Everything Else

Look Who’s Talking

I’m sure you’re surprised that in the middle of the team’s first winning streak in a season and a quarter (they last won five in a row or more in December of 2017), John McDonough pops up for an in-depth interview with The Athletic. That’s a little harsh on McD, who doesn’t hide totally when things are going poorly. But it also does seem a tad convenient.

The other caveat is that I’ve always thought it was folly to read too much into what McDonough has to say about on-ice issues. He has been, or may still be, involved in some decisions. And he is the boss. Whatever “plan” the Hawks have (and we’ll get to that), basically starts with him at least giving it the ok. That said, I doubt he could tell you what the difference is in defensive systems from Q to Jeremy Colliton is, or why this winning-streak is empty when you look at process. Still, his voice matters.

And there’s some real gobbledygook in here. Let’s go through it:

Well, you’ve got to feel better about where things stand now than you did four or five weeks ago, right?

Yeah, I feel better about it. We got off to a rough start. I recognize that this is a roller-coaster, that we’re going to have those ups and downs. But being tested like you were for seven or eight games where you’re down two or three goals, I learned a lot about our team. I learned a lot about our coaching staff. I learned a lot about our management. There was no finger-pointing. There were no alarmists. We rode it out. There was a sense that this could get worse before it gets better, and it did. But I don’t think we’re in a much different place. I’m really pleased with the five-game winning streak, that’s good to see. But this going forward, I think, is going to be all about the process as opposed to the plan. People want to know, what is the plan going forward, like there’s some master plan. I think it’s a really healthy process. I’m very proud of Jeremy (Colliton). He was put in a very tough situation, replacing a legend, an icon, an institution, a Hall of Famer, a classy guy that was a primary reason that we won three Stanley Cups. I’m very proud of the job he’s done and I’m excited about our future. Very optimistic about our future with Jeremy behind the bench.

Um, ok, but did you miss all that finger-pointing your GM did at your former coach? Does that count? Because he was pretty clear on it. It’s rare that finger-pointing comes in the signings and then discarding of actual players, but hey, the Hawks are cutting edge, remember?

Hey, it’s great your coach, who has been coaching on this continent for barely 14 months when you hired him, didn’t hang his players out to dry. Because that’s something he totally could have done without losing them forever. And you got lucky that your players didn’t do that to him, which they easily could have. Then again, let’s watch Duncan Keith’s play from that time and decide what that was about.

I have no idea what the “process as opposed to the plan” line is all about. The Hawks have never outlined any kind of plan. They can’t even decide what word they want to use to describe where a plan would go. Can you have a process without a plan? Isn’t a “process” executing a set “plan?” Then McDonough basically says that there isn’t a master plan–which, great–but that it’s a really healthy process. What in the ever-living fuck could that possibly mean? This is right up there with Stan Bowman’s assertion years ago about Marian Hossa returning from injury, “There’s no timetable, but he’s on schedule.”

I believed that this was a playoff team. I believed in our roster. But we’ve had circumstances to deal with. Corey’s been in net for, I think, a third of our games in the last year. There’s been a lot of roster turnover. 

Ok, but if you thought this was a playoff team, and you fired Quenneville because you didn’t think he was going to lead them there, why was there so much roster turnover? Did you think the old roster was playoff-worthy? Or this one? And you’re wrong on both counts anyway. But hey, sellout-streak!

No, because we weren’t there then. We weren’t there then. I was disappointed in last year, but I didn’t think and Stan didn’t think that, in fairness to Joel, that was necessarily the right time, either. And we get back to what we talked about before — what is the right time? Is it based on a losing streak? I think it’s more based on feel. There was a sameness that had crept in. So we made the change and I think we’re going in a good direction right now. But we don’t get caught up in the bounce that we have right now with the winning streak, and we ride out the tough times and we try to improve the team every day.

I just can’t buy this. The Hawks wanted to fire Q in the summer, and you know that because 15 games is never enough of a sample to decide it’s not working. You’re looking for an excuse to get where you wanted to anyway, but it allows you to do that after single-game tickets have gone on sale.

Also, and I don’t expect this to come from McD but I can only hope and pray that Bowman and Colliton know better, is that the “good direction” the Hawks are on now is really nothing more than a few good bounces. The process on the ice still sucks, and giving up over 90 shots tot the Canucks and Red Wings, whose players have to wear helmets off the ice too, is proof of that (which to be fair, came after this was published, but the trends were still there).

We want to be a playoff team and then once you get in, anything can happen. 

This is a garbage sentiment and a team that’s been plastering “One Goal” on our psyches for a decade should know better. The two 8-seeds in recent memory to make big runs were the Predators in ’17 and the Kings in ’12, and both were preseason favorites that underperformed for most of the regular season. They became what they should have in the spring. They didn’t “come from nowhere.” The idea that anyone can just get in and run the table is an old myth. Generally, you’ve got to be amongst the big boys consistently, even if that means finishing second or third in a division. Because that usually comes down to OT bounces anyway.

This is an organization that prided itself, and couldn’t wait to tell everyone, about the consistent greatness they were striving for. Not “We’re gonna roll the dice because hey, maybe it’s our day?” Think harder, Homer.

I think he’s smart enough to get the opinions of his group, and then he ultimately makes the final decision. And then we kind of talk about it and we go with his feel and his recommendations. 

So Stan is the final decision maker…until he runs it by you? That’s…not encouraging.

On Seabrook and Keith: I think both of them are very valuable members of the organization. I’m thrilled that they’re part of this. They’re decorated, potentially future Hall of Famers. They’ve been through a lot. And I’d like to see them be a part of the group that helps us surge again…(Seabrook) has had a brilliant career and he’s great in the locker room. He’s a terrific human being. I think he’s the ultimate leader. So yeah, it does bother me, because he really, really cares. But I am confident he’s going to be a part of this going forward.

Then why did reports of the team asking him to waive his NMC get out? That doesn’t happen on accident, especially with the Hawks. Obviously, McD isn’t going to come out and say, “Despite his accomplishments we have to get this bloated nacho graveyard off the roster immediately!” But look at this with any sort of critical eye and you see right through it.

On Quenneville: These are very tough decisions that are professional decisions, they’re not personal decisions. He and I spent a lot of time together. A lot of time. Didn’t agree on everything.”

I am dying to know what it was McDonough and Quenneville didn’t agree on. Please tell me the hockey arguments that went on here. I need this.

And how he handled it, how graceful he was in how he handled winning — he never pointed fingers or felt that the roster was inferior when we went through tough times.

Ask Connor Murphy about this one.

It’s McD’s job to try and say things without really saying anything. And there’s not much to be gained from the president decreeing much from the mountain top, because we can only hope he’s not that involved with what we really care about, the on-ice product. So much hinges on the summer. But this was some Grade-A funny shit at times.

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