Musings

Fireside Chat – The Gang Stays Together Edition

The keystone combo lives to fight with each other another day.

Coming on the heels of the Blackhawks most exciting win of the season, John McDonough emerged from his palace high atop the United Center to announce to the unwashed that the future Hall-of-Fame coach and (likely) future Hall-of-Fame executive will indeed be back next year.

I get why this may come as a shock, or upsetting to some, but the path for the Blackhawks was chosen at the trade deadline when they shipped off Ryan Hartman amidst whispers that he and the coach did not get along. At the time, the Hawks were playing some of their worst hockey of the season (Hard to believe, I know). They had just lost 9 of 10 and were wrapping up a stretch of 7-13-2 hockey that all but vanquished any hopes of the playoffs.

If the coach had truly lost the room and the front office was looking for an excuse to make a change behind the bench, that was a golden opportunity.

Instead, Hartman was dealt and the slog of the regular season continued.

Since the trade deadline, the Hawks have looked like they did for most of this year: Stretches where they look great and stretches where they look not so great. In between that, there were games where they had absolutely zero chance of winning thanks to goalie play that can only be described as “sub-optimal.” Perhaps others saw it differently, but it seemed like the only time the Hawks ever “quit” on a game was when they realized their goalies weren’t going to give them a chance to win. The games in Winnipeg and against Colorado jump immediately to mind.

It reminds me of when the Hawks ran up against lesser opponents with goaltending issues in previous years. If the Hawks weren’t too busy playing with their food and could jump out to a quick lead, the 2 points would be in the bag by the 2nd period. I guess if you do this long enough, everything comes back around. Time is a flat circle and all that.

In the meanwhile since the deadline, there was still the continued growth of players like Alex DeBrincat, Nick Schmaltz and Vinnie Hinostroza. At the very worst, DeBrincat and Schmaltz have played their first full NHL season and will now be better off for it. Hinostroza has solidified his spot as a NHL regular, whether it be here or somewhere else. Are we painting a clear enough picture for maintaining the coach yet?

Sam has written enough words about Stan Bowman’s job that he could probably write his biography at this point. There’s no need to rehash that and nothing has changed since the trade deadline, save for a few contract extensions. Which, by the way, a team likely wouldn’t let a lame duck general manager do.

That brings us to their current contracts. Joel Quenneville still has two years remaining at $6 million. Stan Bowman was extended in January 2016 and his contract runs through the 2020-2021 season.

For an owner to hit the EJECT button at this stage for either of them, the Hawks would have to be looking at a Phil Emery/Marc Trestman type situation. Seeing as though this was a combination that won three Stanley Cups, brought stability to the franchise for a decade AND were missing their All-Star goalie for the majority of the season, you can understand a little leeway.

This whole episode almost makes me wonder if the Hawks could have learned something from the other teams in town and became more transparent with the media and fanbase. The cap was not going up and last year’s free agent class sucked to high hell. With nothing in the pipeline other than DeBrincat close to providing an impact, it was quite apparent the Hawks were going to be doing some heavy lifting with the roster.

Instead of the now cliched “One Goal” bravado and tough talk of how unacceptable a sweep to Nashville was, imagine if Stan Bowman laid the groundwork for his heavy lifting by preparing the growing pains on the horizon.

Would the Blackhawks have drawn any less fans this year if he said in August, “While we would love to see Connor Murphy be a top pairing defenseman from the start of the season, helping him reach the level of his projections when he was a 1st round pick may take some time and we will be patient with him through the process.”

Would there be a mad rush of season ticket holders looking to cancel their plans if he said “The ultimate goal is always the Stanley Cup but we do recognize in a hard cap league that developing your own talent is critical to sustained success. And developing that talent does come with some growing pains. So while you may see us take one step back in the short-term, we feel confident we’re putting ourselves in position to take three steps forward in the long-term.”

If anything, they probably would have avoided some of this scrutiny and definitely some of the anger. Instead, we’re served this Q & A done by friend of the program Scott Powers where the team president basically says in so many words that there was no long-term plan at the start of this year, and that the people in charge will come up with a new plan and what that new plan will be is going to be great.

Welcome to Halas Hall West.

 

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