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.
- 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.