Though it looks less likely that we’ll get more hockey this year with each passing day, that doesn’t mean the Hawks aren’t not doing anything. Here’s a weekend update about the goings on with the Men of Four Feathers.

– In an interview with Scott Powers, Rocky Wirtz said that there will be no front office changes in the near future. That means all your favorite stars like John McDonough, Stan Bowman, and Jeremy “Please Stop Saying I’m the Worst Coach in the League” Colliton are sitting pretty on the velvet couch of the Blackhawks Brain Trust, where you can suck for three years and still make bank.

With this decision, Rocky Wirtz has finally given us a morsel of what the plan is. And that plan is to continue being an abysmal defensive team coached by a stubborn putz whose system clearly doesn’t work with the guys he’s got, and generally managed (though we use this term in its loosest form) by a man whose solution to his bad defense was to make it slower and ouchie-er.

If we needed proof that Rocky doesn’t watch the games at all, this:

“Well, if I wasn’t confident, they wouldn’t be employed,” Wirtz said. “Yeah, I’m very confident. Like I said, we had a good run, but that doesn’t mean when you’re drafting 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th … You know it’s a young person’s game. You have to put work in there. Stan, right or wrong, after ’10, ’13 and ’15, you essentially had to trade half your team away. Yeah could we have been a dynasty if it was back in the Edmonton days? Of course. The 2010 team could have been around for a long time. But with the salary cap, you couldn’t do that. It is what it is. You got to work within the system.”

There you have it. In what’s becoming a theme around these parts, the Blackhawks brass is reaching back to the greatest hits to justify things they’re doing five years after the fact. If the whole point is “You got to work within the system,” what’s inspired confidence that Bowman’s been doing that effectively? Was it the Brandon Manning signing two years ago? Was it trading Jokiharju for Nylander the Lesser last summer? Was it signing Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan who suck and have no shoulders, respectively, last summer? We know Bowman had to rip those championship teams apart. We were there. What does that have to do with what he’s done lately?

Rocky’s got some thoughts on that too, buddy.

“I’m very optimistic on some of the young players,” Wirtz said. “It’s the system we have in place to draft and then develop players I think is good. I think that’s what you’ll see. If the system’s right, then we’re going to be OK. I think that’s the key thing. So, I’m optimistic. I don’t do doom and gloom and stuff.”

The system they have in place is good and maybe right, he says. The same system that hasn’t produced a worthwhile defenseman since Nick Leddy. The same system that can’t find a spot for Dylan Sikura but has all the time in the world for Matt Highmore and Brandon Hagel. Kirby Dach has been a hit so far, yes. As has Top Cat. But who do they have down there who’s going to change anything who isn’t already here?

It’s one thing to be optimistic. It’s entirely another to be totally removed from what’s going on. But really, why should Rocky worry? People were still showing up in droves, after all. And what’s more important than packing the house and filling the coffers? Certainly not changing a system that clearly doesn’t work. Why do that when you can just not?

Rocky goes on to talk about players from Europe, such as Artemi Panarin and Dominik Kubalik, and he’s not wrong. The Hawks’s European scouting is outstanding. But to assume that guys like that will still just want to come play for the Blackhawks is dangerous and presumptive. It’s been three years since their last playoff appearance. Riding “We’re the Blackhawks” won’t have the same pull soon enough, especially with the most recent track record.

The last two years have brought us historically bad defense from the Blackhawks. It took them half a year to get Dominik Kubalik—now their second-leading goal scorer—out of the bottom six. Before Boqvist’s injuries and the season suspension, they were leashing the one kid who could drive play from the back end for . . . what? To improve his defense? You don’t get to say you care about defensive development when you’re icing Nick Seeler, Slater Koekkoek, and Dennis Gilbert at any time for any reason with a straight face.

But hey, at least now we know what the plan is. Just kind of hope shit works out. Rocky likes his guys. You wonder what Kane, Toews, Keith, and Crow think about that.

­– But it’s not all bad news with the organ-I-zation. Credit to Rocky (and Jerry Reinsdorf) for agreeing to pay all United Center game-day employees through what would have been the end of the regular season.

It would have been more of a surprise if the organ-I-zation hadn’t done so. If you’re cynical, maybe you look at this simply as good PR. If you’re optimistic, you see this as them simply doing the right thing. We’ll choose to be optimistic on this one.

On top of that, the Hawks committed to matching donations of up to $100,000 to the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund. Both very good things to do, and both things that take the sting out of Rocky’s “We like our guys” oafery.

That’s it for now. Stay safe, stay isolated, and keep watching the skis.


As Feather points out regularly on our podcast, “reading the tea leaves” has gotten frustrating and fatiguing. It’s just about all we can do these days, given how little the Hawks let out and what does get out never puts them in a good light these days.

To say Duncan Keith is tired of Jeremy Colliton’s act is pretty much in the same fashion as telling you tomorrow’s Tuesday. Last night’s dejection doesn’t really change that. You can watch Keith play his own game that has nothing to do with Colliton’s supposed “system” and know he’s got no use for him. It’s been pretty obvious since Colliton took over that Keith at best eyed him with suspicion and at this point openly despises him.

