Wirtz needs to lead for Hawks to win - New York News

Rocky Wirtz needs to lead the way for the Blackhawks to win another Stanley Cup

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

As the disappointment of another first round playoff exit hits home, there should be one overwhelming question facing Blackhawk faithful. Will the Hawks become the first team since the 2004 NHL Lockout to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions? The group of six clubs which have failed to capture Lord Stanley more than once since 2005 are Carolina, Anaheim, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Boston.

Possibly expectations were too high last season and now my judgment is clouded with disenchantment. Maybe, but it seems the Blackhawks wouldn't be the current favorite out of recent winners to hoist the Cup again the soonest.

Little was made clear at last week's post-mortem media day when Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville commented on the failed season. The picture painted was cloudy. The GM pointed his finger at coaching and the head coach threw unnamed players under the bus. What remains to be seen is who owner Rocky Wirtz finds at fault.

As presently constructed, the Blackhawks are stuck in the middle. It is apparent leadership with a specific plan needs to surface. The Hawks are somewhat in a state of flux and Wirtz might have to be the one to put the franchise back on a Stanley Cup course.

What should happen before one free agent is signed or a trade pulled off, is for management to establish what kind of team they want to become.

The Blackhawks were not good enough to play air tight defense and consistently win low scoring games. If the Hawks concentrate on shoring up defensive shortcomings their offense seems to suffer. At least that was the case against Western Conference playoff teams in the final two months of the season.

Nashville and Los Angeles win during the regular season and in the playoffs by playing low scoring games. It is more difficult to win in the postseason by relying on outscoring opponents like Philadelphia does, but they are doing fine this year. Washington has transformed itself into a defensive oriented team from their high flying, gamble and score often mentality.

Different styles of play can work but what doesn't do well is when a team can't stay consistent. Unfortunately that describes the 2011-2012 Blackhawks, unable to bring the same type of effective effort game after game.

Quenneville seems as if he doesn't want to change very much, but then again he does waiver. GM Bowman needs to acquire players who complement each other, but a specific direction must be defined.

Bowman and Quenneville need to get on the same page or not much will be accomplished this summer. For now, it appears neither is able to admit any wrong doing. That leads us to Wirtz who can't be too happy and like most of us must be a little confused.

Many Hawk fans are bewildered but maybe the best hope is Rocky will be more anxious to admit mistakes than either Quenneville or Bowman. After all, the biggest loser is Wirtz if playoff disappointment keeps happening and the Hawks buzz goes quiet.

The Blackhawks may not have to fight as hard next season for Chicago media attention after the unfortunate injury to the Bulls Derrick Rose. The Bulls disappointment shouldn't mean the Hawks front office will be content with recent results. Those who want to believe the wait list for season tickets is endless and the United Center will be sold out for decades have short memories.

When the Hawks moved into the United Center they led the NHL in attendance. Chicago had the largest arena in the league in 1994 and it was sold out for every contest. Actually the Blackhawks were the first NHL team to average over 20,000 in attendance per game. It didn't take more than a few years before the attendance dropped off badly. By the late 90's the cavernous United Center was more empty than full for many games.

In a lot of ways, the Blackhawks have never been more popular. The same can be said of hockey in the U.S., but no doubt Wirtz remembers the bad days. Currently he is still paying back loans to the Wirtz Corporation which helped subsidize the Blackhawks pre-Kane and Toews.

Wirtz isn't bashful to mention red ink and he also knows winning hockey sells. Beyond winning games playoff revenue is extremely important and without it a franchise will have trouble breaking even. The competition for entertainment dollars in a big city like Chicago is great, Wirtz knows the challenges.

It has been reported Wirtz will be part of a $75-$85 million retail development which will be attached to the United Center. The location will be the East side parking lot which is home to the Michael Jordan statue. Jerry Reinsdorf is heading up the venture which plans to house four bars and restaurants, plus a retail store and offices.

The development has hurdles to bypass, but if completed the 260,000 square foot retail center could help the entire West side prosper. The United Center could someday be thought of as an entertainment area similar to Wrigleyville.

According to Crain's Chicago Business, the United Center attracts at least 1.5 million fans for Bulls and Blackhawks regular season games. That number represents fan interest in winning Bulls and Blackhawks teams. Rocky remembers only so well the days of attendance of 5,000 or fewer.

Maybe the best hope for Blackhawk fans is Wirtz won't let stubbornness or inflated egos stand in the way of capturing another Stanley Cup. Retail developments and heavy marketing promotion won't matter as much if on ice performance isn't strong.

Uncertainty and a scattered direction makes Wirtz the biggest loser. Blackhawk fans need Rocky to come to the rescue and lead his franchise to another Stanley Cup.

Al's Shots

I took part in a webcast on Puckchatter-radio Monday night with Chris Block from The ThirdManIn.com. Chris does a great job in covering the Rockford IceHogs and has a high opinion of one young Hawks prospect, Phillip Danault.

According to Chris, Danault may not be far away from making contributions on the big club. Block believes Danault has a shot to make the Hawks roster out of training camp.

For those looking to trade a core player, Danault could be that reason. If Bowman is high on the youngsters' development, he would have another option for a third line center.

That could make Dave Bolland expendable with two more years remaining on his contract. An acquirer would then have some cost certainty if wanting to trade for Bolland. The audio link for Monday night's chat is up on http://thethirdmanin.com/.

My outlook on young hockey players is more tempered than most. An organization often pumps the tires of their prospects and leads fans to believe they are viable NHL players before their time.

Here are some brief opinions on a few Rockford Ice Hogs.

Kyle Beach may get more time to develop after an injury plagued season. I would be surprised if Beach didn't begin the year in Rockford. Beach could still become the type of power forward the Hawks desperately need, but he could be running out of time here.

Forward Rob Flick plays with an edge and looks like a future NHL energy player. He might have to jump over tough guy Brandon Bollig to get a roster spot.

Center Brandon Pirri had a fine season in Rockford but doesn't seem to be a favorite of Coach Q. Pirri could be viewed by the Hawks as a bubble NHL player. If that is the case his trade value now might be as high as it will get. With the injury situation last season it seemed like the Hawks could have given Pirri more of a chance.

Shawn Lalonde is a defenseman in a similar mold as Nick Leddy. That means the Hawks could look to deal Lalonde sooner than later. Last season, Lalonde didn't appear to make a lot of progress. He is one of few players in Rockford with similar profiles to others.

Jeremy Morin had an up and down year with the Ice Hogs. According to many, Morin appears to be a sure fire NHL player, but has some issues. His skating style and the fact he has been injury prone hasn't helped his cause. I'm not sure if the Hawks still value Morin as a top six forward candidate. If not, he is one of few in Rockford that could be packaged in a trade this summer.

On Friday, I will discuss how the Marian Hossa injury could impact the summer for the Hawks front office. We will also take a look at the uncertain CBA negotiations and possible free agent acquisitions which could help the Hawks. I will also take a look at a few more Blackhawks prospects.

Follow me on Twitter@AlCimaglia

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