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Suggestion Box Tips For The Blackhawks Ahead Of Their Town Hall Meeting

In addition, we are planning on hosting a townhall-style meeting next week with our fans, partners, staff and media to further explain the greater vision of the Chicago Blackhawks. Details on that are to follow.

We greatly look forward to bringing in the leader of our club's team operations who is going to help write the next chapter of championship hockey for this franchise."

The next big date on the calendar for the Chicago Blackhawks is the Town Hall they announced as part of their update on the GM search. That date is still TBD as far as I am concerned. I did, like an asshole, reach out and ask if Barstool Chicago could have their own personal town hall with Eddie and I asking all the questions. The Blackhawks graciously declined, but invited me to the actual town hall. I like having long conversations and I could see myself getting frustrated with that format. I always kind of hated high school and sitting there with my hand raised, not getting the answer I wanted because of time before they call on some other person who I don't like doesn't feel like the best format for me. I am not a traditional media person. They can orchestrate that setting better than I can. I'd rather wait for another opportunity for a sit down in the summer after the dust settles. I hope they give me and our audience that chance again. 

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In the meantime I am going to list a few of the ideas I have here. I will break down what I think will and/or should be discussed

Diversity, inclusion, and culture

Given how this year has gone I assume there will be comments off the top of the town hall detailing what the organization has done to improve the culture and what steps they will take to ensure that nothing that happened under the McDonough regime can ever happen again. Quite frankly...I just trust Danny Wirtz to do the right thing on this front. I've gotten to know him a little. I find him to be kind, thoughtful, and well-intentioned. I think he recognized somethings in the organization that he didn't like and that is why he pushed John McDonough off a cliff in Spring of 2020 and rightfully so. I believe that he genuinely wants to fix some of those culture problems. I just hope that the Blackhawks hire the best possible people regardless of any other factors. Find the best people who share your vision and morals and can get the organization back to a place where it is regarded as one of the very best in sports. The Blackhawks problems went beyond Kyle Beach. I think it is natural, to a degree, to do the opposite of what has been done before, but...you can go too far with that sometimes. There's a philosopher I like named Alan Watts who said "the road to hell is often paved with good intentions". That always stuck with me. Do you want to be the best organization or do you want to look like the best organization? Those are different things. 

Rebuilding Hockey Operations

The Hockey Operations department has been a JOKE for a long time. The paper mache of winning and great players acquired by other people covered up a department that was in disarray and snickered at by other organizations for a long time. 

I like that the Blackhawks have brought in outside help to analyze their current department and find the next leader. It should be a leader. It should be someone with extensive relationships and experience in hockey. The Blackhawks need to invest heavily in analytics, but even true blue hockey analytics people will tell you that you can't make on-ice decisions simply based on analytics. Hockey analytics are not predictive the way they are in baseball. If you rely too heavily on analytics your decision making in hockey will always be somewhat reactionary. 

I also do not understand the rush to name a GM prior to this coming deadline. Whoever the GM is will do the job that Kyle Davidson can do now. The market will dictate the return on players with expiring contracts. Let the next GM use those assets acquired at the deadline to start building the future. 

My dream scenario for the hockey ops department would be a "Team Of Rivals" situation. Leave Davidson where he is, bring in an analytics team, hire a senior management type above them, and set up a culture where people feel free to argue, challenge each others ideas, and eventually build a consensus based on reason that the top person can go to Danny with. Maybe that is Edzo. Maybe it is someone outside of hockey all together that would have fresh eyes and IMMENSE PROVEN people and managerial skills.  

The Coach

The organization is at a crossroads from a roster construction standpoint. They have a lot of veteran players in their prime who locked up on defense. They have Toews, Kane, and Debrincat as veteran leaders up front. Then they have a TON of young guys that they need to figure out what they're doing with and then if they decide they are here they need to develop them properly. Colliton was never that guy Stan tried to sell everyone on. The next coach needs to be a guy who can command respect from the veterans and then also be an incredible teacher. A guy who can get the absolute most out of Dach, Hagel, Reichel, Galvas, Mitchell, etc. 

A name that comes to mind is Jim Montgomery. Now...Monty has a ton of personal history/baggage that will likely eliminate him from a coaching position with the Blackhawks. I do think people can be redeemed and I believe in second chances, but I would understand if the Blackhawks didn't even consider him. BUT...that type of guy. I like Rocky Thompson A LOT, I've heard really great things about Louis Robitaille, maybe a Nate Leaman. 

On-Ice Future

The first thing the Blackhawks need to do is speak with Toews and Kane about how they want their careers to end. If they say they want to be here and finish here then the Blackhawks should let them. If they want to be here the then Hawks should offer each of them 2 year deals at a reduced rate. Maybe a combined $10M instead of $10.5M each. 

If they choose to stay then the Blackhawks are on a different path than if they're gone. 

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19+88 Path

If they stay then they should continue to push towards this playoff path even if they likely don't have enough to win the Stanley Cup. That is what I said that the beginning of this season. I thought the Blackhawks would be in contention for a wild card. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 14-16 best team in the league. Honestly, if they didn't waste an entire month+ on Colliton they'd probably be right there in the mix for a wild card. The Hawks are 9 points out of a playoff spot now. If they won just three games in October as opposed to fucking ZERO they'd be in contention. It's not crazy. I would be fine with a 3 more seasons of meaningful hockey with 19 and 88 and start the rebuild after that. There will always be time to rebuild. There will not always be another Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. 