Toews has always been the tougher read, but seeing as how he wasn’t afraid to bus-toss his coach in the media all the way back in November, it wouldn’t be a huge leap to suggest he’s pretty much had it as well. Toews is the captain and will always do his best to hold things together, but he can also hear the clock ticking on his career, or at least his peak years, and a third-straight year of going home in mid-April is not something that’s going to sit all that well.

Patrick Kane has hinted at wanting to talk with the front office after the season. It’s the closest Kane has come to suggesting he wants changes and won’t be afraid to say so to the people in charge.

Brent Seabrook is a different kind of case, given he just has to get healthy and what the plan is for him here long-term. Corey Crawford’s is as well as he’s a free agent and can simply turn around and head somewhere else if he doesn’t like what’s on offer, either for him or the team as a whole.

We’ve briefly talked about it on the podcast, and maybe we’ll get to it again this week, but what will the Hawks do if the main three, or all five, demand changes in coach or GM or both? Would they even? Would they go over Stan’s head? We’ve seen them go around the coaches before, when everyone wanted Mike Kitchen punted off Joel Qunneville’s staff in that summer that nearly ended with Q in Montreal and the Hawks with a new coach.

As we’ve always said, the main three don’t have a ton of leverage. They could demand Colliton be fired or they’ll ask out, but the Hawks don’t have to move them in that scenario. It’s hard to fathom that any of them would go public with a demand to get out, and short of that it’s hard to see how they could force it. The markets on Keith and Toews would be limited, and though Kane’s would be larger any interested team would still have to perform a variety of arm-balances to get his cap number in.

The question is why would the Hawks even want to go down that road? You don’t want to have the inmates running the asylum and all that, but rare is the collection of teammates who all have three rings (two in Crow’s case), two Norrises, three Conn Smythes, a Selke, a Hart, a couple Jennings. If there’s any grouping of players that can justify demanding changes to an organization, it’s this one.

Beyond that, what would the Hawks be holding on to? Why would Jeremy Colliton be the coach you’d go to the mat with these players with? He hasn’t developed any player, as no player is any better than they were a year ago. Dylan Strome has been on a wing. Adam Boqvist has been scratched at times and still doesn’t run the top power play unit nor has he shown his puck-carrying abilities. Alex Nylander sucks. Kirby Dach was a fourth-liner for too long. The power play is right up there with touching your face right now. What is the sign that things could improve with this coach down the road?

The answer is of course you wouldn’t. And it’s not like these players have a track record of downing tools or mutinies. Get a coach in here whom they believe in and respect and runs a system that they can see the benefits of, and they will suddenly form the kind of leadership any coach would dream of.

These guys are such loyal servants that I don’t know that stating Colliton and Bowman are going nowhere would cause them to agitate to move elsewhere. It feels out of character for all of them. But it’s clear they’re fed up. And Keith is definitely running out of time, and Toews and Kane can at least see the finish line for the first time. Crawford will have other offers. So if it would ever to happen, it’s going to happen this spring.

What would the Hawks do?


The last time Stan Bowman came out to open his mouth and find out with the rest of us what would come out of it, and a continuing theme the Hawks have hid behind, is that the price for “going for it” every season there for a bit cost them their future. Which is what we’re living with now. And it seems reasonable, but I thought I’d go a little more into it than just taking it by word.

I’m going to start with 2015, even though that season ended with a Cup and no one’s complaining at least about Antoine Vermette. Before that was six years ago, and even picks the Hawks gave up then would be veterans now that the Hawks likely wouldn’t be able to afford anyway. This is also going to assume that the Hawks would have nailed even any of these picks, much less all of them. But we will see who might have ended up as a Hawk if they still were making those pick. So let’s review:


Antoine Vermette – Acquired for Klas Dahlbeck and 1st round pick (30th)

Coyotes drafted: Nick Merkley

Players that followed immediately: Christian Fischer, Travis Dermott, Sebastien Aho, Brandon Carlo

Clearly, Merkley never became anything. And again, the Hawks won the Cup that year, so this is what you sacrifice. But clearly, any of the four taken directly after Merkley would have been a huge help to the Hawks going forward. Even Dermott would have been the best defensive prospect they’ve produced other than Boqvist. Aho…d’oh.

Kimmo Timonen – Acquired for 2015 2nd round pick (61st) and 2016 2nd round pick (52nd)

Maple Leafs drafted (2015): Jeremy Bracco 

Players that followed immediately: Kyle Copabianco

Flyers Drafted (2016): Wade Allison

Players that followed immediately: Filip Hronek, Dillon Dube

Not as damaging as what came before. In 2016, Hronke would have definitely made this Hawks roster and showed some promise, while Dube probably could have been a useful bottom-sixer. Or he would have gotten the Dylan Sikura treatment for no reason other than the Hawks didn’t see him fight the one night they were scouting Rockford. Who knows?


Andrew Ladd – Acquired for Marko Dano, 1st rounder in 2016 and conditional pick in 2018

Pick later traded to Flyers, drafted: German Rubstov

Players that followed immediately: Henrik Borgstrom, Max Jones, Tage Thompson, Brett Howden

Didn’t miss out on much here, but Howden would have been nice.

Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann – Acquired for Phillip Danault and 2018 2nd round pick

Canadiens Drafted: Alex Romanov

Player that immediately followed: No one

So Bowman can bemoan going all in all the time cost them the future, but this trade is more than that. It’s just bad. Fleischmann and Weise weren’t as valuable as Danault was that season, let alone what would come after. And deep down, we knew that at the time. This was splurging for the sake of splurging. And from the draft that they gave up a pick from, they didn’t really miss anything, although Howden’s future looks promising, except he hasn’t done much in the NHL yet. So he wouldn’t really be pulling the Hawks out of their current spot, just promising a better future than they have now.


