Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Outside Looking In

Something remarkable happened in Chicago last year. One of our sports teams won a championship. This team ended a long drought without a title. If I asked you which team it was, would you remember?

Was it the White Sox? Nope. They ended their 88 year streak without a championship in October 2005. Sorry, not them.

Maybe the Bears? Wrong again. They made a miraculous run at the Super Bowl this season, but fell short in the NFC Championship Game. They also played in Super Bowl XLI a few years ago, but that game ended in a muddy and rainy mess.

The Bulls? Over a decade has passed since the Bulls won six NBA titles in eight seasons. They aren't there yet, but they're on the verge of making annual runs at a title.

Don't even ask about the Cubs? Unfortunately, their streak is alive and well. Despite futile attempts by the Ricketts family to make the fans forget the Cubs have failed to win a World Series since 1908, the team keeps losing.

Of course, I'm talking about the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks. Do you remember, back in June they won the franchise's first Stanley Cup since 1961? If the season ended today, and fortunately it doesn't, the Blackhawks would not qualify for a playoff spot.

Almost instantly after hoisting the Stanley Cup, management started to break the team apart. They had a number of bad contracts in place that needed to get off the books. For the most, they addressed their concerns. The team's core consisting of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was still intact. But the problem is that they just aren't winning enough. Oh, and Kane likes to drink. I mean really drink.

Yes, they have a winning record and could still qualify for a spot in the playoffs, but they need to leapfrog a few teams in the process. The Calgary Flames and Minnesota Wild stand in their way. I wonder if they don't make a playoff appearance this season, will they lose any investments they made with their new fan base? Of course their established base will always attend games, but will the new converts return to their old ways?

Just after the Blackhawks defeated the Philadelphia Flyers to win the Stanley Cup, I wrote a blog about the team's direction and which path they will take over the next five to 10 seasons. Will they be the Bulls of the 1990s and transform themselves into a multiple-championship-winning franchise, or will they be the Bears of the 1980s and only grab one title?

Right now, they're leaning toward the Bears model, but there's time to make corrections.

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