It was going to happen before the 2020-2021 season. The Blackhawks finally sorted out their executive roster.
However, one of these changes makes sense, but the other two? To put it diplomatically, the changes at the top of the organization are a bit shocking. First and foremost, the Chicago Blackhawks announced a replacement for former team president John McDonough who was fired back in April.
SportsNet and just about every organization that covers sports announced that he’ll be replaced by Jaime Faulkner. This position has been vacant for a while, and it was expected that it be filled before the season actually began.
Is this a good hire? It’s way too early to judge that. Obviously, Rocky Wirtz thought she was the correct person for the position, and now we can all see how she does. Give it time. She’s been hired to make the team money and keep fans interested and engaged, and basically, oversee the business side of the organization. Although she may have been given an impossible task because of another move the organization made.
As an aside, kudos to Chicago for being willing to hire a woman for the position, the second such high-profile addition to the organization this off-season. It was previously announced that Olympic Gold Medalist Kendall Coyne Schofield was hired into a role for player development. It’s great to see the organization not treating the team like a boy’s club.
Unfortunately, the happy part of Chicago’s announcement stops there. The organization made two other moves, that are frankly, unexplainable. Stan Bowman, who everyone thought was on the hot seat, has been promoted. What?!? How does this happen? I’m going on the record to say this is a bad move. This is where Faulkner’s job becomes more difficult because there’s no way fans are happy about Bowman’s new job(s).
You could make a case for Bowman sticking around as GM, but you’d be reaching to come up with reasons to promote him. At this point, he has a pretty good collection of hits, as well as misses. There’s a clear track record, but for everything he’s done right, he’s done something else really wrong.
You don’t necessarily fire people like this, but you don’t promote them. Bowman probably has some kind of vision for the team that he has now apparently been given a blank check to realize. The best thing Bowman could now is to hire someone else to be the GM, and step aside entirely from that role.
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Maybe he’ll be great as “President of all Things Hockey”, but to be in the position, as well as GM? It’s too much, and he has no one watching over him. The entire hockey world has almost two decades (!) of Stan Bowman to evaluate, and this is just not a good move.
Poor choice, Chicago Blackhawks. Poor choice.
The third part of this equation is Danny Wirtz taking over as CEO. It’s hard not to speculate on this. The team’s official website still has Rocky Wirtz listed as “Chairman”, but he’s not a young man. Does this mean he’s slowly stepping aside for his son?
Is Danny Wirtz ready for that? As the team’s CEO, Danny Wirtz just gave Stan Bowman complete control of everything that has to do with the hockey side of the organization. As a fan of the team, I believe he’ll need time to properly assess, but promoting Bowman was questionable decision-making.
During Chicago’s off-season, I kind of had the impression that Bowman was being put into the spotlight in a way that said, “this is it. You will or won’t be fired based on this season.” Chairman Wirtz doesn’t manage the on-the-ice product. He signs the checks and oversees things from on high. Danny Wirtz was the team’s president, but only on an interim basis. Everything that was happening with the actual team was squarely on Bowman’s shoulders because he had absolutely no oversight.
In my mind, Bowman was going to be judged on whether or not the 2020-2021 season demonstrated that he had set the team back on a path to success. He was trotted out to the media, the team announced the plan to rebuild, controversial moves were made, and contracts were signed.
Aside from Dylan Strome, basically, everything is sorted for 2020-2021. We were all going to watch how it played out, and then be ready for Bowman getting fired at the end of the season when the team wasn’t very good.
We were all wrong.
Everything that just transpired for Chicago during this off-season happened because Bowman had the blessing of both Rocky and Danny Wirtz. Personally, I’m stunned. This isn’t at all how I expected the role of team president to be filled, and based on a quick doom scroll through sports journalists on social media, no one else did either.
For good reasons and bad reasons, the Blackhawks raised some eyebrows. Those bad reasons though…woof. Then again, on some level this all makes sense. It is still 2020.