After an embarrassing loss to the New York Rangers at home, the Blackhawks proceeded to host an off-ice practice and film study. Speculation was that players needed to be healthy for any possible trades, however, that didn't seem to be the case.
Here's the thing with being tired... this late in the season, everyone is tired. Every single team is playing through the same exhaustion, bumps, and bruises and simply needs to find a way through. This Blackhawks team doesn't look tired, they look disinterested. There's a major difference between the two.
This is where I interject and send my message to Rocky Wirtz, owner of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Mr. Wirtz, my name is Ronald Luce. I am an aspiring sports writer, current accountant, season ticket holder, and die-hard Blackhawks fan. I applaud the success that this franchise has had since you took over. However, that success of yesteryear is starting to fade.
As the current state of the franchise stands, there are a few players that have expiring contracts that would absolutely make sense to trade and add draft/prospect capital for. Names such as Erik Gustafsson, Corey Crawford, and hell, if it's for the right price, Brandon Saad and Dylan Strome could be pieces as well. Now don't get me wrong, I love Saad and Strome, but the organization is without any major prospects aside from Ian Mitchell and, as much I like Mitchell, he is not the savior of the franchise.
Now, Mr. Wirtz, I turn back to you. When your father passed away, you took over a dying franchise. You hired the right people, had a great general manager in place, and had a great group of youth. You inherited two top-three Dale Tallon draft picks that became pillars of your organization, but you still had to make changes to move the franchise in the right direction.
You put the team back on television. Numbers rose with the success that this young team was finding. After your first year, the team missed the playoffs by slim margins but was on the rise.
Two seasons later, you lifted Lord Stanley's Cup as owner of the team. Three seasons later, you did it again and then again two years later. Your proud franchise had the greatest run in franchise history and certainly the best run any team has had in the modern cap era.
However, what worked in years past is no longer working. Rising prospects have been traded for rentals to continue playoff runs. Most other prospects that have been kept have not amounted to much. Your team has seemed to luck out, so far, finding Adam Boqvist and Kirby Dach as potential pillars of the future.
In order for that next wave of young talent on this team to succeed, things need to change. Your current front office is slowly burning this team down on a bed of arrogance and ignorance.
Fans do not appreciate being told "this is a playoff team" when Chris Kunitz was your top free-agent signing.
Fans do not appreciate paying an arm and a leg for your tickets with no meaningful promise of hope in the future to stand behind.
Fans do not appreciate this team banking on the success of the past to drive the team's success in the future.
The time is now, Mr. Wirtz, to make changes. Change NEEDS to happen.
Let's start with John McDonough. The business guru joined your organization after an incredible run with the Chicago Cubs. He was a PR genius and helped pack the seats at the United Center. However, the longer he tries to market that this is a playoff team, the longer fans will be annoyed and slowly leave those seats he once helped fill.
Next, let's look at Scotty's son. Oh sorry, I mean Stan Bowman. Sure, Stan has done some good things for the Blackhawks. He helped keep the core together and put other pieces around them. However, he did not build those championship teams. He was given the keys to a Ferrari and told, "don't crash it."
Now, Stan will likely stand pat at the trade deadline, which is only days away, instead of moving assets to gain some capital for the future. Instead of re-signing the best goaltender this team has for the present and future, he'll likely deal him or let him walk, because he's too afraid to give the guy an honest deal. To fans, this is garbage.
Instead, Corey Crawford, who will go down as the best goaltender this franchise has ever had, will be the pillar of the blue paint with injury concerns, an aging body, and a head that has taken one-too-many concussions. I love Crawford as much as the next fan, but Stan needs to think about the future. Robin Lehner is only 28 years old, Crawford is 34.
Instead of dealing Erik Gustafsson, he'll probably sign him to some silly deal that he is not worth. He'll compromise any chance of keeping players such as Strome, possibly Saad, Lehner, and many other key players.
Stan has assembled a non-playoff team with cap constraints. Please, Mr. Wirtz, explain how that is supposed to make sense?
Finally, let's look at Jeremy Colliton, a coach that I, personally, have had a lot of faith in. I gave him more chances than others. However, I think he needed a few more years in the minors to hone his skills and coaching style. He was rushed, courtesy of your aforementioned battery, because the front office made Joel Quenneville the scapegoat instead of examining how they were "improving" the team. Sadly, Colliton is stuck in a position where people think he's awful. I think, someday, he'll be a great coach. However, for this current team, it's clearly not working.
So, Mr. Wirtz, I'd like to ask that you do something difficult on behalf of the fans. I ask that you burn it to the ground. I ask that you make the decision to replace McDonough, Bowman, and Colliton. I ask that you find someone who has the talent of drafting players so this team can rebuild naturally. I ask that you make the hard decision, change, and put this franchise on the proper course going forward.
You saw it yourself when you assumed ownership of the team. Your dad didn't want to put the team on television because he assumed people would just come. It's starting to feel that way. Your front office is preaching the success of yesteryear to fill the seats. However, you can only fool this fanbase so long until those seats are no longer filled.
Mr. Wirtz, please take a good, hard look at this franchise. Please tell me you see what I see. Please make the changes needed for the next 20 years, not the next two.
If you don't see it, I'm happy to sit down with you over a nice glass of scotch and talk.
A die-hard, loyal, passionate fan of your beautiful franchise.