This is what happens when a professional sports franchise tries to hang on to its glory days for too long.
The Blackhawks have devolved into that guy that surfaces every holiday season during a trip to the local dive bar in every small town across the county. You know the one: the guy sitting at the bar, most likely by himself, gleefully telling everyone within earshot about how great of an athlete he used to be, recounting moments that he’s remembered but everyone else forgot about.
That’s who the Blackhawks are now, the team telling everyone how great they used to be. Need a reminder? Just check the official Blackhawks website, which — as of Saturday night — will greet you with an advertisement for a giveaway as part of a series of promotions for the 10th anniversary of the team’s Stanley Cup victory. And the No. 2 article on the site previews the pregame honors being given to a freaking third-liner from that team. A fan favorite? Absolutely — and this article is not meant as a slight at Kris Versteeg. But it feels premature to give him the “One More Shift” treatment only a month and five days removed from him skating for the Blackhawks’ AHL team.
There’s still time to take the franchise in a different direction from all of that, though.
Stop using the outdated “One Goal” slogan.
Stop playing “Chelsea Dagger” after goals.
And, yeah, stop bringing back 2010-15 players for “One More Shift” — for now.
There will be a time and a place to honor the players from that era, but not while Chicago is in the middle of an organizational spiral into the NHL basement.
Everything related to the Blackhawks dominance of the early 2010s should’ve been put away after the Predators swept Chicago in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, a result that triggered a flurry of moves from general manager Stan Bowman in a frantic effort to adjust to an NHL that was starting to leave the Blackhawks behind.
It’s not a mistake to hang on to some of the top players from that era, of course. Patrick Kane is still one of the league’s most lethal offensive weapons. Corey Crawford may not quite still be in his prime but remains a very good NHL goaltender when playing at his best. Jonathan Toews has looked better in the last 1.25 seasons. Duncan Keith remains a viable NHL defenseman. Brent Seabrook’s issues are well documented, but four out of five ain’t bad.
But it is a mistake to pretend that era is still alive. And we’re getting dangerously close — if we aren’t there already — to questioning how much longer the players listed above are going to be around, because that’s what happens when eras come to an end. Three championships don’t come cheap.
This is not to suggest that everyone must go and that the organization must enter a rebuild. The on-ice future for the Blackhawks is significantly murkier and is going require substantial time to sort out. We’ll have time to dive into that.
From an organizational standpoint and from a public relations standpoint, though, the picture should be clear: the “One Goal” era has been dead for more than two years now.
It’s time for the Blackhawks organization to acknowledge that and work to save whatever is left of its short and long-term future.