Johnny Oduya – Acquired for Mark McNeill and 2018 4th round pick

Dallas Drafted: Adam Mascherin

Players that immediately followed: No one

The Hawks didn’t really go all in at this deadline, as they were in first and felt pretty good about themselves, even if it felt like it was all on stilts at the time. McNeill never went on to be anything, and there’s no one from the fourth round of the 2018 draft who has mattered yet.

So looking back on all this, on the surface it seems like the Hawks sacrificed a lot to win in ’15 and try again the next two years. But the only cost really was that 1st round pick for Vermette. Now, maybe the Hawks would have taken Sebastien Aho, and things would look awfully different right now. Even Brandon Carlo would have changed the trajectory a bit. But how much?

At this point, this is deflection from the front office. The Danault trade was just bad. That wasn’t a sacrifice, that was idiocy. Extending Anisimov immediately to try and justify giving up a fan favorite in Brandon Saad for him wasn’t a sacrifice, it was idiocy (coming from on high). That cost you Teuvo Teravainen.

And the players Stan did draft, as the Hawks haven’t been bereft of picks, have been hit and miss. They’re not exceptionally good at it, but they’re not bad at it either. Still, on this current team, only Boqvist, Dach, and Debrincat look like Hawks draft picks that will make a difference for the Hawks. That’s just not good enough. That’s not about sacrifice, at least not entirely.

Again, this is Stan hiding while trying to justify his continued employment. And it looks thinner and thinner every day.



I understand the feeling that the Hawks season ended last night. If there was ever going to be one last charge to stand up and be counted, it was returning home for two games before going back on the road. It was seeing a non playoff team. It was having one last chance to prove to the front office before the deadline that you weren’t in need of major surgery. But we all knew the truth. And I think the Hawks did too.

Nothing last night was new. There have been plenty of 20-shots-against 3rd periods for the Hawks, because they suck defensively. That’s a structural problem, not a spiritual one. Maybe we didn’t notice as much because the goalies have been so good, and have been able to come up with 18- and 19-save periods to save the Hawks’ ass. I don’t even know that Lehner was bad last night, his level just wasn’t what it had been before. Any kind of drop from either him or Crawford results in five goals against. It’s that simple.

But you combine the structural problems–slow defense, uneven buy-in to the system (at best), and a wonky roster–with the Hawks knowing in the back of their heads they’re toast and are days away from having the roster stripped to the point the last six weeks are going to be fucking ugly, and you get this overwhelming feeling that something “broke” or “collapsed” last night. I don’t think that’s really the case.

I’m betting the Hawks themselves knew it was over when they were soundly beaten by an Oilers team without McDavid. It was over when fortune damned them to a loss they didn’t deserve in Vancouver. They were able to accept the gift that David Rittich was happy to give them, but they knew the truth when they couldn’t get close to the Jets twice when they had to. A very flawed Jets team, by the way. That road trip is when it was over, and you could tell the Hawks kind of knew it.

That said, it’s not going to get better when your coach, AGAIN, comes out and says most of the team wasn’t ready to play. That’s Jeremy Colliton’s job, and almost every time the Hawks are in a game they have to have, that will help bring meaning to the season, Colliton is there after the game saying they weren’t ready or didn’t give enough. Who’s that on? Colliton hasn’t earned that place. He may be the coach, but he doesn’t draw that water. Yeah, the roster is not good enough. And it’s not good enough in a way that can make it look really bad, given how slow it is. But you can’t keep telling us you’re not doing your job. Because after a while, what’s clear is that they don’t get ready for you.

I don’t have much patience for Lehner calling out his teammates either. Yeah, Lehner Atlas’d this team in October and November. He’s been merely ok for two months now. Sure, he included himself in it, but he’s won exactly nothing in his career, unless four playoff games counts as something. I bet it counts as fuck and all to Kane, Crawford, Toews, and Keith. Everyone starting to see why no one wants to give this guy more than one year?

Behind all of this, I think what people are really upset about is knowing just how bad the rest of the season will be to watch. Even though it will actually be healthy. If the Hawks get what they can for Lehner, Gustafsson, and maybe Crawford or Saad or Strome or something creative, it’s much better for the long-term health of the team than barely missing out on the chance to get clobbered by the Blues or Avs in the first round. That doesn’t make it an easy process to get through, but surgeries rarely are.

But yeah, the Hawks will sink like a stone through March. Even the vets, who have done their best and said all the right things, are going to find it hard to find the give-a-shit meter, much less fill it. But they’ve earned that right.

But don’t assume this is about want-to or belief. This is the team that used to exude that. Last night is just another example in dozens that the Hawks just aren’t built right. The Rangers aren’t good, yet, but what they do have is a healthy amount of speed. That’s all it takes. The Hawks don’t have any. We know about the defense, but as I’ve worried the last little bit, the forwards aren’t fast enough either. Where’s the game-breaking speed? What forward can back a defense up simply because they’re out there?

