Before you read on any further, listen close to this clip from the 1989 classic, Field of Dreams but when you do, apply everything the legendary James Earl Jones says to the Edmonton Oilers.
Onto the good stuff
Let's go back in time and look at the history of the Chicago Blackhawks. More specifically, 1997-1998 until now.
Starting during the 1963-1964 season, Billy Reay spent thirteen and a half seasons at the helm of the Blackhawks, leading them to twelve playoff seasons and two cup appearances. As an organization, the Blackhawks had 28 playoff seasons in a row. 28!
So needless to say, as an organization during that time they had great success despite bringing home Lord Stanley.
Despite the fact that they had 28 playoff seasons, it all came crashing down during the 1997-1998 season, two years after Craig Hartsburg took the helm. The next nine of ten seasons the Blackhawks missed the playoffs.
I came across an article from 2013 posted on the website chicagonow.com in which writer Captain Meatball put out some frusterating thoughts:
It's tough to remember a half-filled United Center, a hockey team relegated to the back pages, and an original six team owned by a malicious self-absorbed owner. However, that was the case just six years ago on Chicago's west side.
Prior to the 2007-2008 season, the Chicago Blackhawks' chief offender Bill Wirtz passed away. This left the organization with its first opportunity to heal the wounds left throughout the community; wounds perpetuated by the worst owner in sports.
It wouldn't be easy. Yet, for the Hawks, their hard transition into this new era would be softened by the arrival of two young superstars: Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. The two already joined a talented nucleus that featured young defensemen Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. A late season acquisition the prior year brought Patrick Sharp from Philadelphia. A healthy Nikolai Khabibulin in net would prove beneficial, as well. Couple this with a couple savvy off-season additions like Jason Williams and Robert Lang, and the Blackhawks suddenly had a respectable team. During the season, familiar names would arrive that would have an impact on the team's first Stanley Cup victory in 49 years: Troy Brouwer, Andrew Ladd, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Colin Fraser, Ben Eager, Dave Bolland, and Kris Versteeg. However, with the Hawks still a couple years away from history, it's important to remember the laughable: the slow-motion slap shot of Andrei Zyuzin, the confusing meandering of Sergei Samsonov, and the bloodied waste of space known as David Koci.
During the downdays in Chi-town, they brought in inexperienced coaches like Craig Hartsburg, Dirk Graham and Lorne Molleken who hoped to turn the tide, but eventually failed.
Not even Blackhawk legend Denis Savard who scored 1388 points in 1196 games could coach them to success.
The Tallon era
Dale Tallon entered the Blackhawks organization in 2002, as a director of player of personnel. But it wasn't until 2005, when Tallon was named General Manager that he made his mark.
Although he never saw the team through as a GM for the Blackhawks 2010 championship, Tallon was able to build a Stanley Cup winning roster.
On top of drafting guys like Jonathan Toews 3rd overall in 2006, and Patrick Kane 1st overall in 2007, Tallon was able to make trades that significantly upgraded his roster while giving up nearly nothing in return.
- December 5th, 2005: Patrick Sharp and Eric Meloche were acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Matt Elison and a 2006 3rd round pick (Ryan White).
- February 3rd, 2007: Kris Versteeg was acquired from the Boston Bruins in exchange for Brandon Bochenski.
- December 18th, 2007: Ben Eager was acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Jim Vandermeer.
- February 26th, 2008: Andrew Ladd was acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes for Tuomo Ruutu.
After numerous coaches who failed to succeed, Tallon got his guy in Joel Quenneville, hiring him on October 16th, 2008; They also got a coach with 839 NHL games coached under his belt.
Just one season later, the Blackhawks got their first Stanley Cup in almost 50 years.
Tallon was eventually replaced as General Manager on July 14th, 2009 by Stan Bowman, but since then, the foundation that Tallon laid ushered in a new era for the Blackhawks.
On the hot seat
In the NHL right now, there are four coaches that could be left jobless come this offseason:
- Mike Babcock, Detroit. (915 GC, 56% W-L rate)
- Dave Tippett, Arizona. (914 GC, 53% W-L rate)
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Dave Tippett has the look of a man who wants to be fired, like, desperately.</p>— Tyler Atwood (@KingDonutI) <a href="https://twitter.com/KingDonutI/status/552679446499848193">January 7, 2015</a></blockquote>
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- Claude Julien, Boston. (824 GC, 55% W-L rate)
- Todd McLellan, San Jose. (506 GC, 58% W-L rate)
Babcock, the longest tenured Head Coach in the NHL, is in a position of power and is able to determine where ever he wants to go, should he decide to leave Detroit. Babcock was the first coach to join Triple Gold Club by winning a Stanley Cup in 2008, winning gold in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics (and again in 2014) and winning an IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in 2004. On top of that, his team won gold in the 1997 World Juniors, and he guided the Lethbridge Pronghorns to a CIS University Cup in 1994.
Even though Babcock has won about every national and international title as a coach, one thing he hasn't done is help rebuild a team. I think it would be a great challenge for Babcock to work with this roster and see what he can do.
I mean, if I were Katz, I would just casually slide a blank cheque and let Mike fill it out himself.
Guys like Tippett, Julien and McLellan are all very viable candidates to be gone after the season mainly due to them "stalling out" with their respective teams, and I think each of them would be able to help lift Edmonton out of it's slump.
"Laaaay it oooooon the liiiinnnneeee!"
As Mark Twain once said, "...a favorite theory of mine—to wit, that no occurrence is sole and solitary, but is merely a repetition of a thing which has happened before, and perhaps often..."
Craig MacTavish is faced with the tough task of bringing people into the Oilers organization who are willing to lay it all on the line to help this group move forward. If Craig is looking to make a big splash this offseason, hiring a coach like one listed above should be right at the top of the list of things to do.
Simply put, the Oilers need to follow in the footsteps of the Blackhawks. Should one of Babcock, Julien, McLellan or Tippett come available, I think that any of their coaching abilities would be able to carry the Oilers back to their glory days.
The memories of the past never leave, but it surely is time that this franchise is due to turn the tides.