For the Blackhawks, this has been an embarrassingly forgetful season–embarrassing both on and off the ice. Drama never missed this team, whether it was a monster contract given to defensemen, Seth Jones, which was met with mixed feelings, to the departure of critical front office personnel due to the Kyle Beach allegations and investigation, to the coaching change, the tirade by majority owner, Rocky Wirtz, to the 9 game losing streak, while celebrating good moments like the return of Captain Jonathan Toews, him playing his 1,000th game, the retiring of Marian Hossa’s number, DeBrincat recording his 300th NHL point, to the first glimpses of highly touted prospect Lukas Reichel, this season has had everything.
So, with the rollercoaster of a season laid out before us, what exactly does a successful, or ideal offseason look like for the Chicago Blackhawks? I will be laying out my 5 keys over the next 5 days. Here is number one:
1. For the Players, Hakuna Matata.
As a father of young children, I’ve watched a lot more Lion King lately than normal, and the conversation Timon and Pumbaa have with Simba is one that the Blackhawks should revisit this summer: “You know, kid, in times like these, my buddy, Timon, here says, ‘You gotta put your behind in your past.” To which Timon quickly corrects Pumbaa with the quote, “You gotta put your past behind you.”
The Blackhawks, especially the young players who just arrived in Chicago, could use the same approach. This entire season felt like no matter how well or poorly the team played, that a dark, scandalous cloud would follow them. For many of these players, this just added to the unrealistic pressure of a ill-equipped team to perform at a high level following the acquisitions of goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury and defenseman, Seth Jones.
So, put the past behind you. For many of these players, they weren’t even here when the sexual misconduct towards Kyle Beach occurred. These young Hawks would just benefit from a clean slate. An offseason with a new coach, with limited expectations, and no scandals and controversies will provide the players the focus they need to be the best hockey players they can be. Taking “Hakuna Matata” to heart will only aid in the development of young players like Reichel, Dach, Regula, Vlasic, and Johnson. As for your veterans, not needing to focus on this dreadful crime allows them to hone in on guiding the younger players and adjusting to their new roles in a rebuilding team.
That being said, the Blackhawks as a whole still must own the dark past and present tangible ways they seek to amend their crimes from the past decade. This needs to be doubled down due to the travesty of a press conference that Rocky Wirtz had during the Blackhawks “Town Hall” in January. If the organization can own the scandal and the players can move on from it, I see a much more enjoyable, less embarrassing, and more successful season next year.