Just when you thought the NHL hiatus during Covid-19 wouldn’t get any crazier, enter the Chicago Blackhawks. If you ask anyone in hockey a month ago that John McDonough would get fired, many would say no. A month ago Chicago Blackhawks owner, Rocky Wirtz, was asked by Scott Lazarus of The Athletic if their would be any changes to the front office, and Wirtz said no there would not be. Fast forward to this past Monday, people would be surprised by that answer.
On Monday President and CEO John McDonough was fired by the Blackhawks after being with the team for the last 13 years. In that time, he took a team ranked by ESPN as the 253rd worst franchise in North America. Do you know where that placed them out of all of the North American Franchise’s? Dead Last. That’s right, dead last. The Blackhawks when McDonough joined the team was 253 out of 253 in North America ranked by ESPN.
Fast forward to 2020 and you will see a completely different mindset and story within the franchise of the Blackhawks. In the 13 years McDonough put the Blackhawks on TV for the first time in forever because before Rocky Wirtz took over his father, Bill Wirtz, didn’t have the team on tv. They barely had 6,000 fans a game and at one point tickets were $4 a piece. You at the team now, they are on a 531 game home sellout streak and season tickets have a waiting list. That’s not to mention what happened on the ice.
The 2010s were good to the Blackhawks as they won the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013, and 2015 with the likes of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and many others. The four players named individually joined the Blackhawks from 2005-2008 before the team made the conference final in 2009 when they lost to the Detroit Red Wings.
After 2007, with McDonough at the wheel, the Blackhawks became what it is known as now; a team that people call the 2010s teams as a dynasty. 3 cups in 6 years is phenomenal especially in the salary cap era. Some NHL fans would claim that the Pittsburgh Penguins of 2016 and 2017 as a dynasty for going back to back, but you can not deny that the Blackhawks of the 2010s was better. But, with all of that said and done; there’s only one question you can ask yourself if you’re the Blackhawks, “What’s Next?”.
Whats next is a good question but one that will be hard to answer right now for the Blackhawks. They haven’t won a playoff series since the 2015 Stanley Cup season, and they haven’t made the playoffs going on three years now. For a team that’s looking for an identity they need to figure it out now while the NHL is still on hiatus from the 2019/2020 season. The only thing that could make sense is for the team to do the rebuild that should have happened two seasons ago.
Although, saying that they should do a rebuild is easier said than done. The Blackhawks are still under the major contracts of Brent Seabrook (Signed until 2024, $6.875 AAV), Duncan Keith (Signed until 2023, $5.53M AAV), Patrick Kane & Jonathan Toews (Signed until 2023, $10.5M each AAV).
As long as the Blackhawks are under those contracts that have movement clauses, there’s not much they can do. In my opinion Patrick Kane, & Jonathan Toews will be in Chicago until their contracts are up. But, not so much for Duncan Keith, and Brent Seabrook. Seabrook has been out since December with a double hip surgery and a shoulder surgery and Keith is still producing but not at what they’re paying him for. If they lighten Keith’s load then that might help him. Seabrook though is a more complicated matter. Seabrook will be 38 by the end of the 2023/2024 season and with how he’s been, who knows if he’ll make it. For the record I love Seabrook, Keith and the others; I would hate to see any of them go. But, if the Blackhawks want to get back to winning, they need to accept a full rebuild or do something innovative to keep their core now while giving them better talent around them. It’ll be up to Stan Bowman and the front office to make those decisions.
Overall, what’s next for the Blackhawks is what they need to figure out now before it’s too late. If they want to get competitive, they need to make the tough decisions that unfortunately fans like me won’t be happy with but will understand in the long run. They need to stop thinking about winning right now, and build for the future. Do you think the Blackhawks need to do a full rebuild, or find a way to make team around the core better now and try to win now while waiting to fix the problem at a later date. Only time will tell.