Hockey

Weekend Update – Rocky Likes His Guys and Other Flotsam

Though it looks less likely that we’ll get more hockey this year with each passing day, that doesn’t mean the Hawks aren’t not doing anything. Here’s a weekend update about the goings on with the Men of Four Feathers.

– In an interview with Scott Powers, Rocky Wirtz said that there will be no front office changes in the near future. That means all your favorite stars like John McDonough, Stan Bowman, and Jeremy “Please Stop Saying I’m the Worst Coach in the League” Colliton are sitting pretty on the velvet couch of the Blackhawks Brain Trust, where you can suck for three years and still make bank.

With this decision, Rocky Wirtz has finally given us a morsel of what the plan is. And that plan is to continue being an abysmal defensive team coached by a stubborn putz whose system clearly doesn’t work with the guys he’s got, and generally managed (though we use this term in its loosest form) by a man whose solution to his bad defense was to make it slower and ouchie-er.

If we needed proof that Rocky doesn’t watch the games at all, this:

“Well, if I wasn’t confident, they wouldn’t be employed,” Wirtz said. “Yeah, I’m very confident. Like I said, we had a good run, but that doesn’t mean when you’re drafting 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th … You know it’s a young person’s game. You have to put work in there. Stan, right or wrong, after ’10, ’13 and ’15, you essentially had to trade half your team away. Yeah could we have been a dynasty if it was back in the Edmonton days? Of course. The 2010 team could have been around for a long time. But with the salary cap, you couldn’t do that. It is what it is. You got to work within the system.”

There you have it. In what’s becoming a theme around these parts, the Blackhawks brass is reaching back to the greatest hits to justify things they’re doing five years after the fact. If the whole point is “You got to work within the system,” what’s inspired confidence that Bowman’s been doing that effectively? Was it the Brandon Manning signing two years ago? Was it trading Jokiharju for Nylander the Lesser last summer? Was it signing Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan who suck and have no shoulders, respectively, last summer? We know Bowman had to rip those championship teams apart. We were there. What does that have to do with what he’s done lately?

Rocky’s got some thoughts on that too, buddy.

“I’m very optimistic on some of the young players,” Wirtz said. “It’s the system we have in place to draft and then develop players I think is good. I think that’s what you’ll see. If the system’s right, then we’re going to be OK. I think that’s the key thing. So, I’m optimistic. I don’t do doom and gloom and stuff.”

The system they have in place is good and maybe right, he says. The same system that hasn’t produced a worthwhile defenseman since Nick Leddy. The same system that can’t find a spot for Dylan Sikura but has all the time in the world for Matt Highmore and Brandon Hagel. Kirby Dach has been a hit so far, yes. As has Top Cat. But who do they have down there who’s going to change anything who isn’t already here?

It’s one thing to be optimistic. It’s entirely another to be totally removed from what’s going on. But really, why should Rocky worry? People were still showing up in droves, after all. And what’s more important than packing the house and filling the coffers? Certainly not changing a system that clearly doesn’t work. Why do that when you can just not?

Rocky goes on to talk about players from Europe, such as Artemi Panarin and Dominik Kubalik, and he’s not wrong. The Hawks’s European scouting is outstanding. But to assume that guys like that will still just want to come play for the Blackhawks is dangerous and presumptive. It’s been three years since their last playoff appearance. Riding “We’re the Blackhawks” won’t have the same pull soon enough, especially with the most recent track record.

The last two years have brought us historically bad defense from the Blackhawks. It took them half a year to get Dominik Kubalik—now their second-leading goal scorer—out of the bottom six. Before Boqvist’s injuries and the season suspension, they were leashing the one kid who could drive play from the back end for . . . what? To improve his defense? You don’t get to say you care about defensive development when you’re icing Nick Seeler, Slater Koekkoek, and Dennis Gilbert at any time for any reason with a straight face.

But hey, at least now we know what the plan is. Just kind of hope shit works out. Rocky likes his guys. You wonder what Kane, Toews, Keith, and Crow think about that.

­– But it’s not all bad news with the organ-I-zation. Credit to Rocky (and Jerry Reinsdorf) for agreeing to pay all United Center game-day employees through what would have been the end of the regular season.

It would have been more of a surprise if the organ-I-zation hadn’t done so. If you’re cynical, maybe you look at this simply as good PR. If you’re optimistic, you see this as them simply doing the right thing. We’ll choose to be optimistic on this one.

On top of that, the Hawks committed to matching donations of up to $100,000 to the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund. Both very good things to do, and both things that take the sting out of Rocky’s “We like our guys” oafery.

That’s it for now. Stay safe, stay isolated, and keep watching the skis.

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