Saad maybe? Kubalik? Both of those are a stretch. It’s not Top Cat. It’s not Strome. Dach’s is mobile but his gifts are his hands not feet. It’s just not there. Are they any in the system? Dylan Sikura doesn’t change this team’s fortunes, but he’s the type of player the Hawks need to be packing their bottom six with merely because they’re fast and have a modicum of skill and awareness. They keep giving you Matthew Highmore and John Quenneville. The Hawks don’t scout themselves or the league correctly. They haven’t diagnosed what the game is now. They’re still trying to win the 2014 Cup they missed out on, which is funny because they missed out on it due to the Kings trying to emulate them and get faster.

The sad part is it’s put the Hawks in an awful position. The front office that has failed to adjust the team to modern times is now in charge of this mini tear-down or rebuild. Should they be? It’s too late now (always has been, always will be…) to have anyone else do it. But what if the decision from on high is to clean house after the season? What if your new guy doesn’t like the prospects or young players you’ve brought in at the deadline? You’re spinning wheels again. You can’t do that.

But if you let Stan do this the whole way? He got you in this mess. Is he only going to drive you deeper into the muck? He says the right thing about not managing next season for his job which would lead into a bunch of panic moves. But will that happen in practice? It’s not going to be terribly fun finding out.

Maybe we’re all angry because they keep telling us this is the price for three parades and eight or nine seasons in the penthouse. But we all know it doesn’t really have to be this bad. It’s not for the Penguins. It’s not for the Caps. It has been for the Kings, but we all know that’s just as much mismanagement too. It’s a fig leaf to hide behind for an overmatched and over-rewarded front office. We know better.

It’s a dark ride from here. But there could be light at the end of it. The mystery is what gets you.


I guess I’ll give Stan some dap for appearing in public right before the deadline. Though at the intermission of the game in Calgary is an interesting choice, given the time restraints. But whatever, Stan took the time to talk, which he’s not good at, which means we have to dissect what he said, which we are. Let’s to it.

And I want to start with a question from Mark Lazerus:

Well, you were in pretty much the same situation last year, almost identical, where you’re on the outside but within striking distance. You wound up not really doing much of anything. Is that a strong possibility again this year, that you might just let these guys play it out?

And this is the crux of the whole thing, isn’t it? The Hawks didn’t do anything at the deadline last year, in one direction or the other. Now that’s not all of it, as they did pick up Drake Caggiula, who is at least useful, and Slater Koekkoek, who probably isn’t, well before the deadline. They also swapped Nick Schmaltz for Dylan Strome, which looked last year like a great move and this year looks no worse than break-even. But the Hawks didn’t pick a lane last year, they held on to Erik Gustafsson at the peak of his value. They didn’t add anything and mortgage any of their future in the process, which is good. But they didn’t fully commit to the following years either, which left them not doing anything all that effective in the summer, other than signing de Haan, and now he might have one arm forever.

Again, this year they have a choice, and while Gustafsson doesn’t have the value he did they have more pieces to play with in the form of Lehner and if they want to get really goofy, Strome. Maybe even Maatta. But it’s likely they’ll do nothing, and have less cap space next summer, which is pretty much going to leave them running in place again.

Of course. In the moment, that’s fun. But you pay the price down the road, and we’re kind of down that road now. It’s always that balance of the push and pull of the present and the future. Because you’d love to be able to go for it and not have it impact your team three or four years down the road. But that’s usually what happens, is the players or draft picks that you give away, you don’t feel it that next year or two years. It’s usually four years later when those players are in their early 20s and they should be helping you, but you don’t have them because they’re somewhere else.

It’s important to be fair to Stan here as well. Because this is right. The Hawks are paying the piper now for the picks they didn’t have and the prospects they had to give up. Phillip Danault would help. Teuvo Teravainen would help. Maybe one of the picks they surrendered in ’15 or ’16 would have been a contributor by now. This was the line Stan tried to walk back then, and it’s nearly impossible. He’s trying to get out of that now, which is also near impossible.

Probably not a couple games, no. I guess you look at from the trade deadline backwards to the All-Star break. That’s a pretty good chunk of games there. I think when we get to a week from now, next weekend, we’ll have a pretty good idea of how we’ve played. We haven’t been good the last few games, that’s true. But we’ve got a few more games before next weekend, four games. So I think we’ll add it up to the last five or six and we’ll see where we’re at. We certainly have to get some good fortune here over the next stretch. Otherwise, it’s going to be tough.

Now this is the big thing. We’ve dismissed the Hawks thought-train as they’ll use the efforts instead of the results this past week as a justification to do nothing. They’ll say they dominated Vancouver, which they did, and they got a couple bad calls in Edmonton, which they also did. They’ll point to the seemingly small-ish gap to the wildcard, even though it’s actually quite large. But every team that falls short has got a story. You still fell short. Admit what you are.

But I don’t know that they’ll do that. For an adventurous front office, or at least one with an actual vision, this past week would be the justification they would need. They’re not as good as the Jets. They’re not as good as the Predators. That right there is more than enough to prove they won’t make the playoffs. They might not be as good as the Flames. I think they’re as good as the Oilers or the Canucks, maybe even better, but the standings are the standings. They’re not making the playoffs, which means the aim has to be doing everything they can to make the playoffs next year. That process has to start now.

Maybe Stan feels the same way, but we’ve seen nothing to indicate that.

