans who pay a lot of money for their tickets and jerseys.

It’s time for Rocky Wirtz—not freaking John McDonough or Stan Bowman—to stand before the media and lay out an honest vision for where this team is going and what fans can expect. Right now.

Are you really rebuilding?

Or are you trying to contend?

Depending on the answer—what is the plan?

How will you achieve it?

It’s simple. But unfortunately, the answer to those questions to this point, which the team seems to want to avoid addressing openly at all costs, is that they’re trying to do both. Despite the now annual disastrous results.

No one in the Hawk front office and likely Wirtz himself, seems to have the stomach for really tearing down and shipping out the team’s best players for boatloads of draft picks and cap room necessary to rebuild—”best players” who may not be good enough to even get the team into the playoffs anymore. At least not with the supporting casts and coaching Bowman (and the rest of the committee) provides.

So they just keep following the same script. One Goal. Anything Can Happen. We like our team, And we really like Dylan Sikura.

Sorry guys, the gig’s up. Everyone sees through it. And the bills—in terms of non-renewed season tickets, even flatter ticket resales and merchandise revenues—are going to get stiffer.

Just tell the truth.

Man up. And fix it.

Yeah, some of the post-2007 late arrivers may peel away. Yeah, there’s going to be a half-empty building for a year or two, but the proud Chicago Blackhawks and their longtime fans have suffered worse and for longer in the past.

Here’s hoping for a new and brighter day, not just for those of us at The Rink, but for all the fans we interact with on a daily basis, for the players, everyone associated with the Indianhead. We all deserve better.

Comment below.

Center Ice Forums Analysis: Where do the Blackhawks go from here?

Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)
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    John Jaeckel

    Well, most of Blackhawk Nation has spent most of the last 24+ hours, mostly roasting a front office that basically pooped the bed spectacularly this t
    [To continue reading full article, click here: Analysis: Where do the Blackhawks go from here?]

    Apparently, all goalies are Vikings


    This probably is a playoff team with a competent coach. Probably a gets smoked in the first round team but still. You have to think one of the veteran coaches is hired in the off season if they think they really are a playoff team.

    They’re 2 defenders and a top 9 forward away on paper (at least).

    Keith/Murphy, de Haan/Boqvist, Somebody/Maybe Mitchell

    Kind of scary when you put Maatta, Seabrook and coocoo in that mix.

    Especially if that bozo coach still has them chasing players above the circles like my ex girlfriends 6 year old kids team does.

    Toews, Dach, Strome, Kampf should be one of the stronger pivot groups in the west. Keith and Murphy are both very good NHL players. Its not like they are completely deprived of talent.

    It seems more like their management group wanted a yes man and is throwing shit at the wall to see if anything sticks since they lack the vision and ability to execute any semblance of a plan.

    This should have been a building year for the younger lads not the mess it turned into.

    Mister Ricochet

    JJ going back to your HB  days you know I’ve said the buck stops at Rocky’s desk.  He is ultimately the reason for the success or failure of the franchise.  The dysfunction is not Shovel Face’s or Stan’s, or anyone else’s, it’s Rocky’s and that’s what I posted at your HB blogs yrs ago.  In fact this is a copy and paste of what I posted in your last Rink entry when you asked what is the direction of the organIzation?


    “What hockey man can Rocky, or any owner, go to for help with this riddle?  McD doesn’t know a thing about the sport and is the point man as prez.  McD was the carnival barker to maximize a dynastic roster and line Rocky’s pockets with cash.  Not hard to figure out when some difficult hockey side organIzational decisions need to be made McD is not the guy to formulate a plan.

    Until they get a hockey guy to set a plan into motion McD will be running the thing until there are enough empty seats for Rocky to make a change.  So Hawks fans will watch a team, your words JJ, “that isn’t contending or rebuilding”, for  1 yr, 5 yrs?  Look for a red sea of mt seats for your answer.

    And I’m afraid the coach doesn’t matter when the organIzation has no direction.”


    My above post is how I’ve felt for a few yrs now and posted so. The managing of the cap, the corners they painted themselves into with contracts strangling any options to improve, the horrendous goaltending in the organIzation when Crow went down 2 yrs ago forcing AA pro guys up with the big club and the latest TDL fiasco we saw yesterday.  ……….. Surprised?  Well if you’ve followed the Hawks for even a little while you damn sure should not be.

    Wanna go down a list of missteps the last 5 yrs?  Why waste the time?  I do not need inside sources or dope, never did.  Simple minds simple solutions.  This is how I see the Hawks, or any franchise in any sport.   I took 1 golf lesson.

    Hit one ball with a 7 iron.  Asked the pro how was my swing?  He said don’t ask me the ball told you. Thing flew of the face, rose high and straight he said.  I said yes but my arm is bent. He again said what did the ball tell you about your arms, trunk, wrists, feet, legs?  Ball went straight, he said.

