For the Chicago Blackhawks and their fans, the 2021 season to date has represented absolute rock bottom.
On the ice, the Hawks got off to an abysmal 1-9-2 start to the season under now-former head coach Jeremy Colliton. Meanwhile, headlines emerged around the world regarding the front office's mishandling of Brad Aldrich and Kyle Beach after a private investigation revealed damning truths about what took place in 2010 and the years following. It truly felt as though what was once the pride of Chicago sports franchises had all but faded away.
But interim head coach Derek King took the first step in changing that Sunday night.
A New Era
The Blackhawks, now rid of Stan Bowman and several others in leadership roles over the course of the One Goal era, still had major issues on the ice, and one close to it. Jeremy Colliton, who replaced Joel Quenneville three years ago to the day, was relieved of his duties on November 6.
On November 7, interim general manager Kyle Davidson took to the microphone in one of his first meetings with Chicago media and said what Blackhawks fans have been driving at for a while now regarding Colliton. The message wasn't translating to success on the ice.
As a fan of the team feeling little hope for what would come next for the raging dumpster fire that has been the 2021-22 Blackhawks season, that was the first semblance of an organization under new leadership trying to fix things left in disarray by its former leaders.
Along with Davidson, newly appointed interim head coach Derek King also made his first public appearance with Chicago media. While preaching a different style of play than his predecessor, there was a noted comparison to a former Hawks coach under whom the Blackhawks experienced more success.
King delivered a message highlighting the importance of getting the guys back to playing the game they loved. Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times pointed this out while the Blackhawks played their first contest under King, which they won 2-1 in overtime against the Nashville Predators.
And what a difference it made. Sure, this is a case of small sample size theater at its finest. It's one game. But it sure beats the results up until this point: losing constantly, on and off the ice.
System vs. Approach
Jay Zawaski dug up a quote from Duncan Keith's appearance on Spittin' Chiclets from 2019, in which Keith talked about how important it was "to be natural out there."
It's interesting to note the different tones here. After three years of rather stoic Colliton press conferences ripe with preaching the system he so desperately tried to relay to his players, it was refreshing to hear someone deliver a simplified message. And the scaled-back approach worked, at least for one night.
Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that Derek King served as Jeremy Colliton's assistant coach in Rockford and offered words of high praise regarding the system Colliton would bring to the NHL club just three years prior to the day King earned his first win as the coach of the Chicago Blackhawks himself.
While players delivered their messages of support for Colliton and expressed wishes of it working out better, it's simply hard to see considering how different this game felt even in the day leading up to it. Maybe there was never a problem with the system, but instead with the approach.
Charlie Roumeliotis of NBC Sports Chicago noted a much different mood during Sunday's postgame press conference. Things like this provide a storyline that could become very easy for a fan base starved of something to root for to get on board with.
The simplified approach. The personableness from King. It went a long way toward breathing fresh air into something that appeared to be on its death bed just last week.
In the end, it's only one game, but it was just fun to watch for the first time this season.