Hello Chicago Blackhawks’ fans, and welcome to our May roundtable! It’s been a crazy (albeit slow) couple of months with COVID-19 and the NHL pause, but lately there have been some interesting developments. So let’s dive in! Today our team of Meghan Dillon, Greg Boysen, Brooke LoFurno, and Gail Kauchak are ready to discuss a plethora of hockey related issues. Let’s get started.
On Apr. 27, the Blackhawks unceremoniously fired president and CEO John McDonough. It wasn’t general manager Stan Bowman or head coach Jeremy Colliton, as everyone was expecting. Instead the Blackhawks went straight to the top. So what do you think writers? Was this a good move or a bad move?
Analysis of McDonough Firing
I was very surprised by this move. It should have been Bowman instead.
I understand wanting to keep Colliton on because the season was cut short due to the pandemic. I think he deserves a little more time to prove himself as a good coach for the franchise.
When it comes to Bowman, I have no idea how that man still has his job. I’m a firm believer that Bowman should’ve gotten the ax over Joel Quenneville, and that doesn’t change when it comes to McDonough.
Saying that Bowman has made some poor decisions over the past few offseasons is an understatement, and he needs to be held accountable.
Since the end of the 2015-16 season when the Blackhawks were bounced in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the St. Louis Blues, McDonough has been preaching about accountability for not living up to his “One Goal” mantra. Yet the only person to be held accountable for the recent downtrend was a future Hall of Fame coach who certainly wasn’t the only one to blame.
Time will tell if this is a good move. I have been advocating for a complete turnover in the front office starting with McDonough and working all the way down to the bench. If this is the only move, it is very curious. If the team brings in a true “hockey guy”, one would think he would be allowed to hire his own general manager and that person would be allowed to bring in his own coach.
If they stick with Danny Wirtz, then they are just reverting back to the “Dollar Bill” day of Blackhawks’ hockey. Spoiler alert from someone who lived through that era: it’s not a good thing.
The firing of McDonough is surprising, but I think overall it was the right move. McDonough helped get the Blackhawks on the map again, which shouldn’t be overlooked.
However, with the state of the current team, he was Bowman’s boss. Stan was able to get away with a lot of questionable moves under McDonough’s watch, and the fact that he didn’t want to replace Stan spoke volumes, in my opinion. In order to provoke change, you have to start somewhere. So I don’t disagree with the move.
I have to admit I was shocked by the dismissal of McDonough. After all, his marketing genius has been attributed to the revival of the Blackhawks’ franchise. But rumor has it McDonough was extremely rigid and difficult to work for. Obviously he and now interim president and CEO Danny Wirtz were the latest to knock heads.
So is this just nepotism by owner Rocky Wirtz to promote his own son? Or will the Blackhawks do their due diligence to hire a new face for this prominent position? And will the next leader keep Bowman and Colliton in the fold? The organization has time on their side to make a decision since the pandemic will likely delay the start of the 2020-21 season.
One thing is for certain; this is the end of an era for the Blackhawks. Depending upon the direction they take, it could also mean a regression on the ice. But staying the course hasn’t exactly been working lately either, has it? Change is always scary, and it remains to be seen if this change is good.
There are still many details to iron out, but the National Player’s Association and the NHL have agreed to further negotiations on a 24-team return to play format to finalize the 2019-20 season and reward the Stanley Cup. This plan includes the Blackhawks, who otherwise were a longshot to make the playoffs if the regular season had not been paused. How do you feel about play resuming, and the proposed format?
Opinions on NHL Return to Play and 24-Team Format
I was conflicted at first because I felt like this Stanley Cup would mean less as the “COVID Cup”, but I also think this could be one of the best things to possibly happen to the game of hockey. A Stanley Cup victory is a Stanley Cup victory, and I’ll take whatever we get. Since there aren’t any sports on the air right now, this is a great opportunity for the NHL to get ahead of the game.
Think of how many sports fans out there have never seen a hockey game and get to see playoff hockey in the middle of a pandemic. There’s nothing better than playoff hockey. This could be a wonderful thing for the sport.
And for the Blackhawks it would be the perfect opportunity to make a comeback!
When I talked to Ron MacLean of Sportsnet a couple weeks ago, he stressed how important it is for the players to get back and finish the season. Not only to provide a form of entertainment when we need it most, but also to give completion to a season so may guys worked very hard for.
Spending the season in AHL locker rooms covering the Central Division, I got a first-hand look at how much these teams care about each other and what they do just to get on the ice for their teams. As long as they can keep everyone involved safe and healthy, then finishing the season with a 24-team playoff format is the absolute right thing to do.
As far as the plan that is being proposed, I think it’s the right call. With each team having at least 12 games left on their regular-season schedule, this is the fairest way to decide the 2020 Stanley Cup winner. There is no way to tell how the close playoff races in both conferences would have played out. Plus more hockey is never a bad thing!
I agree with the season resuming, no matter how the format looks. The 24-team playoff format, while unconventional, is nevertheless exciting. It will be interesting to see how a team like the Blackhawks will do.
