So is this reverse Groundhog’s Day, when Rocky Wirtz comes out of his office to say something publicly? And are there construction workers outside his office yelling at him about Andrew Shaw? Inquiring minds want to know.
Anyway, if you didn’t see it, Rocky had an interview in Crain’s today. And really, the only newsworthy bit about it is that Rocky spoke publicly at all, which he’s not really prone to do. But what people will focus on is that Rocky hints that there will be changes, where exactly he doesn’t say, if the Hawks don’t come strong out of the gates next season.
And really, this isn’t a surprise. The Hawks haven’t been a factor in the playoffs in three seasons, which puts them basically on par with a lot of shitty teams. Here are a list of teams that haven’t even spasmed a playoff series win in the past three seasons: Florida, Carolina, Flyers, New Jersey, Columbus, Toronto, Montreal, Buffalo, Detroit, Minnesota, Arizona, Vancouver, LA. This is definitely not a group you want to be among. And on this list, you could easily say that Philly, New Jersey, and Toronto have much brighter futures than the Hawks do at the moment.
So clearly, the Hawks need to change their fortunes, and I don’t think it’s suggesting much to say that Q might want to get his troops roaring out of the gates or he might want to get a resume ready. Sure, maybe you could axe Stan instead or at the same time, but firing a GM in the middle of a season hardly makes any sense because there’s not much a GM can do if he takes the job in November unless you’re looking to really wheel and deal at the deadline. And almost always that’s a tear-down, and this Hawks team can’t be torn down even if that’s something they would ever consider (and it isn’t). The Hawks’ wheeling and dealing will come this summer, or it had better, and Stan will deserve one season to see how that turns out. A new coach can at least take the same toys and deploy them differently–so maybe this time next year Hawks fans aren’t watching a d-man who their coach only paid attention to long enough to urinate on star on the top four of the team leading 2-1 in the Final, for example.
This is the NHL. You don’t get four seasons of not mattering unless you’re the Sabres or in some forgotten outpost like Sunrise or Glendale. Especially when you’re doling out some of the contracts the Hawks are at the moment.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Rocky interview–especially in Crain’s–if he didn’t get to cry poor a bit and lo and behold, there’s the “only 85%” renewal factoid. Of course, that 15% (something about that number in this town. IT’S A FUCKIN’ PLAYGROUND!) was immediately gobbled up by the waiting list but at least Rocky noticed. It was somewhat shocking that Rocky didn’t go back to the “we still lose money” shelter he’s been using since he took over, even with ticket prices tripling or more in the 11 years he’s had the team.
What’s clear, and I’ll give Rocky this, is that the Hawks sure can use playoff revenue. Whether I think they’re actually in the red or not (I don’t), I wouldn’t presume to think they’re so much in the black that five or six home dates in the playoffs don’t make a difference. Seeing as how the Hawks have had five playoff home dates in three seasons, you can bet it’s made a difference on the big black ledger. Yes, I’m absolutely sure the Hawks still do their numbers by hand because why not?
So it’s only natural for the owner, the one signing the checks after all, is going to balk at losing out on that. We know that McDonough has made basically everyone’s life hell over there this season with the Hawks’ failings, so everyone is on high-alert.
I’m sure I could read into it more about Rocky’s comments on the contracts the Hawks have handed out, but there’s no point. Rocky isn’t going to sell Bowman or McDonough out like that by saying, “Well Seabrook’s contract is a goddamn iceberg and he’s not even that mobile so fuck!”
And in general, though not always, Rocky has been pretty hands-off and certainly hasn’t attacked the spotlight like other owners would or could have with the success he’s had. Sure, he stepped in it a bit with his comments about Patrick Kane, but he’s hardly alone and I honestly don’t know what else he would have done. Other than that and his occasional poor-crying, Rocky has been happy staying in the background and I’d rather have that than a hockey Mark Cuban, or wannabe G.I. Joe in Florida, or whatever this new nutjob in Carolina is going to do.
Unlike his president, Rocky is certainly smart enough to tell you what he doesn’t know. I guess we should worry about who will be making the decisions should massive changes come, whenever that day is. But then Rocky is the guy who knows that he needs to find the guys who know to make those. He’s not his father, after all.