The Blackhawks Season Is Upon Us. Here Is Everything I'd Like To See From Our Favorite Team This Year

I woke up this morning with a little pep in my step and it was all because the Chicago Blackhawks have a game tonight. I think that makes me a sick individual. Preseason game #1 ahead of a season that is hopeless by design. I've been angry at worst and mopy at best regarding the Blackhawks for a long time now, but for whatever reason I am now officially ready start on the long path back to relevance. This is a new regime top to bottom. They're coming in with fresh eyes, and I personally feel that they deserve a fresh start. Judge them by their works not by the mess left by previous leadership. 

Having said that...we need to start seeing some of their works. The on-ice product, which is always going to be the most important thing, is going to take a LONG time to get back. This year is about growth, taking risks, and making the fan experience more fun. The Chicago hockey market can't be boom and bust like it has been historically. Hardest ticket in the world when they're on top of it and a ghost town when the team is bad. The organization needs to raise the floor of their fan base because as Michael Jordan said..."the ceiling is the roof" when times are good.

I am going to start my wish list with on-ice goals because that is what matters most

1. A Happy Patrick Kane

I am not ready to move on from Patrick Kane. I am going to cherish this season because it could very well be the last. I want to enjoy it and I want him to enjoy it too. I am hoping that Richardson can get the most out of potential linemates like Max Domi because I think at this stage of Kane's career happiness is largely derived from competition and production. If he feels like he is out there playing by himself that's going to be tough to watch. I hope he finds a way to be at about a PPG this year and stays healthy. If he's traded at the be it. I'd personally rather just have him sign an extension that allows him to finish his career here. I do believe that Kane gives them a faster track towards success and relevance. Keep him happy to keep that possibility alive. 

2) A More Efficient Seth Jones

Seth Jones is a piece for the future whether Blackhawks fans and even management like it. He is a genuine #1 defenseman. He isn't a Norris guy at this stage though. The glaring weakness in his game, from my amateur eyes, is transition defense. He gets flat-footed and reaches took much which leads to him surrendering the blueline. In the old man system he would often surrender that line and then subsequently follow that man who just beat him wide all around the zone. If the new system and Jones himself all him to play within himself I think you'll see a player with less wasted energy on defense. We'll see a guy who challenges opponents more with his feet, forces turnovers, and moves the puck up ice to more predictable outlets. He might still play 26 mins per night, but it will be a more effective 26 minutes. 

3) A Culture Of Smarts, Toughness, and Competitiveness 

This to me is the most important one. It feels like Davidson and Richardson will have considerable leash to establish the type of team they want here. The players will change, but the culture must be established before the cavalry of prospects and draft picks arrive. That has to start now. Immediately. My positivity about the direction of the team and the organization culture will evaporate quickly if we get to Christmas time and we are seeing guys doing flamingos, pulling up on races, not getting to the hard areas, and making stupid mental mistakes. That stuff needs to be cleaned up. I can't watch anymore teams with the Colliton stain on it. 

There was a great story from the late Jimmy Hayes about a time when he blocked a shot and his hand blew up like a black and blue balloon. Kane asked him what happened and he said "blocked a shot man" to which Kane said something to the affect of "Jesus, Jim. Just take the minus next time". That was a time when the roster was filled with future HOFers, You could take a minus on a tuesday in February against CBJ because they knew they'd probably still win the game and when it really matter the team would do everything needed to win a game. That isn't the case anymore. The one thing the Blackhawks lead the league in is guys who should be on the 4th line. They need to be playing every shift like their NHL future depends on it because, well, it does. 


In Arena Experience And New Traditions

When the UC is buzzing there is no better place in the world. It is big and imposing. When it's empty the building is cavernous. I went to a Sunday game at the end of February last year. They played the Blues and lost 4-0. There was never a moment to cheer or have fun as soon as the anthem ended. The anthem is great, but that can't be the highlight of the experience. There has to be other things to entice people to come to the game other than simply bad hockey and expensive beer. 

I think the pregame videos gotten stale. 15 years ago the Blackhawks had the one video that would walk you through the history of the team while the logo was being stitched. That was cool. Then...they started doing like 4 different videos. When the lights went down you knew you could run to the bathroom, get a hot dog, drink a beer, and get back to your seat before the anthem started. It's time to condense that and try something new or cool. I don't know exactly what that should be, but look at what Real Betis does as an example

Blackhawks games should be a party and the United Center should be a fortress. There is no fan participation or engagement once the anthem ends. The Blackhawks should be exploring new ways and new ideas to make the atmosphere more collegial. Nashville does a good job with this. Detroit fans sing "don't stop believing". Colorado went viral on their march to the Cup with this

Give us a reason to get out of our seats and give us a memory. That can be manufactured in an organic way. The Preds have never won a god damn thing, but those fans always show up because it's a great time. Just because the Blackhawks are an original 6 team and a "traditional" market doesn't mean they can just rest on their laurels and expect fans to come back. 


New And Authentic Content Pieces

The climb is always a compelling story if told the right way. Fans need to see exactly how hard these people are working to get this organization turned around. Less scripted. More behind the scenes. It should feel like a 24/7 or Amazon Prime behind the scenes. Allow fans to access the organization in a genuine way. Let us see Danny, Jaime, Kyle, Richardson, etc. Give people a look into their personalities. Let them see the work and the vision because the on-ice results are not going to be inspiring. Give the fans a reason to buy a ticket and watch a game because they feel a deeper connection to the people in the organization who are going to be here beyond this season. Have people emotionally invested because they watch something authentic and respond with "I really like that guy/girl". Fans need touch points and additional content that inspires emotion and faith now more than ever. The Blackhawks have never done that well in my opinion. Don't be afraid to put yourselves out there and not just distilled/edited PR driven version of yourselves. Authenticity wins and people can always smell it. 

Teaching Hockey Content

SO much ire from fans is often from a place where there is a lack of understanding. Even if you played the game at a high level it can be hard to fully grasp systems, reads, etc. This can be behind the scenes content with Richardson working with young players in the video room or it can be their guys like Brian Campbell or Sharpie in a more made-for-tv/internet content where fans can learn what the goal is and where things went right or wrong. There's no such thing as too much information. We are in an information age and hockey by it's nature is always going to have some hurdles because unlike football and baseball there isn't time during a broadcast to give a million replay angles after every play and time to discuss what happened. That content has to be produced outside of the broadcast. 

Make The Broadcast Fun

The Blackhawks have a good team now. That process was ugly and unfortunate, but hopefully it is in a better place with Sharpie and Troy Murrary involved (I don't think they are done adding to that team either). Patrick Sharp is genuinely a hilarious guy. If they let him be himself. Better yet…if they encourage him to be himself and the Blackhawks pre-post and intermission shows have a vibe similar to NHL/NBA on TNT they'll be in a good spot. I'd say less highlights and more stories. Make me feel like it's a great time and Pat Boyle has to begrudgingly put the kids to bed and get the group to a commercial break. That is the sweet spot. Especially this year. 

I want to have fun and I want to be proud of this organization again. I don't think on-ice success impedes either of those stated wishes if the organization can deliver better content and a better experience. It's right there for them and I am excited to see what they turn this opportunity in to.