I've always been a believer in having balance in your top 9. If the Blackhawks continue on the Toews/Kane path their top 9 starting next year looks like this

Hagel-Strome-Kane

Debrincat-Toews-TBD

Reichel-Dach-TBD

Obviously a lot of work to do. DO NOT pay attention to the numbering or ordering of those lines. I am not trying to tell you Strome is a #1 center, but the Blackhawks don't have a ton of young talent in the pipeline and he can be very impactful when surrounded by the right teammates. It is no surprise that Strome is playing the best hockey of his career right now that he is finally with a puck hound and an extremely skilled player in Patrick Kane. Strome has 11 points in his last 9 games. He is winning draws this year at a VERY impressive 56%. He's not perfect, but a coach's job is to get the most out of his roster. Colliton never understood that or was incapable. Strome had a ton of success his first year with the Hawks because he was playing with Debrincat and Kahun. Hagel is light years better than Kahun, but they have some similar traits. Strome can help this team get to the playoffs if deployed properly. Maybe you don't necessarily give him a QO and a raise, but he can be part of the immediate future. 

I am willing to assume some development from Dach too. He's had it so hard in the early going here because of somethings out of his control. He wasn't ready for the NHL at 18 and he also didn't have to earn a roster spot either. The Blackhawks were desperate for another top 9 center so they rushed him because Stan was trying to make the playoffs and save his job THAT year before McDonough was fired. Dach should've been playing in the WHL and working on rounding out his game and playing the WJC for Canada. The following year was cut short by Covid and Stan fucked him again by allowing him to go play for Team Canada instead of preparing to step into a top 6 center role at 19...broke his wrist a lost another year of development. Then he also had to play under Colliton and I've heard that Colliton treated him very shitty, like he did with many players, and that makes this a lost year in some regard too. We have seen spurts of brilliance out of Dach. The goal against Toronto this year. Some dazzling plays through the neutral zone in the past. He was fantastic and an impact player in the bubble against Edmonton and didn't look out of place against Vegas that year either. He has the ability to be a top 6 center in the NHL. He needs to work on a few things. I can't explain the face off issues, unless that wrist is still giving him some issues. Get better on draws, improve your shot, and get some confidence back. He's a good player. He can be VERY good. He is in the last year of his rookie contract. The Blackhawks might be able to get him for a steal if they sign him long-term at a cap hit that matches his production to this point. Then, hopefully, everything clicks for him and he plays consistently like that guy we saw in the bubble. Swagger, a little snarl, and size. He can do it. Give it time. 

Those 10 forwards, Jones, Murphy, and McCabe are a great place to start if you're building a playoff roster. 

Toews and Kane want to leave

Tear it all down. Keep Reichel, Jones, and maybe Hagel. Everyone else can be flipped this summer including Toews and Kane. Retain half of their salaries for 2022-23 to gas up the return of assets if needed. Without Toews and Kane you really only have two guys who are sure fire top 6 forwards and if that is the case what is the point of keeping Debrincat, Strome, etc when you're lottery bound for the foreseeable future anyways? Strip it down to the bolts, acquire as many assets as possible, go the Detroit route but with hopefully fewer detours. 

The Broadcast

It's the end of an era. Foley isn't coming back and Edzo doesn't have a contract for next year either for the first time ever. The broadcast this year has been a distraction. Almost every game feels like we are listening to the away feed at best. They've had a rotating booth and none of it has been perfect or fun. 

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Having said that...the internet is WAY too hard on Colby Cohen. Think of what he has had to deal with this year. New city, new team, organization in COMPLETE turmoil, no chemistry with any partner because they keep switching, and a team/organization that fans are looking for every reason to be angry with. That isn't his fault. If you don't like him, that is fine. There is no accounting for taste. I didn't like him in the beginning either, but he's gotten better and more comfortable as the year has gone along with everything working against him. Everyone who has ever started a new job in a new city should appreciate the learning curve that goes into that and afford him the same time that we all need. I certainly needed it when I started this job full-time in 2019 and I had been doing it part time for like 6 years. 

Having said that...the broadcast needs work and this is the time to try something radical. The Blackhawks want to be a forward thinking organization. Or at least they say they do. Here is an idea...two broadcasts. Have your traditional Comcast Sportsnet broadcast and then have a streaming broadcast. I was told by someone VERY high up at the Blackhawks that Colby Cohen was brought in to talk about hockey in a way that connects with a younger audience and then they put him in a spot where he has talk exactly how every broadcaster has talked for the last 30 years. Why?

Do a streaming broadcast that feels like a Manning-Cast. The Blackhawks are blessed with a TON of great personalities from the glory days. Give me Patrick Sharp, Shaw, and maybe Colby Cohen sitting around talking about the game and tell them to let it rip. You're on the internet. No FCC regulations. You could put it on the Blackhawks app and charge $7/month or something. Let your cord cutting audience stream the games and the broadcast that they want. If you want to connect to younger fans you have to give them something authentic and fun and a reason to watch. They have to feel a connection to the players and the organization that is based on more than nostalgia and geography. This could be and it could also be brand new found revenue for the organization. Hey Danny, Jaime, and the new EVP of marketing woman...that idea is free. My others will require a consulting fee and unfettered access to the team. 

There is a ton of work to be done to get this organization where it needs to be. I am getting increasingly nervous as press releases and rumors leak out. Having said that...I am an optimist by nature. Things can get better, but it requires a clear vision, an open mind, and a dedication to build an organizational culture based on competence. Danny Wirtz took over in Spring 2020. He's had 18 months to wrap his head around the good and bad of the organization. Now it is time to change the course for good. I believe he can do it if his hierarchy of principles are in proper order. There are 49 days until the NHL Trade Deadline. That is also about the time the Spring Equinox. Days are getting brighter (metaphor, bam).