There’s no perfect answer for that, how do you make everybody happy. I don’t know if you can.

I’ve got to look at a broader spectrum, try to get ourselves to be in a position so that we are on top of the league. That’s where we want to get to because, like you said earlier, that’s when it’s most fun, when you’re on top and trying to add pieces to make you the best team in the league. We want to get back to that. We know what that’s like. We’ve got to get back to that.

This is where it starts to feel like Stan does get it, at least a bit. He knows he can’t keep the vets happy and build this team for the future at the same time. But he knows the latter is probably more important than the former, and both will meet up in the middle if he can accomplish it.

The part that’s hard to figure out is that last year, the Hawks made it clear they would keep the vets apprised and informed of what they were trying to do. Which they should. Kane, Toews, Seabrook, Keith, and Crawford have earned that. And they have earned the right to say if they’re on board or not.

The problem is the Hawks have also told us, “there’s no plan, there’s a process.” So what did they tell them, exactly? Was it they would go all out this season? Well, that didn’t work, so how do the vets feel now? It would mean there would have to be a new map, as it were. Why would they believe in a second map after the first didn’t work at all? Or did they tell them it was going to take multiple years after already missing the playoffs for multiple years? But it’s never sounded like that from anyone. So where do they go?

I think Jeremy’s done a fantastic job. I really do. I know the results aren’t where we want them to be, and he would say the same thing. We get frustrated when we don’t win games. But I look at the way our team’s playing, in particular the last couple months. I think the beginning of the year, the hardest part was trying to instill some new habits in our players. We spent a lot of time trying to ingrain habits and they don’t form overnight. So I think early on in the season, you saw guys that were trying to do the right thing, but there was a little bit too much thinking going on.

And then we get some Stan horeshit, and a primo version of it. First off, you can’t say your coach is doing a remarkable job and then in the next sentence say the results aren’t there. They don’t square up.They’re almost in direct opposition to each other, in fact. That only works for a truly rebuilding team rife with youngsters and you’re just trying to develop them. The Hawks have aggressively told us they are not that.

And we’re still going with “instilling new habits.” It’s fucking February of the second year. First it was hard to do in the regular season last year. Then it was all-we-need-in-magic-training camp. Now it’s still going on. How much longer do you think we’re going to believe this? Maybe the players suck, or the players know the coach’s system sucks and they won’t play it. Maybe it’s both. But Colliton has been in charge more than long enough to “instill” whatever it is they’re looking for. Fuck, it was enough last February. You can’t keep moving the goalposts to justify what looks increasingly like a bad hire.

And the Hawks still play like shit, in that they give up far too many shots and chances and lose guys in their zone all the damn time. If this is what makes Stan happy, then everyone has to go. Perhaps the most sobering paragraph actually comes from Scott Powers today, in an article looking at the Hawks’ cap problems to come:

The next question is obviously whether the Blackhawks would be better with this roster than they are this season. That’s hard to say. They’re probably banking on the young players taking that next step, Seabrook coming back improved, de Haan finding that same level again, Shaw contributing and the veterans at least maintaining their performance.

We already did that once. And it led to this. I don’t mean to over-binge on Anton Chigurh memes but they seem to fit…



Here’s some sobering facts for you, because on a Friday is definitely when you want some sobering facts:

-The Hawks are behind in the standings to five teams that have fired their coaches due to performance reasons.

-There has been a near mutiny in Buffalo due to their performance this season, with fans irate that there doesn’t seem to be any direction to their team. They have two more points than the Hawks in a much more difficult conference.

-The Rangers have four more points, in perhaps the league’s toughest division, in a season where they have made it very clear they are still in the midst of a rebuild and aren’t really trying to make the playoffs.

-The Hawks are 25th in regulation wins.

And the thing is, we’re probably locked into this. There is a little more than a week until the trade deadline, and there are few directions the Hawks can go. There might not be any, in fact. They simply won’t fire Bowman now, because you really don’t want an interim guy handling your deadline independently and then hiring a permanent GM that you only hope is working in the same line as the guy who filled in.

Bowman almost certainly isn’t going to change tack and sell off anything that’s not nailed down, because that would be the second or third time he’s tried to change direction with this team which would mean he really doesn’t have any idea what he’s doing, and he would have to be fired. Except we’ve seen no signal or inclination from Rocky or McD that they’ve even entertained the idea of firing Stan, maybe because they have no idea what to do on hockey matters when Stan’s dad isn’t telling them what to do.

And Bowman is at least smart enough to know not to go hog wild at the deadline to try and scrape into the playoffs and forfeit whatever futures he might have–especially as they don’t have a 2nd round pick this year (they lost it to get Andrew Shaw. More sobering stuff for you). I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a hockey trade or two that gets them things that can be around for a while, but he’s not going to get any rentals. At least I hope.

But that almost certainly means that nothing will happen before the 24th. Which means the Hawks will lose whatever leverage they might have. Come the summer, they can’t get anything for Gustafsson, or Lehner, or Crawford, as they can all walk. The Hawks will have a 1st round pick, and a still hard-t0-tell amount of cap space because we don’t know if Brent Seabrook is actually dead or just mostly dead and Miracle Max is going to send him out there next fall. You can’t get much for Strome because he’ll still be RFA, though maybe slightly more than we might think. And that’s only if you’ve decided he’s no longer part of your future…and really no one can make that call yet though being healthy scratched by bespectacled brain genius isn’t a terribly good sign.

