Everything Else

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.

Everything Else

Well, not all things. But there are a couple things out in the bloodstream I’d like to talk about. The first was this from last week’s 31 Thoughts by Elliote Friedman. Before we get to the actual merits of the idea McDonough suggested at the GM meetings, I can’t help but smirk at the, “But we’re still paying them, right?,” line. Really lets you know where things are in the minds of really all presidents and owners. Yes John, you’re still paying them. Just like NFL players that don’t dress on Sundays (there are seven of the 53 who don’t), or the guys in suits at the end of an NBA bench. What McDonough is really asking here is probably more to the point of if they can find a way to not pay them then to sub them in.

But it’s his idea of having the option of subbing in players mid-game that gets the press here, and I have to say it’s at least worth thinking about. Much like a sub in soccer, it would bring one player out for the rest of the game while keeping the subbed in one involved the rest of the way. Injuries wouldn’t be as serious to a team in a game if after the period or even immediately you could dress one of your scratches.

The strategy of it would be the real watch. As this season has gone along I’ve been more and more leaning toward seeing teams dress seven d-men and have 11 forwards, and having your three or four best forwards get the extra shifts. Just here in town, what would be more preferable: getting Andreas Martinesen 12 minutes or seeing Kane, Saad, DeBrincat getting an extra two or three minutes? Think of it like batting your best hitter in the #2 spot. It’s become the new thing to do, because over a season you wring an extra 50 or more ABs. Well, two-three minutes a game over a full season probably nets you more goals, and these days things are settled on a handful of goals for or against.

This would only extend that. Down in a game you could bring in your cowboy d-man whom you’re afraid to play over a game or your shutdown guy who can’t really be trusted either. Or an extra forward if you want, It probably can’t sway too many games because if a certain player was that good he wouldn’t be scratched anyway. But still, it provides intrigue.

There’s only one downside that I can see: This would give coaches an easier outlet to have a goon/thug on the roster and only play him for a period. You can easily see a team getting whomped one night and a coach reaching for perhaps the most childish and dumbest hockey tradition of “message sending.” So out for the third comes whatever barely developed beast the team has out of the cage where he was tossed raw meat and fish heads to “stir shit up” and really cause a scene. You know this would happen. And we’d all be dumber for it.

There are obviously questions. How do you keep these players warm for a period or two? Simply riding the bike isn’t going to be enough. Can they get a five-minute skate at intermissions before the zambonis come out? Maybe, maybe not, and with the intermission mishegas it’s even less likely. But there’s probably a way.

It’s worth thinking about. The NHL shouldn’t outright dismiss any new ideas right now, and this doesn’t significantly warp the game while giving coaches more options and keeping players more involved. Maybe teams are more tempted to give their stars nights and periods off if they can, and keep them fresh for when it really matters, which really should be a bigger concern in the league. It’s worth talking about.

-As for McDonough’s day job, I see more people yelling at Lazerus and the other beat writers about who will GM the Hawks next year. I think a history lesson is important.

You may not have been around then, but when McD and Rocky first took over they knew enough to know they didn’t know jack or shit about hockey. So they brought in Scotty Bowman as their de facto president of hockey operations. It was Scotty who told them they’ll never figure out what they have on the roster if they don’t get a real coach in there, and only waited four games to whack Denis Savard thanks to Quenneville’s DUI the previous summer. (and it was also Scotty who probably told them to find a way to torpedo Tallon to hire his son, but considering how the 08-09 season went, that was put on hold for a year). Scotty advised them on pretty much every hockey decision.

So for those who want Stan fired, keep in mind that Scotty is unlikely to help find a replacement for his son, and he’s also 135 years old now. That would leave McD and Rocky to their own devices, and quite frankly I can’t help but think it might result in something looking like the Bears “search firm” adventures of the past, or seeing which way Ernie Accorsi’s wig is pointing that day.

Perhaps in ten years McDonough has taken time out from telling everyone what a great job he’s done or slathering himself in his own praise while presiding over one of the more born-on-third organizations in sports to get some connections and plug himself in a bit more to actual hockey goings-on. But I wouldn’t be so sure. Remember his presidency of the Cubs wasn’t even two years and all he did there was open the checkbook for Jim Hendry and his barrel to prepare for the sale of the team. This isn’t a man with a “grand plan.”

There will come a time that Stan has to be fired or let go or he’ll walk and McD will have to find his replacement on his own. I’m just not sure you want that ASAP.

