It seems a long while ago that Chicago had a team capable of winning the Stanley Cup.
After picking up three in just six seasons, the Blackhawks were on a high, the pride of Illinois and a force to be reckoned with in the NHL. Six years of mismanagement and off-ice turmoil has seen a sharp and sudden decline. The fans should be horrified, according to Reuters, and many are. Attendances are falling, and there seems to be no clear way back for the one-time darlings of the NHL.
On the ice, they’re in a mess. There are only four teams less likely to win the Stanley Cup than them this season in the latest Bwin rankings, and that’s not an unfair reflection of where they are. They’re seventh in the Central Division, having gone 3-6-1, and only the Coyotes are keeping them off the bottom of the table. They have bagged three wins in five recent games, but that’s nothing but early green shoots of recovery in a very rocky garden. They have no permanent head coach and face a long battle to regain their reputation and pride.
How can they do it? Here are three key ways that the Blackhawks can build themselves back up on the ice.
Get The Right Coach
There is no easy way to say this; Jerry Colliton’s reign sucked. He was too young and inexperienced to carry the team forward, taking over from a bona fide legend. Coupled with his complete and unwavering stubbornness, the writing was always on the wall. Derek King will take interim charge and will likely do so until the end of the season, but a new permanent coach must be found. The most obvious shout is an experienced man with a previous record of moderate success as a head coach. Jim Montgomery would be a great choice; he’s battled personal demons, previously coaching the Dallas Stars. His appointment would be a story of redemption that eclipses that needed by the team.
Sweep The Decks
This team is not doing well, and it is time for a clear out. There’s Dylan Strome, the center who is a pending arbitration-eligible restricted free agent, and Calvin de Haan, a pending unrestricted free agent. The team needs new blood, players not associated with decline, but with a new era. One exception is Dominik Kubalik. He is an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent after the season, and there’s going to be an urge to move him on to develop the team. That’s an urge they should resist and build a new team around his talents. Of course, the futures of both ageing legends, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, has to be settled. It wouldn’t be a popular decision, but a parting of the ways might be best.
Appoint a President
There must be a perceived culture change throughout the Blackhawks, and that starts right at the top. Stan Bowman held the roles of president of hockey operations and general manager, but there’s a feeling two new faces will come in to fill those positions. The president of operations has a significant task on his hands; changing the culture within the organization and repairing broken relationships with players, agents, fans and commercial partners. That is a gargantuan job that simply cannot also be split with a general manager role. An experienced president would facilitate a younger general manager, perhaps even the current interim incumbent, Kyle Davidson. The one stumbling block could be his rise under Bowman and perceived links to the previous culture.