The Blackhawks' dramatic rebirth

While the Chicago Blackhawks are probably tired of all the criticisms hurled at their perceived weakness in net, long-time fans must find humor in that being the powerhouse team’s biggest problem. In just a few years, this team went from one of the saddest, most poorly run franchises in all of professional sports into a young, ultra-talented Cup contender that packs the cavernous United Center night after night.

It’s more than a bit macabre to attribute the team’s revitalization to the death of owner Bill Wirtz. After all, the team wouldn’t be where it is today if it hadn’t drafted Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Still, the man many called “Dollar Bill” Wirtz maintained some mind numbing policies that kept the club far behind the times.

“Unpopular with fans and media, his passing was treated as if he were Ebenezer Scrooge, as fans booed a moment of silence before the October 8th home opener. Wirtz had been nicknamed “Dollar Bill” for his frugal dealings regarding free agents as many blamed him for the Blackhawks futility, as his ownership group was named the were the worst franchise in sports by ESPN. 

In a sign things were changing, the team’s new President Rocky Wirtz finally agreed to allow Blackhawks home games to air on local television reversing a long held policy from his father. Rocky Wirtz also welcomed back legendary players Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito as club ambassadors, the three had refused to have anything to do with the team, while Bill Wirtz was alive.”
Let that sink in for a second: Blackhawks fans weren’t able to watch home games on TV until 2007 because Bill Wirtz thought it would hurt their gate revenue. Such archaic thought makes me wonder how Chicago made it to road games on time while traveling by horse and buggy.
So when you’re watching this young, talented and incredibly deep Chicago squad, realize that this team was a blight on the NHL landscape for most of the last decade and beyond.

Scroll Down For:

    Some tough decisions await the Blues

    3 Comments

    Yet again, the St. Louis Blues failed to achieve their ultimate goal.

    And boy does it hurt right now.

    “We’re all hurting,” coach Ken Hitchcock said last night after getting eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

    “You don’t want this to be our best opportunity. You want this to be a building block. In this game, in this era, in this cap world, you don’t know where you’re going to be a year from now.”

    Indeed, GM Doug Armstrong has some tough decisions to make this offseason.

    At the top of the list is whether to bring Hitchcock back. Yes, the Blues did better than 26 other teams, and yes, they finally got past the first round. Still, there are people who believe this will be it for the head coach, that a new voice could help. Overall, Hitchcock has done a great job in St. Louis. But then, so did Todd McLellan in San Jose. Sometimes, change can be good.

    Then there are the unrestricted free agents. Both captain David Backes and winger Troy Brouwer need new contracts. The former is 32, the latter 30. The former had seven goals in the playoffs, the latter eight. How much money will they want? How much term? The second question might be the most important.

    On the back end, it’s Kevin Shattenkirk that will garner the most attention. He’s signed through next season before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Just 27 years old, and considering the demand for what he does, he’ll be very expensive to keep. And with the emergence of Colton Parayko, trading Shattenkirk could probably be justified, especially if the return is good. A team like the Boston Bruins might be willing to pay up.

    Right now, the pain is still fresh for the Blues.

    “It’s so hard to win in the league right now,” said Hitchcock. “It’s so hard to win a series. So hard to just get in the playoffs. When you get this far, you get this close, you think you got the opportunity.”

    The challenge for Armstrong will be to give his team another opportunity next season. And with the draft less than a month away, all these tough decisions will need to be made very soon.

    Goals of the Week get tougher as Cup Final approaches

    1 Comment

    The Stanley Cup Final is almost upon us and picking the very best Goals of the Week is a tough task. See how we did on this edition!

    Just for Men: Mike Commodore

    RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 14:  Mike Commodore #22 of the Carolina Hurricanes warms up before game five of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers on June 14, 2006 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Getty
    2 Comments

    Maybe one would argue that time hasn’t been kind to the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes (at least compared to the pedigree of other winners), but Mike Commodore’s incredible red afro and beard rank as one of hockey’s most timeless combinations.

    Seriously, just take a step back from your monitor* and bask in the splendor of that carrot-topped Commodore.

    Even then-President George W. Bush remarked on Commodore’s bushy hair and beard (or its tragic absence) when the Canes visited the White House:

    THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Have a seat. It’s a pretty big deal for a guy that doesn’t know how to ice skate — (laughter) — to welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the White House. We appreciate you coming. You know, I’m not sure what is prettier, the Stanley Cup, or Mike Commodore’s hair. (Laughter.) A little disappointed you got a haircut. (Laughter.) But, welcome.

    Good stuff.

    And it really is kind of disappointing any time you see Commodore relatively clean-shaven. It’s like Superman without a big “S” on his chest or Metallica with short hair or any number of not-quite-right sights.

    * – If you’re doing the Rumsfeld-style “standing at your desk” thing then … kneel for a second maybe?

    Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

    Stanley Cup
    1 Comment

    There’s nothing better than a Game 7, especially when a spot in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle in a do-or-die game for the right to play the San Jose Sharks with Lord Stanley on the line. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

    Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

    The television broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the Live Extra app, click here.

    Here’s some reading material to get you ready for this one:

    Penguins, Lightning prepare for ‘roller coaster’ Game 7

    Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

    Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal