These are wild times for the Blackhawks and Redline Radio. For the first time in the history of the podcast it's truly fun being the Blackhawks guy and also for the first time we have the Blackhawks organization willing to talk to us. It's a new day and I couldn't be happier about. Danny Wirtz was kind enough to give us time on the podcast and overall I was very happy with the interview. There was one notable exception though...I fumbled my question about Stan Bowman and it's killing me.
The interview with Danny Wirtz starts at about the 21 minute mark of the podcast. After trying to ask questions that showcased who Danny is and what he's all about I shifted the conversation to John McDonough and Stan Bowman. Both parties are here are in a tough spot. Danny can't possibly be expected to have all the answers at this time. I was also a little nervous and didn't want to burn a bridge with the organization(again) the second it was built. I needed to ask about Stan, but I didn't want to ask it in the same way. I want to understand how Danny Wirtz arrived at the conclusion that keeping Stan in charge of the Hockey Ops department was the right decision. I wanted the question to be insightful while also being humble and respectful because there are a lot things we don't know and... I screwed it up. So my apologies.
I asked how the Blackhawks fans, fans like you and me, are supposed to reconcile Stan's failures of the past 5 years with Danny's personal trust in him. I was way too vague. I should've been specific. I should've cited examples. I should've asked how he can trust a guy who has traded every single first round pick(+Saad and Panarin) before they reached their second contract. I should've asked how Stan explained that his plan in 2018 was to make the team young and fast and he talked about guys like Hinostroza, Hartman, Schmaltz, and Anthony Duclair as the next core and then within like 12 months all of those guys were gone and they were replaced by Kunitz. I should've asked about the Quenneville/Colliton press conference where Stan, John, and Rocky looked us in the eye and said that firing Joel and replacing him with a coach who has zero experience was about trying to seize every playoff opportunity. I should've asked how Stan was CLEARLY trying to win this year by trading for Maatta, de Haan, Shaw, and Nylander, signing Robin Lehner, and drafting the most NHL-ready player available, and that plan of his resulted in the team finishing 12th in the Western Conference. I should've asked how Stan plans to fill out a roster with a flat cap when Seabrook and Shaw's combined $10.8M cap hit are no longer hidden on LTIR, Debrincat's big raise to $6.4M, a new deal for Kubalik, and maybe new deals for Caggiula and Strome...how does he put a competitive team on the ice given all of these self-inflicted cap problems?
Danny is a bright guy. If he feels good about Stan beyond the fact that Stan has a long and expensive contract, then I am sure that Stan offered answers to those questions, but I just can't imagine what they are except for "John made me do it". Which even if John did advocate for trading Panarin, Stan is the one who went out and executed a trade that returned 60cents on the dollar. And if he did trade Panarin even though he knew it was wrong because it is what John wanted, then how can Danny trust that Stan isn't just telling Danny what he wants to hear too? These are all questions I have but didn't properly execute and for that I am sorry. I do think we accomplished the goal of establishing a good relationship with the organization through one interview so maybe somewhere down the line I can get answers to those questions, even if they're not formally on the record.
After talking to Danny, I really think the Blackhawks are in good hands. I believe he wants to win. He wants to continue to have the Blackhawks be a flagship franchise for the NHL and the only way to do that is through winning. The right guy has his hands on the wheel and right now we have to trust him. This is a good day to be a Blackhawks fan and I can't wait to do it all over again on Friday at 545AM CST.