This blog is a two-pronged approach to getting back to the basics.
Firstly, how the Blackhawks can get back to the basics of winning hockey. What will it take to get back to championships level? A rebuild? A Justin Faulk?
Secondly, if you have been someone who has been reading and/or commenting on the message boards on this blog, you would know that I have been preaching a level of respect and personally trying to inject some positivity into our hockey lives.
At the end of the day, it's a game we're discussing; a game that pays individuals millions while we can comment from a Starbucks (or our couches) on our days off. I would like to get back to basics and add some perspective and get your stories on why you love the game and/or why you're a Blackhawks fan in the first place. Maybe this can add a level of humanity that has been missing at times on the boards.
Starting with how the Blackhawks get back to their winning ways. After what has felt like a long summer of no hockey already, I have spent a lot of time wondering how the Hawks could tweak to get this thing back on track.
Some disappointment snuck in when Stan didn't go out and grab a higher profiled defenceman on July 1st.
Some concern sunk in when Cam Ward was signed, leading me to believe that Corey Crawford may not see a lot of time on the ice this year. First and foremost, I hope the dude is healthy and gets back to where he was before he went down because he has been carrying this team for the last 3 years.
So, where to go from here?
There isn't an obvious answer to me from what I've seen and what my contacts have been telling me. One day I hear one thing, the next, the opposite.
The Hawks must have a plan, right? I wrote about this last week
What would I do? The honest answer as I look at the Central Division and the rest of the league is that the Chicago Blackhawks might be stuck in no-man's land for the next 2-3 years.
Although they do have a little more cap space than they have had in recent years, they will possess some difficult contracts of Toews, Seabrook and possibly Marian Hossa for the remainder of said agreements.
The Hawks appear to be stuck waiting for the Toews, Keith and Seabrook of playoffs past to appear. How long can they wait? Honestly, they don't have a choice because those contracts aren't the most moveable (well Duncan Keith's would be) and the catch-22 is they need these guys to rise up as their "baby core" is not quite ready to carry the load.
Then, pile on the mediocre seasons last year of a couple younger players that were supposed to help maintain the success in Connor Murphy and Brandon Saad.
Finally, add to this the uncertainty of an all-star quality goalie and his health.
The conclusion is there is a bit of a 1 step forward, 2 steps back syndrome happening in the Windy City.
Did I want Stan Bowman to sign Calvin de Haan and some help at centre? Yes.
After looking at the above, can I blame him for not doing so? No. I really can't.
This is not an "I love or hate Stan Bowman's moves" blog. This is bigger than that. Where is this team in 3, 5, 10 years and what moves need to be made to get back to Stanley Cup contention?
Well, the Blackhawks along with 30 other teams are losing sleep over the same question. So, they will have some competition.
I guess I'll really answer my own question stated above, "What would I do?" Well, I would mimic the Vegas Golden Knights and get as fast and smart as possible. I would add help at D but continue to be as mobile as possible (some help is coming there in Jokiharju, Mitchell, Boqvist). I would commit to this new strategy and plan to build around it from the ECHL level and up.
I would look to do the following:
* find a taker for Marian Hossa's contract (without mortgaging the future)
* add another piece on defence (Justin Faulk, Tyler Myers level) to help solidify the backend
* acquire help at centre; someone who can win draws and play a fast 200-foot game
* keep players who aren't 100% ready for the NHL in Rockford (I'm a huge Jeremy Colliton fan and think he is vital to future success)
* hit the ice in October with a new, ticked-off attitude and prove everyone wrong (this is on Coach Q and the leaders of this team to lead the charge)
* be realistic and if this season doesn't go well, acquire future assets and draft picks and look to reset again next year
You might not want to hear that last point, but without doing a full rebuild, the Hawks management has to continue to look in the mirror at this time. They need this mindset and transparency with their fans. The latter doesn't appear to be happening, I'm hoping more clarity will come before now and October.
There is a reason for fans to stick around if you treat them like adults and show them the plan. The Hawks have some exciting players coming up the ranks and Stan Bowman is finally re-stocking those bare cupboards. Are those players going to be good enough? Time will tell.
All I know is if you are a fan of the Blackhawks consider yourself lucky with championships in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
Now, quickly, to my last point. Why are you a hockey fan? What made you become a Blackhawks fan?
I'll go first, I grew up in a small town about 3 ½ hours away from Toronto. You would have thought the Maple Leafs would be my team of choice, but they weren't.
I didn't even like hockey until I was about 7 (which is very late for a small town Canadian kid, ha) and it was my brother who got me into the sport.
Why the Blackhawks?
When I get asked this question, I always reminisce about the time that I ran into (and proceeded to party all night with) half of the Blackhawks team in 2008.
Jonathan Toews asked me "Why are you a Blackhawks fan?" I didn't have a great answer as I stood there in my Tuomo Ruutu t-shirt jersey other than "eerrr…. I liked the logo and I was 7 years old."
I'm a very loyal person by nature, so from the second I start playing road hockey with my brother as Michel Goulet, Dirk Graham and Ed Belfour I was hooked.
I've been to about 7 different arenas to see the Blackhawks. In 2010, I was at games 3 and 4 of the Conference Final and then game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
I have met players, executives and scouts of the team and there is nothing better for me to come home from a crappy day know I can pour a cold beer and settle into a Hawks game for the next 3-hours.
This love for the Hawks and sports, in general, led me to 10+ year career in the sports advertising/marketing industry and I wouldn't change a thing.
We all love this team (well for the most part) and we should be all on the same team.
See ya out there!