Everything Else

Please, tell me again what a marketing genius John McDonough is and how there should be classes taught at Wharton about his and Rocky Wirtz’s revival of the Hawks. Really, I want you to stuff me full of all your glowing takes and tributes until my eyeballs shoot out of my head like I was a Roger Rabbit character. I don’t even need oxygen anymore, that’s what I need.

There are 20 other players on this team. And believe it or not, some of them don’t actually cause bile to rise in parts of the fanbase, if not outright rage.

I don’t even know where to start with this. So let’s run through the possibilities of the Blackhawks marketing/social media team had go through their pea-sized brains to put this out. And believe me when I tell you that none of these are going to be encouraging.

One, they think the residue from the Kane ’15 stuff has all blown over, or the Madison escapades, or the hundreds of stories about him from around town that you know if you know exactly one bar employee, past or present. Because two years is so long in the internet age.

Two, they’re still actively trying to rehab his image still, even though the only thing he and the team really have ever apologized for is the negative publicity he has caused.

Three, they have no idea why this would be a problem.

That’s the good stuff there, people. Cut it up and snort it.

I get the Hawks can’t really help it if Chevy wants to use him and Toews in their ads, still trying to cash in on the “kids” angle from 2008 (and I’m sure they have to film these separately because I’ll let you in on a little secret, the two of them don’t really like each other). I suppose it’s not the Hawks problem if the NHL still wants to put this dickwagon front and center of their marketing campaign. But what they do on their social media and their marketing campaigns is certainly their choice. And this is the one they made.

What someone is going to have to explain to the Hawks staff, using very small words I’m sure, is that Kane stands for everything that You Can Play is supposed to be against. It’s not just the player himself of course, but his raft of fanboys and sycophants who rubbed their own shit on their chest before professing their love of Kane and their declaration of hatred or even violence against anyone who just wanted the Hawks and their fans to pause for once second two years ago. That would be the opposite of welcoming. That’s intolerance, it’s hate, it’s lack of understanding or empathy.

Whether the Hawks want to admit it or not, everyone basically know what a piece of shit personally Kane was and almost certainly still is. And that’s not cleared up by a Hart Trophy or more goals. And that’s fine, I don’t think anyone thinks we live in a world where the Hawks would cast out anyone they found immoral. No sports team would. Given that they reinstated a minor leaguer who got off on revenge porn charges on a simple technicality, morality isn’t something the Hawks would even know how to spell much less adhere to.

This is where I want McDonough to come out and tell me he’s not tone deaf again, because I haven’t had a good, hearty laugh in a while, one that causes my stomach to lock and nearly vomit. I’d be lying if I said, as a Hawks fan mind you, that there isn’t a part of me that doesn’t rejoice that the Hawks haven’t won a playoff round since they completely embarrassed themselves and sickened some fans on that September day in South Bend. And that part of me thinks they probably shouldn’t until Kane retires to whatever Frat House for 45-year-olds exists somewhere and McDonough and Rocky get to be completely exposed for the frauds they most certainly are.

Speaking of which, do the Hawks think they and Kane are 100% insulated from ducking the #MeToo wave? Because I’d be willing to bet that will end in one hell of a surprise, somewhere down the line. And I’d wager as well that one day we’re going to find out the Hawks cut a check or two or 12 or 100 to keep Kane and /or someone else out of the headlines once or twice, given the Mossad they have following around their players at night. And we know about Kane’s “fixer” in Buffalo. Look what happened to Shaun White yesterday. Took all of five minutes for Twitter to be like, “Hey, this guy is a douch-canoe with a settled sexual harassment suit in his past.” Maybe it’s a forlorn hope, but I get through the days knowing that it’s coming for everyone, even if I’m dead when it happens.

What’s so galling is that it’s so simple for the Hawks in cases like this. Fuck, Tommy Wingels helped found You Can Play! He’s sitting right there. Just accept your star winger is a fuckstick, and that you don’t have to put him on the front page of things that are about acceptance, tolerance, and understanding. Or do I have to remind you about the anti-semitic remarks in Madison again?

The Hawks still operate in service, or in fear of, the loudmouth, male portion of their fanbase that, as stated earlier, rubs shit on their chest. That’s the reason they’ve never hinted at changing the logo or the name. That’s why they’d never appear to be gun-shy about Kane. Because they fear the rantings and ravings of that group, even though we all know that’s the group of fans that would never go anywhere and in fact would be first in line to buy the new jerseys should they ever change the log. So does the NHL as a whole. Speaking of which..

