Internal squabbles costly for Rocky Wirtz, Blackhawks fans - FOX 32 News Chicago

Internal squabbles costly for Rocky Wirtz, Blackhawks fans

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

When players don't perform adequately the results are obvious and there is little mystery. When a team's shortcomings are brought about by mismanagement the cause of problems isn't as apparent. In the NHL when a head coach and GM aren't on the same page and a plan of action appears scattered, eventually on ice results suffer. In this case, bickering may have already led to poor results.

For teams already eliminated from the NHL playoffs, this should be a time to look ahead for better days. The best scenario is when fans can easily ascertain a definable plan for the future so they can stay engaged in the process. Today, Blackhawk fans should be looking ahead with optimism, but that is easier said than done.

Currently, the Blackhawk franchise isn't beaming with confidence and gushing with enthusiasm. It stands to reason fans which pay close attention are having doubts, and some must wonder if this strong core of elite talent will ever win another Stanley Cup. If reports are accurate, Joel Quenneville and Stan Bowman aren't seeing eye to eye.

On Sunday night in front of a large hockey audience, the Hawks front office was exposed as being in disarray. The word of apparent turmoil was relayed on the CBC Hotstove telecast. That's not the place to have a franchise image sullied. A comparison would be to have a Fortune 500 company receive negative press on 60 Minutes.

Owner Rocky Wirtz and others in the Hawks front office must have cringed. Those who have watched things unfold, or who speak to contacts close to the situation, couldn't have been surprised. That said, if scattered management prevents this club from achieving on-ice success it would be a waste. Many won't realize how good the collection of talent presently assembled is until we speak of current players in past tense.

Instead of Blackhawk fans looking toward the June Entry Draft and the July 1 free agent signing period as hope for improvement, there is uncertainty. It will take more than skillful players to win another Stanley Cup, it will take a well-structured team. Without coaches and the front office following the same script, long playoff runs will be unlikely.

As was written here about a week ago, this is the time for Wirtz to be a true leader. He must end the disputes and stifle the criticism that will harm the Blackhawks brand. It's not as if Rocky isn't familiar with dysfunction, red ink, sparse crowds and a lack of media attention. Wirtz knows how awful it is to be connected with a franchise that is the subject of constant criticism and failed expectations.

Wirtz must try to get the Hawks back in balance and under the current structure that won't be easy. Every misstep could cost Wirtz financially and he already has done his share of eating bloated contracts.

At first blush, to have the strong voice of the legendary Scotty Bowman on board sounds like a great idea. Although when the GM and the club's chief advisor always side together, the head coach could be in a more difficult spot. Battling a father and son duo isn't an easy task.

During the Hotstove telecast on Sunday night, the possibility of Quenneville leaving the Hawks and becoming the next Canadiens head coach was discussed. On the surface, this option seems like a quick-fix to the Quenneville-Bowman saga and a way to save some money for Wirtz.

The cost savings would involve Wirtz not having to eat the last part of Quenneville's contract, which is two more years most likely. New Montreal GM Marc Bergevin and Quenneville are friends, so it is natural for dots to be connected.

These days in the NHL there couldn't be a player or other compensation sent to Chicago if Quenneville jumped ship to Montreal. Simply, the Hawks would have to fire Q. and then he would be allowed to take the bench boss job in Montreal.

That scenario isn't impossible although unlikely even though Wirtz might like to not be on the hook for the remaining years on Quenneville's contract. The perception around the league of letting a head coach walk so he can quickly find a new job would not be good. Especially so because Quenneville won't have much trouble finding another head coaching gig, if that is what he wants. The cost savings factor involved could be a bit misleading as well.

It would seem more likely a coaching change in Chicago would be made at this time only if Quenneville wanted out. It would have little to do with the Montreal vacancy. Quenneville could be moved aside and re-assigned to scouting. Down the road when another coaching vacancy presents itself he would then be given the opportunity to move on.

If Wirtz decides the working arrangement between his GM and head coach is unfixable he could look to promote from within. According to some whispers, assistant coach Mike Haviland has been given an unwritten promise that he will eventually succeed Quenneville.

If Wirtz decides to go that route, the transition would most likely be the smoothest. The core players especially, are big Quenneville supporters, replacing him won't go over well. Haviland is also well-liked so players would have an easier time accepting him as their new bench boss.

Although sliding Quenneville out and moving Haviland in doesn't seem like much of an issue, there are concerns.

If Haviland takes over, he would get a significant raise and then would want to hire his own assistant coaches. With the possibility of CBA turmoil and the chance of another lockout that could once again impact Wirtz financially.

Evidently during NHL work stoppages the coaching staff is paid. Sometimes coaches structure a contract whereby they receive full salary during a lockout. In some instances, coaches are paid only 80 percent or some lesser amount. Once again, Wirtz could have to absorb additional cost.

Quenneville would most likely receive most, if not all of his salary during a lockout. If Mike Kitchen was re-assigned or let go, he would receive a salary too. Haviland and his new staff would have to be paid as well. This would all be on Wirtz and company because during a work stoppage, there wouldn't be any ongoing hockey revenue.

Wirtz and his President and CEO John McDonough can't be happy. Wirtz keeps writing checks and McDonough's resurrected Blackhawks brand is getting tarnished. They won't wait long to put an end to the internal squabbling and finger pointing around the league.

The Entry Draft and the July 1 UFA signing period are critical times, especially for a team supposedly built to win the Stanley Cup. This is a big test of leadership for Wirtz and McDonough as talk of a fragmented front office in Chicago have been going around for quite awhile. Consecutive first round playoff exits have a way of exposing conflicts.

Wirtz keeps spending, but money can't solve all problems. McDonough's marketing machine can't fully silence this type of criticism. Players who were once young aren't so young anymore and also have had injury issues. There isn't any time to be wasted.

Before too long the "One Goal" slogan could be known to mean one Cup and done.

"Al's Shots"

The one thing the GM controls is the players on the roster. Quenneville has always said the Hawks are a better team with Dave Bolland as the third line center.

Does the recent trade rumor on Bolland indicate Bowman wants to take away that option for Quenneville?

That's the type of speculation which will go on until Quenneville and Bowman have settled their differences.

Follow me on Twitter@AlCimaglia

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