So maybe we’re asking too much. Maybe we need to start at the ground level here. Maybe what we should be asking is merely for the Hawks to admit there is a problem. Because they haven’t done that yet. The day they fired Joel Quenneville, they said this was a playoff caliber roster. And it hasn’t been close since. So either they were wrong about the roster, or it’s being mismanaged. At this point, all we can really ask is that they even indicate which one they think it is and possibly do something about it. Because…have they?

From last year they added a goalie, which isn’t so much fixing the roster as it is plastering over holes. They added de Haan and Maatta, which was the wrong diagnoses. They added Andrew Shaw, Ryan Carpenter, and Zack Smith, forever chasing the wrong thing like grit and toughness. They give time to Matthew Highmore, Quenneville,and Dennis Gilbert while players like Sikura, Carlsson, and Kurashev barely see the light of day.

I’m just going to be Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in the opening of Moneyball, and simply wait for the others around the table to correctly diagnose the problem before I even entertain any solutions. Just tell me you know that something, anything is wrong, instead of pointing to the banners it increasingly looks like you had nothing to do with every damn day.

Or you can announce another public appearance from Patrick Sharp and Adam Burish. At least then I’ll know.


Fair warning, everything that comes next in this post is almost certainly fantasy. It’s what the Hawks should do, but almost certainly what they won’t. You know the truth, I know the truth, but the truth hasn’t found purchase in the barren wasteland of the Hawks’ braintrust in a long time. While the Hawks have lost five straight, they will use their effort last night–which was very good–and the unlucky nature of the defeats to Boston and arguably Minnesota as justification that the results will turn around sharpish and they’ll be back in it.

And on the surface, the Hawks can make that argument. They’re six points back with two games in hand on the Yotes and one on the Flames, who just happen to be next up on the schedule. And with as bad as the West is, and with the amount of teams in this jumble, it’s kind of hard to just fall out of it. It’s also nearly impossible to climb into it.

But you don’t need an archeological team to get beneath the surface to see the truth. The Hawks are in last, and they’re two points behind the Wild who very well may be giving up in that they’ve already traded Jason Zucker. This is a team that had to go 12-6-0 just get to get back into the bottom of the conversation of the playoffs. But this isn’t a team that wins 12 of 18. This is a team that wins 12 of 23, as they now have done. That’s who they are.

Right now, the Coyotes are on pace for 89 points. The Hawks are on pace for 83 (EIGHTY-THREE). The Hawks would have to play at a 101-point pace to get to 89, which might not be enough. And I guess, if you were the most cock-eyed of cock-eyed optimist, you could say they already played at a 101-point once for six weeks there. Do you honestly think they have it in them again?

And by every metric, the Hawks are where they should be. They’re one of the worst defensive teams in the league. They’ve outscored what they have created, though they’re built to do that. What’s going to get better here? Certainly not the goaltending. It can’t. Maybe DeBrincat has a two- to three-week binge in him. Maybe the power play binges for no reason other than the sense of humor of the gods. But how much can that rise above the horrific defense? How is this team going to leap over four teams?

So here’s the question the Hawks’ front office has to answer, though we know how they will: While there is value for the younger players to play in games that matter and have stakes, does that matter more than what they can gather long term by selling at the deadline? It’s clear it would not. Long-term, the Hawks are still at least a winger short (likely two) and two d-men short. If they want to say Ian Mitchell is one of those d-men, I’ll take it, but you still need one more. And none of those answers are in the system. The pipeline…she be dry.

So what can the Hawks do here? If you were to separate out Erik Gustafsson, Robin Lehner, possibly Corey Crawford, maybe Drake Caggiula, maybe Olli Maatta and think what you could collectively for all of them…maybe a 1st round pick, a 3rd or 4th round pick, and a prospect or two. The last of which probably won’t amount to more than a couple lottery tickets, but you need lottery tickets. And an additional 1st rounder could be combined with the Hawks’ 1st rounder to acquire an actual piece at the draft. You never know how that will shake out. Or you just use your two first rounders and maybe you get something for 2021-2022. Or maybe you package your first rounders to get into the top five. I don’t know, but what I do know is it gives you options you need.

Because if one summer trade and one free agent signing get you another winger and d-man, and you can solve your goaltending without breaking the bank (i.e. some combo of Talbot, Markstrom, Crawford, Halak, Murray, Greiss, Khudobin, who are all free agents and not all will be ewxpensive), now you’re ready to do more than just scrape in as a wildcard and get your brains beaten in by the Blues.

Maybe if Colliton finally has the mobile blue line–which it would be with Boqvist, Mitchell, Murphy, Keith, and acquisition to come–his high-pressure system has a chance, if you’re determined to stick with it. That’s a discussion for another time.

The biggest frustration with the Hawks over the past couple seasons, distilled down to its essence, is a complete lack of vision. Everything is made up on the fly. In the summer of 2017 it was we have to get younger and faster. So in came Saad and Murphy, out went Panarin and Hjalmarsson. And then that just stopped. Strome isn’t fast. de Haan isn’t fast. Maatta isn’t fast. Gustafsson isn’t fast. Koekkoek isn’t fast. And suddenly it was about blocking shots and being gritty. And all of it has left the Hawks spinning their wheels.

