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Blackhawks Blown Out Of Bubble

There was only one thing left to do - put the Blackhawks and their fans out of their misery.

After thoroughly dominating their first-round playoff series with the Hawks, the Golden Knights mercifully pulled the plug with a 4-3 victory in Edmonton late Tuesday night. That gave them a 4-1 series victory that wasn't that close.

And anyone around here trying to put any sort of positive spin on this series was not paying close enough attention. The Hawks saved a little face with a 3-1 victory to avoid the sweep in Game 4, but Vegas even dominated that game, outshooting their foes 49-25.

A Golden Knights team that one must remember is still in only its third season of existence is way, way better than the Blackhawks. The Knights appear poised to make a deep playoff run two years after they went all the way to the finals at the end of their debut campaign before bowing to the champion Capitals. The Knights lost in the first round of the playoffs last year while the Hawks sat out.

Who among the young Hawks who played sizable minutes in this series strikes you, Ms. or Mr. Blackhawks fan, as a future centerpiece of the organization? Adam Boqvist? Kirby Dach? They are both too young to draw any big conclusions but other than brief flashes, neither was anything special. Actually Dach appears to have a potentially above-average size and speed combination but there is much work to be done to bring that to fruition.

Dominik Kubalik you say? I say he sure looked a lot like Alex DeBrincat, who burst on the scene with 41 goals in 2018-19. Of course this past season's stats have to be largely discounted because of the massive break in the schedule from March to July, but does anyone believe that DeBrincat didn't take a huge step back this time around (18 goals and a second-worst-on-the-team -10 plus/minus)?

And then there is the goaltending. Corey Crawford returned to the team at the last possible moment before bubble play began. Nevertheless the Blackhawks had so little confidence in their other options that Crawford, who is now 36, played every minute of every game in Edmonton.

Crawford is now a free agent. The Hawks' salary cap issues will only be exacerbated by the coming plummet in revenues (along with everyone else's, I realize, but everyone else isn't on the hook for several more years of high salaries for a crew of veterans who would have made it three non-playoff years in a row this past spring but for the league adding additional teams to the bubble postseason).

In the front office, Danny Wirtz is now the team's president, a position the team insists is temporary. Until a new president is hired, however, the Hawks will be led by a fourth-generation legacy. It was Danny's great-grandfather Arthur who was actually successful enough in other fields to buy the team and build it up. Disastrous Dollar Bill Wirtz inherited the squad, as did his successful son Rocky.

Unless they are keenly aware of their own shortcomings, legacy owners are far more likely to fail than the guys who have proven themselves in ways other than winning the birth lottery. The keenly self-aware Rocky didn't waste time when he took over, quickly hiring outsider John McDonough as team president.

Plenty of the Hawks' success between 2010 and 2015 flowed from that single decision. That and the fact that former general manager Dale Tallon took advantage of a series of high draft picks (as a result of the team sucking for most of the 2000s) to draft the team's stars. And he capped off his tenure as GM by signing Marian Hossa as a free agent shortly before he was fired in 2009.

Tallon was fired by the Florida Panthers as their general manager earlier this month. Is a reunion in Chicago possible? Not bloody likely but it would be far from the worst thing that could happen.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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Posted on Sep 21, 2020