CHICAGO -- For those Blackhawks' fans already worried about what might happen after the Stanley Cup finals -- considering the gutting of the 2010 champions -- team chairman Rocky Wirtz had reassuring words Tuesday on the eve of his club's second run for the Cup under his leadership.
"We'll be in a much better place," Wirtz said. "At that time, [then-general manager] Dale Tallon did a good job, but he was thinking about today not tomorrow. For [current GM] Stan [Bowman], the thinking was that we only have nine players back and all along he was thinking about what we have to do, how do we sign future players?
"So this time, regardless of what happens in the finals, we won't have to have wholesale changes. We'll be much better off. We might have a player here or there, but that will just be normal stuff."
While Wirtz said the club still is not turning a profit on its own, "we're closing the gap" and the new salary cap of $64.3 million will not put the Hawks in a similarly precarious position as they were in 2010.
"Since 2010, we've been able to review ticket prices and we're not there yet but after the lockout, we're now 50-50 with the players, so as we grow the sport, we'll grow with the players," he said.
More importantly to fans and to Wirtz, is that this team does not fall off in the postseason as it did in the two seasons following the 2010 championship, when the Hawks lost in consecutive first rounds.
"Take nothing from Carolina, but they were in the Stanley Cup finals [in 2006] and they didn't make it [to the playoffs] for the next [two seasons], so you don't want to have the peaks and valleys," Wirtz said. "That's the one thing Chicago fans will not tolerate is having a very good team and then being lousy the next few years. As long as you're consistently good and put yourself in position to win, the fans will be there for you."
A year ago, there were rumblings that Quenneville might be losing his players, and that Wirtz was contemplating his coach's future with the club. After a nine-game losing streak, Wirtz admitted he asked Bowman if Quenneville had lost the room, and Bowman said that had not occurred. Wirtz said Tuesday that Quenneville's job was not in jeopardy.
"It was all made up," he said. "It was the same thing as the goalie controversy. We have a great back-up goalie in [Ray] Emery but Corey Crawford was always going to be the No. 1 goalie and that's just the way it is. A lot of times people read stuff in that's just not there. ...
"You just can't have knee-jerk reactions and allow your emotions to run [away with you]. You have to sit back and ask, ‘What's the right thing long-term?' and not be swayed by [what's happening in] the short-term."
Wirtz did say, however, that Quenneville's best coaching jobs came in 2010 and this season.
"The way he handled himself in 2010 is much like he handled himself this year," Wirtz said. "He gave them enough direction when need be, but they also knew where they stood. There was no guessing. In his mind, right or wrong, if someone wasn't performing, then he dealt with them."
Quenneville's current contract extension, signed after the 2010 Stanley Cup victory, runs out after next season and while Wirtz did not speak definitively regarding a future extension, he did say the coach "has done a terrific job."
"Stan will get there, but (Quenneville's) record speaks for itself," Wirtz said. "How he handled himself, the days off and the players, I think that was a big difference this year. You saw how some of the coaches over-practiced their players and didn't anticipate the wear-and-tear that 48 games in 99 days does to you. So he's certainly not a players' coach, but he certainly has empathy for the players and how much they have to rest and how much they have to practice.
"He's not going to have a beer with you but you're going to know right where you stand. They respect him because he's predictable. The 2010 and this team are more alike because of how predictable he was in his coaching."
Wirtz said when it comes to all major decisions, the Blackhawks are "unique to many hockey organizations" in that all facets work in unison.
"It sounds funny to say financing, front office, business operations and hockey operations all work together," he said. "We do that in the liquor business all the time. We have operations, sales and financing and we all have a seat at the table. Then everyone understands why decisions were made, so that what you don't have is people second-guessing.
"If someone doesn't agree with the coach, it doesn't matter because he's the coach. Our job is to give him support and then if the coach or someone in business or finance isn't performing, they know it. They play themselves off the team. You don't have to go to them and tell them."
While the Blackhawks' fan base continues to grow and expand, their Facebook and Twitter followers swelling to more than 1.3 million combined, Wirtz said he would like more information with which to strategize in future marketing.
"In Chicago, we've been able to get that 20-something fan and the adolescent female fan. That's different than any other sport," he said. "We see it in merchandise sales because we have more female colors and sizes. But I can't get a good feel for the TV breakdown. We have to do a better job of getting more research to find out ethnicity and demographics. I'd like to get a lot more data than we have now and to be smarter about who it is.
"But we have a much bigger female audience than our advertisers realize because there's a lot of women watching us. They think, oh, it's all the 18-to-55-year-old males."
And one 60-year-old who can't wait for the finals to begin.
"I was so nervous three years ago because we hadn't won it in 49 years," Wirtz said. "So now it's like the weight of the world is off your shoulders and now you can sit back and kind of enjoy it and just whatever happens."