Now’s the time to show you have vision. Yeah, the playoff spot is visible, if you squint. But trust your fans to see the big picture, because they do. They’re dying for the Hawks to see it as well.

If Keith gets pissed off at another lost season, so be it. Is he really going to be a part of your next very good team at 38? Would Kane? Well, there’s your chance to really reset everything. There is opportunity here, if you only see it that way instead of the end.

Where does the vision come from, though? Do you trust Stan to do the sell-off much less the final touches of a rebuild which he hasn’t gotten right yet? Does McDonough know this? Does he have the balls to fire Stan now and get someone in to do this job? Is it too late? Will Stan follow instruction? Will he even get it?

This is the frustration, because we’re pretty damn sure these questions aren’t even being asked in those offices, much less being answered. But it’s time now. You’re done.

Or you can continue to chase this playoff spot you won’t get. Lehner and Crawford can both walk. Seabrook wants back in. You have no prospects. Maybe Mitchell doesn’t want any part of this. Where are you then?

The answer is clear to us. It’s time they see it.


There’s little point in talking about anyone else.

It’s a sad commentary on Chicago sports as a whole that Joel Quenneville’s only peer in success around here is Phil Jackson. That’s it. That’s all you get. The only other coach to win multiple championships is George Halas, and seeing as how none of them were Super Bowls no one really gives a flying fuck. Or anyone who did is dead. Even if you were to expand this list to coaches that have brought just one championship downtown, it’s three names: Guillen, Maddon, Ditka. How pathetic is that? Hell, if you wanted to add the names of coaches who even just got their teams to a championship round, it’s just two more: Smith and Keenan. Lord, what a place.

Anyway, there won’t be a solitary angle that isn’t covered tonight by Q’s return to Chicago. And that’s probably as it should be. For all the shit we give the Hawks hierarchy, and most of it is deserved, you have to still hand it to them for the swift and ruthless decision to not waste a second of time with the most promising roster in franchise history on a coach who didn’t know what he was doing and bringing in an expert. Had they waited even a half-season, maybe the Hawks don’t rocket up the standings in ’09 and make a conference final run that showed them what it would take. Maybe ’09-’10 is more of a developmental year than an all-systems-go one. Considering the cap problems (of their own making), if they don’t win in ’10, the whole thing could be so, so different.

Quenneville came in and immediately recognized that his team needed to play at a pace no one else, or at least only a handful of teams, could. Savard probably knew this but didn’t have any idea on how to implement that. The stories of practice being hellishly paced but short immediately started leaking out, with players being made to do laps for being last to huddles or drills. Speed, speed, speed. This is how everything will be done. Can’t argue with the results.

The funny thing is it was the same way at the end, and it still couldn’t save Q’s job. After he got done pouting about the trade of Niklas Hjalmarsson, Q seemed to be the only one in the whole organization who realized his team wasn’t nearly fast enough. He still might be. That’s why he immediately installed Henri Jokiharju on the top pairing. That’s why he was actually toying with keeping Adam Boqvist around last year. He knew the problems that were ahead and these were the only solutions available. Hawks could use more eyes like his now, still.

That begs the question of whether it was right to fire him. Separate it from the hiring of Colliton, and you’d still conclude it probably was. No matter how good things go, if you show up to work and hear the same voice as your boss for 11 years, you get sick of it. The Hawks core seemed to accept that, even if they didn’t particularly like it. Certainly the younger players weren’t all that upset, but going back that far how many of them actually mattered? DeBrincat and…yeah, that’s it. Schmaltz is gone. Hinostroza is gone. Jokiharju is gone. Hartman is gone. Give you some idea of the directionless nature of the whole operation when they fired a coach partly because they didn’t think he was treating their young players well, and then they get rid of almost all of those young players.

But tonight isn’t really about that, nor is it about the litany of complaints we came up with during Q’s reign here. It’s about all the things he did that worked, not the crazy experiments or juggling or Trevor van Riemsdyk. It’s about letting a young team letting it all hang out with just the boundaries of a defensive structure in ’09 and ’10. It’s about dragging a hungover and barely focused team in ’11 to the cusp of a huge upset.  It’s about surviving the first clash of coach and GM in 2012 and Toews missing half the season and Crawford’s dip in form and revitalizing both the following season into an unholy beast of a team. It’s about turning Johnny Oduya and Hjalmarsson into the best rhythm guitarists in the league for three years. Even though it took a Daniel Carcillo injury to even get Brandon Saad into the lineup, it was then about a Saad-Toews-Hossa line that no one could do much about.

Yeah, we’re still angry about sending out Handzus and Bollig for the last faceoff of ’14. Van Riemsdyk, again. Insisting on veteran help for the ’16 team that cost the Hawks Phillip Danault. And then not playing that veteran help. The policy of bringing back players he already trusted. It’s all of it, really.

At the end of the day though, it’s three parades (almost four). Three celebrations. Three impossible journeys negotiated, each with varying challenges. Perhaps Q’s greatest strength as a coach was the confidence and relaxed nature he instilled in the Hawks at the most tense times. The ’09 team blew its first road playoff games against a veteran team. They simply mauled the Flames from there. They trailed the Canucks in ’09 after Game 1, Game 3, and were four minutes away from being down 3-1. No problem. Strut into Vancouver for the biggest game of their lives and gleefully walk out with a win. Wasn’t even that hard.