Maybe it’s coming for the whole league one day. A boy can dream. Until then I’ll just sift through this waking nightmare.

Everything Else

Another banner day in great Hawkdom and hockey in general. It’s gone beyond comedic to the surreal at this point. A listless, 5th straight loss to the decidedly in-the-middle Wild, the Hawks most important player looking at some sort of suspension, an organization continuing to act in a most callous, cowardly fashion, and a league that if it were any more balloon-handed would be able to carry the dude’s house from UP to Jupiter and back. Let’s see if we can’t get through it all without opening wounds on our collective faces.

-Let’s start with Duncan Keith. While his elbow on Shooty Twin from 2012 and his high-stick can’t actually be considered in whatever discipline is coming his way, past displays of behavior can, which essentially is the same fucking thing. I suppose the technicalities would come up in any sort of appeal, which I’m fairly sure is going to come up.

Everything Else

You know we’ve really hit the hockey desert of the summer when the only news is that the Hawks have finally found an area to build their new practice facility. This has been going on for a while, two years I think, and the problem was that the land that the Hawks owned around the U.C., none had a lot big enough to fit the kind of facility they wanted. The Bulls basically took the one that would have worked, and everything else was kind of sandwiched by the pink line tracks (which should raise a question about just why the United Center doesn’t have an “L” stop, but we’ll have that discussion at another time. If you want to read more about that, check out this article.). There’s also the new office building being put up directly east of the arena complicating things.

Everything Else

For those of you that joined the blog recently, during the summer on Friday’s is when I tend to just write about whatever I want, as do the others on the blog. Feather even went through a streak of reviewing video games and The Walking Dead. So prepare yourself, as I’ve got all sorts of things rattling around this bald dome of mine.

-As the Hawks sit between several rocks and a very hard place with the cap constraints, the past couple days I can’t help but cast my mind back just short of three years ago. That would be Bettman Lockout III. Or maybe even Bettman Lockout II, which got us this current system. During that lockout, most owners were under a gag order. We never got what Rocky was really thinking during all of it, and whenever he did talk he was on the party line, out of fear of massive fines from The Commish.

And owners do that during labor disputes, but those labor disputes, at least these days, aren’t really about owners vs. players. They’re owners vs. owners, and the owners take it out on the players to protect themselves from each other and themselves. They know that when back to normal business, they’re going to do everything they can to put a winning team out there and all those loopholes get closed in the next CBA.

Everything Else

Obviously I was going to use a Veruca Salt reference. Sometimes this is easy for you to predict.

I’m a little late to the party on this, but I wanted to address it badly. Last week, Red Eye ran a piece about the Hawks and their relationship with their female fans. It included a anecdote about Casey Rathunde, you can follow her on Twitter @Raedances and you should because she’s my new personal hero for asking a tough question at the convention, asking the Hawks’ brass about the Ice Crew and other things related to their treatment of women and their female fans. Of course they gave it the boiler-plate, brush-off answer, which is what we should have expected. Probably would have gotten the same thing if anyone had asked about the continual shitty ice surface.

There’s obviously a lot of talk about women in sports, women as fans, and how they’re treated by the sports leagues. I’m going to do my best to not link this to the Ray Rice stuff, because that’s a topic that needs no debate and is just a disgusting event that everyone involved should be ashamed of (and some should be in jail, but I won’t be sitting on a hot stove waiting for that one).

Everything Else

I suppose that with it being summer and the Hawks having already made their signings and not yet a trade to clear cap space, we have more time than we should to study the narratives they are pushing. It’s not something I consistently want to do, but they keep putting this stuff out there and some of it is just wide of the mark. And those who are supposed to stand watch and call it out are once again passively accepting and even echoing it themselves.

During yesterday’s press conference, the Hawks and the sycophants who cover them couldn’t wait to tell us that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane took less money so that they could keep the team together (even though the team is already over the cap). Their agent told everyone that they could have asked for the maximum $13.8 million per year.

That’s nice. I’m sure they could have asked. And Stan Bowman could have laughed them out of the room.

Everything Else

I’ll admit it. I have no idea why people spend money to go to this Blackhawks Convention. I’ve always thought the Cubs Convention was creepy and weird, and I guess the Hawks version has less geriatric women from Iowa and Nebraska with really silly hats and jewelry and talking about just how much they love the “Hawkies.” Though I’m sure it comes with its own share of weirdo. Just a guess, but I bet he’s got a mustache. Though I suppose if you’ve ever dreamed about banging a Hawk, this is the best chance you’ll get. It’s in a hotel, after all.