A winless team, a broken sellout streak, a dire lack of experience or continuity in the front office and a tainted history leave the Hawks no framework with which to rebuild.
The Blackhawks have nothing good, nothing stable, left to cling to.
The banners, rings and glorious memories from their recent Stanley Cup runs? Forever tainted by their decision to prioritize winning the 2010 Cup — the one that set the stage for all three — over delivering justice to and protecting society from former video coach and now-proven sexual abuser Brad Aldrich, as an investigation determined Tuesday.
The popularity and goodwill they built up in the community? Eaten away by years of aimless mediocrity, then destroyed with dramatic effect in the last few weeks — to the point that their home date Sunday didn’t sell out for the first time in 535 games.
The front-office leadership with the experience to carry the Hawks through this mess? Decimated in the last two years — starting with John McDonough’s firing in April 2020, then Norm Maciver’s flight to the Kraken, then Jay Blunk’s and Pete Hassen’s departures this summer and finally Stan Bowman’s and Al MacIsaac’s resignations.
The final wrecking ball that smashed through the Hawks on Tuesday demolished the last walls standing from the once-golden castle the organization represented and inhabited. It’s all gone. And forget any delusions about their road back to glory; their road back to simple respectability looks long, bumpy and uncertain right now.
The team Bowman supposedly fixed this summer is a disaster on the ice and will be hindered for years to come by his imprudent decisions, even though he now is gone.
Overmatched defenseman Seth Jones’ eight-year, $76 million contract doesn’t kick in until next season. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have only one year left on their contracts after this season and are arguably no longer centerpieces to build around, anyway.
Five of the Hawks’ six first-round draft picks between 2012 and 2018 have been traded, along with their first-round pick in 2022.
Coach Jeremy Colliton’s seat should be scorching hot, considering how inept the Hawks have been — especially defensively — throughout his now three-plus seasons behind the bench (although he has been saddled with poor rosters and many challenges during that time).
Colliton and Bowman were tied at the hip — Bowman’s devotion to him as his handpicked replacement for Joel Quenneville long has been seen as his strongest safety net — and that security is kaput now, too.
At this point, however, the Hawks might need to retain Colliton just to keep any semblance of continuity. It’s unclear, after all, who even would be qualified to fire him.
CEO Danny Wirtz and business president Jaime Faulkner have been with the Hawks less than two years, and their backgrounds are in business and marketing, not in hockey.
Interim GM Kyle Davidson was still in college when Bowman became the Hawks’ GM in 2009 and was just promoted to assistant GM last year. So were assistant GMs Ryan Stewart (pro evaluation) and Mark Eaton (player development), the other highest-ranking people left in the Hawks’ hockey-operations department.
Davidson’s rise from an intern with the Rockford IceHogs in 2010 to this interim role is, on its own, a fascinating story. Originally in video and statistical analytics, Davidson ascended quickly once the Hawks discovered his adeptness with contract negotiations and salary-cap management and knowledge of the intricacies of the collective-bargaining agreement.
‘‘It’s been about 10 years now of taking responsibilities as they became available and trying to constantly learn from those around me,’’ Davidson told the Sun-Times in December 2020.
But his promotion to interim GM comes as a shock, likely even to him, and shows just how much turnover quietly — or, in the case of Tuesday, explosively — has
occurred in the Hawks’ front office.
Indeed, after several seasons of gradual decline, the speed and abruptness with which the Hawks have fallen into shambles recently is difficult to grasp. Since 2018-19, a season that ended only 2œ years ago, only six players and basically zero high-ranking executives remain.
The Hawks who will take the ice Wednesday against the Maple Leafs — likely to scattered boos from a less-than-capacity crowd — will have virtually zero connection to the Hawks of old (not even that old). The timing of Kane and Toews going on the COVID-19 list makes that statement particularly true.
In one sense, that’s a good thing. The results of the investigation revealed Tuesday certainly emphasized how much of the Hawks’ acclaimed former greatness was a mirage.
But when it comes to rebuilding this broken franchise, there’s no framework left standing. They must start from scratch.