Last season, the Chicago Blackhawks took a giant leap forward. Yes, not only in terms of their performance on the ice, but also in terms of winning back the hearts and minds of the fans.
The old man, Chairman Dollar Bill Wirtz, passed away. John McDonough was brought in from the Cubs. Many of the old Hawk heroes were assigned to the role of ambassador. Scotty Bowman was brought in to offer his expertise. Home games were shown on TV. In short, it was a significant makeover for a team that hadn't made the playoffs in a long time.
The result was phenomenally successful. The Hawks' goodwill gestures and, more importantly, their success on the ice, brought fans back in droves.
But can this success be sustained?
Well, it has been a rough offseason for Patrick Kane. His arrest this summer, and subsequent guilty plea with a cousin to misdemeanor charges of noncriminal disorderly conduct in an altercation with a Buffalo cab driver, sent shock waves through the Hawks' organization and fan base.
"It wasn't a good situation, but at the same time, I think maybe it's better it happened sooner in your life rather than later, when it could be worse," Kane said. "I mean, look at the situation. It could have been way worse than what actually happened."
Dale Tallon was removed as GM. Stars such as Martin Havlat and Nikolai Khabibulin are gone. Marian Hossa was signed, but the resulting investigation into Marian Hossa's contract and the fact he won't be able to play until November after shoulder surgery has taken a bit of the bloom off the rose.
There are also justifiable concerns about the Hawks netminding.
Cristobal Huet replaces the Bulin Wall as the Hawks number one goalie. I have reservations as to whether he is up to the task. Further, the Hawks will carry three goalies, a luxury I don't feel they can afford, with Corey Crawford and Antti Niemi.
Still, this is a Hawks team with expectations, and seeing how they respond to more lofty expectations will be interesting.
One goal, indeed, come to think of it.