    Simple?  Indeed.  The Hawks are the ball and Rocky is the pro watching the ball.  My eyes see the ball and it’s slicing bad man.  McD is the arms, Stan the wrists, McIsaac the feet, you get the idea, of  this horse crap slicing ball.

    Rocky as the pro needs to make needed adjustments of the mechanics that cause the ball to slice into the next fairway. And until the mechanics are changed in the striking of a golf ball that has not made the playoffs in a world class city for 5 yrs why would I be surprised when they don’t make the playoffs for the 6th and 7th yr or I see another TDL disaster?  ………….. Surprised at the failure of the organIzation yesterday or the last 5 yrs? You should not be cuz your eyes have seen it for quite awhile now with little to no change of the mechanics.

    Phil M

    There is no way this is a playoff team and many problems have been around for at least the last 3 years. Somehow the powerplay is mediocre with one of the best offensive players in the league. After Boqvist and Keith the team is full of #6 or #7 defensemen.

    The goals of the team are to win championships and make money. At least that’s what I would think they are. If they aren’t then I guess it is okay for Rocky to allow this trainwreck to continue onward. If the goal is to win changes need to happen. The current front office have shown they are not capable of building a team. It’s time to clean house.


    Why do you want picks if you can’t draft?

    Enforcers save lives.

    John Jaeckel

    Well, most of Blackhawk Nation has spent most of the last 24+ hours, mostly roasting a front office that basically pooped the bed spectacularly this t[To continue reading full article, click here: Analysis: Where do the Blackhawks go from here?]

    Love all the comments, guys. Andy, Rico, great to hear from you guys.

    Apparently, all goalies are Vikings


    Wow, short memory, huh hocktock? If your suggesting his later round picks don’t pan out, fine. Early picks have done pretty well so far.


    John, as always a great read…but I’m not sure here  – your column from a couple weeks back calls for Bowman to be shown the door as you mentioned the ‘being born on third base analogy’ – this one is correct.

    As far as a tear down – it’s not possible with those contracts with the no movers (esp. Seabs) which Bowman handed out like candy at Halloween.  I keep hearing we need more defensemen – well how many can Stan bring in?  Murphy, Manning, Matta, Kookoo, DeHaan, Sealer – the list goes on…and then the kid whom he drafted in Joker he sends to Buffalo for a kid that absolutely stinks.  Q trusted Joker and when JC came he quickly fell out of favor – go figure.

    Bowman was handed a deep Cup team with the minors stocked…and he’s bled the thing dry and I contend his lousy work cost the Hawks at least another Cup.  I’ve been through it many times – but lest we forget the botched offseason moves of Leddy and Sharp in consecutive summers.  The horrid moves by Bowman in 15 starting with Sharp – of course Stan’s first move that summer was resigning – Runblad who was a pylon at best in the Ducks series that year – while letting Oduya twist in the wind before he joined Sharp in Dallas after Bowman was fleeced by Jim Nill.  Then Saad was moved for the center who was immediately signed to an extension as an FU to Saad’s camp. But the best was saved for the TDL in spring 16 when Bowman shipped Danault to the Habs for hot garbage and got no defenseman.

    The subsequent summer and the following two…

    Moved Shaw at the draft (finally he gets it right on the third time and doesn’t hold his cards)

    The following summer – shipped Panarin to the Jackets for Saad and the killer Hammer to the Yotes for Murphy…

    The next offseason a stellar UFA class of Manning Ward and Kunitz – which says I’m going to fuck the coach anyway I can by handing him this pile of crap.

    This season when he started with his guy…he actually tried to load up – adding Shaw back, and two vet dmen in Matta and DeHaan – DeHaan of course was available the previous summer, but why give Q a dman that can play? As well as some vet center/grinder depth… And he signed Lehner – which is itself an interesting riddle.  Lehner stood on his head for 2/3 rds of the season and apparently he was more vocal than Stan and McD liked – and never got a deal and instead was moved for very little.  Yet here’s Lehner saying the other day he would have taken 3 years and less cash to get a deal done, but never heard back.

    Bowman is a maintainer, not a builder as we’ve all seen – I give him full credit for adding around the edges and helping bring two more Cups in 13 and 15 – yet McD et all said last year when they fired a Hall of Fame coach and claimed this was a playoff team – these guys are living in fantasy land. McD of course is a PT barnum when it comes to marketing and conventions but if the players weren’t there when he took over none of his One Goal crap works.

    As Mr R says – until a hockey guy is running things this team is going nowhere.  And while it costs money to let these guys go – I wonder how Rocky is enjoying the empty seats and no playoff money three years running – there’s no way this team makes the playoffs. I’d love to see a new Hockey Ops pres. who picks his GM and coach.  But I doubt Rocky’s going to do it.  I think we’ll see another year without playoffs next year with a coach of a year instead of a coach of the year.

    But as bad as this is just think Ryan Pace could be running your team into the ground.


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