Are the Blackhawks back?

11/17/08 in NHL   |   biskit67   |   respect

The fans are back, but is the team ready to make a move from a forgotten franchise back to NHL prominence? The Blackhawks, who frankly were run in obscurity by deplorable management for over a decade, are starting to make noise in the NHL again. Bill Wirtz, known derisively as Dollar Bill, passed away approximately one year ago. Let's examine what has changed by this beleaguered franchise in one short year.

1. Home games are now televised. Bill Wirtz's archaic view to this subject caused much controversy over the years. He didn't want to give away the product he was trying to sell. What he didn't have the ability to see is that your product has to be visible for people to buy it. One of the very first things Rocky Wirtz changed when he took control of the team was to make sure the team was back in the public eye. The best way to do that?  Put the games on television. To me, this was equivalent to lights at Wrigley Field. It had to be done to move the team forward.

2. "Reassigning Bob Pulford". In my opinion, one of the long-standing issues of the organization was the manner in which Pulford was able to strongarm his influence into all decisions made. The Blackhawks passed on signing superstars like Brett Hull either because Pulford didn't like the player personally, or he didn't want to spend the money. I don't know whether Bill Wirtz paid him for the money that was saved by not signing players or what the case was. Whatever the case may be, getting new blood in the front office was paramount to moving into the 21st century.

3. Bringing back announcer Pat Foley. For those of us that grew up with that voice, the games were not the same. He was and is the Blackhawks. This did nothing to improve the team, but it definitely helped the goodwill towards the fan base.

4. Hiring John McDonough as the marketing director. How do you get the team back in the public eye? You market it to the public. The Blackhawks stole the best PR director in the city from the Cubs.

5. Signing Brian Campbell and Christian Huet. Not only did the Blackhawks decide to actually sign and pay for a star player in his prime, they signed two. Now, Huet is a little overrated in my opinion, but Campbell is probably the best offensive threat from the blue line they have had since Chris Chelios or even possibly further back to Doug Wilson.

6. Playing the kids. The old school Blackhawks would have had Craig Adams playing every night. They would have re-signed Keyvn Adams. Their belief was that experience was most important. They played to not lose rather than win. Now, every night you see Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Kris Versteeg, Troy Brouwer,  etc. etc. getting quality ice time. The belief now is, we are willing to struggle for a couple years and have a core of good to great players learning together. In a couple years, you end up with a quality roster of players that know each other well, and could be one of the top teams in the league.

There were some other minor moves here and there for the franchise like the first convention, reconnecting with legends like Hull Mikita and Esposito, and the winter classic in Chicago. Those are more sub categories of the marketing of the team. So, the bottom line is, "Where is the franchise right now?".

The team is definitely on the upswing, but I see them as a fringe playoff team right now. Their offense can be scary-good, but I don't think their opponents are intimated just yet. Their defense is very inconsistent right now. Brent Sopel does not have any business taking a regular shift in the NHL. Aaron Johnson is out of position frequently. The eventual return of James Wisniewski may help fix those problems. The roster is also missing the veteran who can put the team on his shoulders and get that tying goal or winning goal they need. Their oldest regular forward is Martin Havlat at 27. Patrick Sharp is going to be 27 in December. One could argue those are the two most consistent performers on the team. Unless they can swing a deal involving their goaltending suplus this season, they may have to test the free agent  market once again in the off season. My prediction for this season is a squeak into the playoffs as a 7-seed, which will probably mean a series against Detroit. I think they take Detroit to 7 games before bowing down. However, I feel in two years this team will be playing in the conference finals.
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11/22/08   |   MarkTheShark   |   590 respect

Great stuff!