It takes 19,717 people to fill out capacity at the United Center. And for the last 535 home games, dating all the way back to the 2008-09 season, the Blackhawks faithful have packed the UC to its literal brink in support of their favorite team. But that streak is officially over.
The stadium was three-quarters empty while the remaining fans booed the Blackhawks off the ice for the third night this week on Sunday. This is rock bottom for this franchise under the current leadership structure.
Blackhawks lose 6-3.
Fall to 0-5-1.
Set a record for season-opening futility, at 360:57 without holding a lead.
Booed off the ice for the third time in as many home games. pic.twitter.com/Z8lk0XcuIg
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) October 25, 2021
Instead of the usual “De-troit Sucks!” chants that ring throughout the United Center traditionally when the Red Wings come to town, “Let’s Go, Red Wings” chants that preceded the Blackhawks being booed off the ice after a 6-3 clobbering by Detroit. Oh, but let’s not forget the “Fire Colliton!” chants mixed into the crowd reactions.
The fans want Jeremy Colliton gone, and he didn’t do himself any favors from an optics standpoint when the NBC Sports Chicago broadcast caught Alex DeBrincat drawing up a play for the Blackhawks as Colliton leaned over the bench and watched his players draw up their own play while, trailing by three goals, on their way to a 0-5-1 start.
Colliton chalked the incident to humility – i.e. that he’s not all-knowing, and sometimes his players have good ideas that might work. But while that’s a reasonable (and possibly even a legitimate explanation), it’s just hard as hell to give him the benefit of the doubt right now. The optics were just so bad. He’s in his fourth year behind the Blackhawks bench, and he has the best roster yet, and he still can’t get the results that the talent in the building warrants.
What’s really disturbing is the team’s play when chasing goals. I mean, they’re always losing. They’re the first team in the history of the NHL to fail to secure a lead at any point in their first six games of the season. But, the more they’re losing, the more it seems like they crumble under pressure.
Among the many troubling* things about Chicago this year is that despite perpetually being losing, they seem to generate less and less offence the more they're losing by. It's really quite something. pic.twitter.com/UEWy5Fujva
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) October 25, 2021
The players are also culpable, of course, but the lack of fight and any semblance of passion displayed by the Blackhawks is on Jeremy Colliton. The team not being ready to play from the drop of the puck; that’s on Jeremy Colliton. Ineffective system be damned, Jeremy Colliton deserves to be replaced solely on how this team goes about their business right now.
The players aren’t performing up to their potential. The coaching isn’t working, and the leadership structure has been complicit in all of this.
Stan Bowman chased Joel Quenneville out of the building as fast as he possibly could, and many brilliant hockey people believe that he purposely sabotaged an entire summer of free agency to give Quenneville a roster that would finally allow Bowman to fire him. Fire him he did after just 15 games and a 6-6-3 record in November of 2018. So, what’s the hold up with Colliton, who’s overseen the Blackhawks’ worst start in decades, and surely doesn’t have the goodwill built up that Joel Quenneville had earned by bringing three Stanley Cups to this city?
The Blackhawks might want to make a move here soon because the sellout streak coming to an end was a sign of something deeper than a few empty seats at the United Center.
The sellout streak ending signals something much more profound than the announced capacity coming up 675 people short of sellout No. 536; it signals the fans growing tired of the bumbling direction that Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks front office has taken this team on over the past few years. Sure, it’s 675 fans shy of capacity now, but the longer this circus act at 1901 W. Madison St. continues, the more that number will grow. Do you remember going to Blackhawks games in the mid-to-late 2000s? Probably not, because you probably weren’t there. The building was half-full, on a good night.
The Blackhawks have gone from a modern-day dynasty to the epitome of dysfunction in a matter of years, and while we would like to blame Jeremy Colliton, who is most certainly culpable in all of this, this all starts with the guy that hired him, Stan Bowman. If Colliton should be relieved of his duties, it should be a package deal with Stan Bowman’s exit included. There’s no way that Bowman should be allowed to hire a new head coach, and apparently, I’m not alone in that thinking.
From a scout friend (correcting earlier typo): “You know me, I work in this game. I’m pretty reserved & level-headed…Colliton needs to be relieved. And you must relieve the man who hired him. This thing is beyond repair & it needs to be cleaned really all the way to top down.”
— Jay Zawaski (@JayZawaski670) October 25, 2021
As they say, the fish rots from the head.
Danny Wirtz released a short statement on the sellout streak ending last night, essentially thanking the fans for packing the building night after night for all those years, but that’s not the statement from Wirtz that the fans care about. Instead, the statement they want from Wirtz takes some accountability of the on-ice product — the reason that the sell-out streak came to an end and the reason that it’s going to continue to decline until things change.