By: Alex Patt
On Tuesday night, I was sitting 14 rows from the ice at the United Center. The boos rained down from the stands as the clock ticked to zero to seal a 4-1 Blackhawks loss against the Islanders in their home opener. The Blackhawks fell to 0-3-1 and they have yet to have a LEAD this season.
If it was not for the whacky COVID playoff realignment in 2020, the Blackhawks would be working on five year playoff drought (if they were to miss this year). Ever since taking over as head coach in early 2018-2019 after “Q” was let go, Jeremy Colliton is 86-86-25 behind the Blackhawks bench. It is the very definition of mediocre. This team is stuck in the deepest depths of hockey hell.
What is so frustrating is while we knew going into 2021-2022 that this team was not a Stanley Cup contender, they should be better than this. They look so out of sync and playing such uninspiring hockey. The hope was that the additions of Seth Jones, Tyler Johnson, Marc-Andre Fleury along with the return of Jonathan Toews and a healthy Kirby Dach would see noticeable improvement from the team. Not the case so far.
It might be only four games in, but this is the NHL and there is so little room for error. Colliton is not the only reason for the team’s play, but the system is just not working. Even with a flawed roster, having the talents of Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Dominik Kubalik, Toews, Dach, Fleury etc. should see a team with better results and better flow to their play than what we see now.
I do not like calling for people to lose their jobs, and Colliton is a guy who I feel is just not ready for an NHL coaching gig, but there needs to be a change. Colliton coached across seas and had one full year with the AHL Rockford Icehogs prior to being the Blackhawks head coach. I believe he still has a future in NHL coaching but he might need to get more experience as an assistant or AHL coach. It is like a preschooler being thrown into the third grade.
While a change in coaching could be the first significant step, that does not solve all your issues. This is sports, and it all starts at the top. I am talking to you, Stan Bowman. While Bowman helped maintain the talent around the core (that Dale Tallon build) to win three Stanley Cups, the moves going back to the albatross contract extensions for aging core defensive players helped spark the downfall. Just look at what they are paying Jones with that extension…absurd. In the end, the game of hockey passed the Blackhawks by and they have yet to catch up.
Is this what this franchise is going to settle for going forward? “Oh as long as Kane is scoring goals and they finish the year around .500 that is good enough to sell tickets!” I really hope Danny Wirtz is smarter than that.
Here is the thing, the Blackhawks are not the Cubs. Even when the Cubs are irrelevant and bad, fans will still go to Wrigley Field. If this continues, fans will stop showing up to the United Center. It might not be “Dollar Bill” Wirtz era bad, but I can bet you will see 5,000-8,000 empty seats at the Madhouse if this team continues to spiral into 2022.
I do feel like if the Blackhawks made changes and did more of a traditional “rebuild” approach, fans would at least feel better about there being a defined direction even if the team is not winning right away. It is probably easier said than done, but I was one of those fans who wished the team could have just been blown up and rebuilt from scratch. New front office, new coaches, new players etc. Feels like that is not going to happen. If you are not going to tear it down, then at least make significant changes to the team structure to try to compete.
Boy I sure hope the Bulls are good because the Blackhawks, Bears and Cubs have me down.