The ’10 team was down 1-0 and two goals against Vancouver. Never looked bothered and essentially blew the Canucks out of the water from there on out. Lost a 2-0 lead in the Final. Win Game 5 by five goals. Three minutes from the Cup and lose the lead in Game 6. No matter, get it in overtime.

The list of this keeps going. Down 3-0 and quite frankly overmatched? Push to the absolute limit. Watching the most dominant season in team history nearly washed away by your oldest enemy? Win the next three, including coming back in the 3rd in Game 6 facing elimination and then overcoming an egregiously bad call in Game 7. Crow has one bad game in the Final? Who gives a shit, we’ll get it anyway.

Down to four d-men in ’15? They’ll find a way through. Everyone’s dying of exhaustion? We’ll hold the Lighting to two goals over three games.

There wasn’t ever a challenge that not only the Hawks didn’t think they could overcome, but they thought was even a big deal. Everything was an opportunity. A chance to do something great. That was Q’s biggest credit. Making this team that had accomplished nothing believe it could do anything instantly, and then would do anything because it had to be done. That was probably the most enjoyable part. No obstacle too high or ditch to deep. Q’s team would find the way, because it’s what they did.

Beyond all the line shuffling or arguments with Stan Bowman or hunches he had to play, that was his ultimate feature. And we were all rewarded. We’ll owe him forever for that.

TVR still sucks though, Q.


You don’t need more ammo to hang the Hawks front office out to dry these days. We even feel slightly guilty about doing so. Piling on and all that. But we can’t help ourselves. Anthony Duclair might go down as another one they missed on. It’s getting to be a very long list.

It’s hard to believe Duclair is still only 24, as this is his sixth season in the NHL. And he’s having what anyone would call a breakout season, with 21 goals already and 32 points in 44 games. The former mark is already a career-high and the second is only 12 points short of another one. It’s all resulted in his first All-Star appearance.

Now, whenever you see a spike like this from a player that hadn’t before approached these kinds of numbers, you are tempted to dismiss it as a shooting-percentage binge and just the way of the things sometimes, and that the player will soon return to the herd safety of anonymity. And yes, Duclair is shooting 16.7%, a career-mark. But it’s not that far above his career-mark of 13.9%. To put it another way, if Duclair were potting goals at his normal rate amongst his shots, he’d still have 17 goals. It would be enough to make you notice.

There’s an old corollary in hockey, which is used to lower the accomplishments of players on bad teams, that “someone has to score the goals.” And surely Duclair is benefitting from getting top six minutes that never came to him in Arizona or Chicago or even Columbus. He’s getting 12 minutes per night at even-strength, the most he’s seen. And he’s seeing nearly three minutes of power play time, which is nearly double what’s gone on in previous seasons. So the five goals and 12 points on the man-advantage are boosting the totals a bit.

Still, Duclair is doing more than just puttering along with more time. His shots, chances, and expected goals per 60 are all way up, and you couldn’t argue he’s benefitting from better teammates. Unless Jean-Gabriel Pageau really does something for you. And hey, we’re not here to kink-shame. He’s just getting to better areas more often and firing more, which is a good way to score, and then to open up space for others. “Making yourself dangerous,” Hawk.

While you might not have projected this when he played 23 games for the Hawks two years ago, it also is easy to look back and wonder why he couldn’t have been given another season. You’ll recall his season was ended early after an ankle injury caused by Brad Marchand literally slingblading him in Boston. Duclair’s numbers with the Hawks weren’t very impressive at that point, just two goals and six assists.

Look deeper, though, and you get a little frustrated. Duclair couldn’t buy a bucket here, shooting below 7% for his stay. And his individual metrics–his shots, his chances, were amongst the lowest in his career. But his team-metrics when on the ice were decent enough. +2.2 in Corsi and at the team-rate in expected goals.

You can’t say he wasn’t given a big chances, as his most common linemates that year were Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat. So the eight points in 23 games certainly were a disappointment,

Still, the following season, here is a sampling of forwards the Hawks gave time to instead of giving Duclair another season to see if his SH% could rebound: Chris Kunitz, Brendan Perlini, Drake Caggiula, a deceased Marcus Kruger, Alex Fortin, John Hayden, Andreas Martinsen. Out of all that muck, only Caggiula can claim to be helpful, and that’s really as nothing more than a fourth liner.

Perlini was certainly worth a look to see if you couldn’t get him to care given his skills, and Fortin was at least fast (nothing else though). But the rest, again, were grind-y fourth-line types who checked all the wrong boxes that the Hawks can’t seem to get past. Duclair flashed skill and speed, something they just don’t value nearly high enough beyond anyone in the top six. Duclair wouldn’t save them from the mess they’re in now, but he would have helped in both the past seasons. He was certainly worth a one-year deal more than Kunitz was, we know that for sure. But it still feels that the Hawks feel if you aren’t in the top six, you have to be a foaming shit-beast instead of just having more skill and scoring stocked in the lineup.

The Hawks aren’t alone, of course. The Coyotes aren’t getting anything out of him now, and even Richard Panik moved on (what they received for Duclair). The Jackets got their six weeks out of Ryan Dzingel and now have nothing either. But at some point it would be nice to write about the Hawks actually succeeding on a reclamation project and then keeping that player for long-term benefit. It’s been a while.