Related – Blackhawks Need a Left Wing Makeover
Surprisingly, I think the Blackhawks could actually go somewhere with this format since they have a ton of playoff experience. It would make for some great hockey because the stakes are that much higher.
First and foremost, I hope all party’s involved listen to the medical professionals and make informed decisions regarding the health and safety of the players, coaches, and staff in this endeavor. We certainly wouldn’t want anyone to needlessly suffer just so we can watch more hockey. That being said, if they can pull this off then I’m not complaining! And it seems like the players really want to make this happen as well, so let’s get to it.
Now, on to the 24-team format. If this was purely a hockey decision, it probably makes more sense to go with a 20-team format instead. But the four final teams in this package are the Blackhawks, the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Rangers, and the Arizona Coyotes. Chicago, Montreal, and New York are of course huge hockey revenue markets. And the NHL certainly needs to make up as much revenue as possible because to their losses due to the pandemic.
So from a business standpoint, it makes sense to go with the 24-team format. As a Blackhawks’ fan, it’s probably a little easier for me to make this statement. According to the proposal, the fifth place Edmonton Oilers would match up against the 12th place Blackhawks in the Western Conference for the first round in a best-of-five series. I’m not so sure the good people up in Edmonton will be so happy about this when Patrick Kane and company beat them!
No team is ever the same from season to season. A select few elite athletes enjoy lucrative contracts and no movement clauses. But the majority of hockey players are subject to free agency, salary cap restraints, and the trade decisions of general managers and coaches. There are no guarantees. With that in mind, who do you think will not be a part of the team next season?
Blackhawks Most Likely NOT With the Team Next Season
Out of the free agents, I think Drake Caggiula and Slater Koekkoek won’t be back.
Related – Blackhawks: Upcoming Free Agents in 2020
When it comes to Dominik Kubalik, Dylan Strome, and Brandon Saad, only two out of the three is likely going to stay. I think Kubalik should definitely stay. And as much as it kills me to say it, I feel Strome is more likely to go than Saad. Saad simply has more to offer.
Both Corey Crawford and Malcolm Subban should remain on the team. Crawford was killing it before the pause, and Subban has yet to make an appearance. It’s only fair to give him a shot (even if it’s a short one-year contract) to prove whether or not he’s a good fit.
It is so hard to predict these sorts of things, especially when there could be a new general manager in charge before the start of next season. With that said, I will make my prediction based on the Blackhawks standing pat with Bowman as general manager.
I don’t think Strome will be back. The Blackhawks can’t afford to pay him market value when he really has only been productive playing on the same line as Alex DeBrincat. I can see his RFA rights being traded for a draft pick. I’d rather spend that money on Kubalik’s new contract.
Otherwise, there are no pending unrestricted free agents on the roster outside of Crawford. I think the smart money is to re-sign Crawford on the short-term contract to build a bridge to another season until one of the young guns in Rockford can make the jump.
Other bonus bold predictions: Brent Seabrook has played his last NHL game, and Olli Maatta will not be back next season, either because of a trade or a contract buyout.
When looking at the team’s roster, the one player I don’t think will be with the team next season is Saad. Considering if they want to re-sign Strome, Crawford, etc., they’re gonna have to quickly clear up cap space.
Saad would be easier to move than others because he doesn’t have a no-movement clause. So I could see him falling victim to the salary cap.
While neither is a free agent, forward Zack Smith ($3.25 million) and defenseman Maatta ($4 million) make an awful lot of money for what they bring to the table. I foresee the Blackhawks finding a way to trade or buy out one or both of these players. Another option for Smith might be long-term injured reserve, as he’s been dealing with back issues all season long.
Finally, as much as I regret to say this, I think Andrew Shaw has seen his last days playing in the NHL. His ongoing concussion issues aren’t going to go away, and he certainly won’t change his style of play. For his future health it would behoove Shawzy to call it quits. Although he could still be an advocate for the organization. Heck, I’m sure the Blackhawks could figure out a way to incorporate that outgoing personality of his in some way.
Thanks for reading folks! What do you think? Was the McDonough firing the right move? Do you agree with the NHL resuming play and the Blackhawks being a part of the 24-team format? Which Blackhawks will we be saying goodbye to next season? We here at The Hockey Writers have given our opinions, but we’d love to hear yours!
Gail Kauchak has covered the Chicago Blackhawks as a content writer since 2014. She previously wrote for Fansided’s Blackhawk Up, and has been part of The Hockey Writer’s team since 2017. It’s not always easy to balance life’s responsibility’s with one’s passion, but Gail’s doing her best to make it happen. Let’s put it this way; she’s probably reading and writing about hockey instead of cooking and cleaning. Shh, don’t tell her husband!
Follow Gail for her unique commentary about this storied franchise. And be sure to catch her and the rest of the Blackhawks’ crew on their weekly Blackhawks Banter show, as well as follow her on Twitter.