Kane incident adds to Hawks' stormy offseason

Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor

Dan Di Sciullo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Things have certainly been looking up for the Chicago Blackhawks franchise in recent years, but the club can't seem to keep themselves from attracting bad press this offseason.

The latest story came Sunday, hours after Blackhawks star Patrick Kane, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft, and his cousin were arrested in Kane's hometown of Buffalo, NY for allegedly assaulting a cab driver.

The bizarre incident was said to have occurred after 4 a.m., and the pair were eventually charged with second-degree robbery as well as fourth-degree criminal mischief and theft of services. The cab driver told police he was punched in the face and grabbed by the throat after he couldn't provide twenty cents worth of change for the $13.80 fare.

Although the story broke on Sunday, we are no closer to the truth at this stage. The cabbie's lawyer even told on a radio station on Monday that the incident had been "blown out of proportion" and on Tuesday said he'd hoped the situation could be settled out of court.

We'll have to wait for the legal process to play out, but one thing is clear: the Blackhawks are once again in the news for all the wrong reasons.

The Blackhawks had a very successful 2008-09 season, one that concluded when the Detroit Red Wings ousted Chicago in five games during the Western Conference finals. But that's pretty much where the good news ended.

Chicago did manage to sign the biggest prize in this summer's free agent market, but even that deal went sour. The Hawks inked winger Marian Hossa to a 12-year, $62.8 million deal, but later the public learned that the Slovakian sniper needed shoulder surgery and would likely be out until at least late- November.

Oh yeah, and the Hossa deal is also currently being investigated by the NHL amid allegations that it circumvents the collective bargaining agreement.

In the long run the Kane situation will fade away and Hossa's shoulder will ultimately heal, but the real game-changing moment for Chicago came when in mid-July it removed general manager Dale Tallon from his post and replaced him with Stan Bowman, son of legendary NHL coach Scotty Bowman.

Tallon was primarily responsible for turning the Blackhawks from laughingstock into the team that contended for a Stanley Cup this past spring. But, he also made some blunders that caused the organization to question his leadership. The biggest mistake came when he failed to tender qualifying offers to several restricted free agents by the league's set deadline, resulting in another investigation by the NHL.

Perhaps realizing Tallon's ability to spot on-ice talent, the Blackhawks didn't fire the former GM, instead reassigning him to the role of senior advisor of hockey operations.

Just a few days after the GM switch fans voiced their displeasure at a Blackhawks convention, booing team president John McDonough at an event that was supposed to give something back to loyal Hawks supporters.

The fans will likely forget about this summer's bad times once the regular season rolls around. After all, the Blackhawks led the NHL in attendance during last year's regular season as the club nearly drew a million fans to the United Center over 41 home contests.

The funny thing is that with the Chicago Cubs season in full swing, the Blackhawks normally don't have the spotlight on them in the summer months. However, this year the club has held the attention of fans thanks to their deep playoff run, but has only wound up squandering that good will.

The bad press could possibly be a motivator for the Blackhawks, who will once again have something to prove to their fans and the hockey world as a whole. If the honeymoon had lasted for the entire offseason, maybe the team would've suffered through a bad start like they had a year ago.

One imagines Kane and the rest of the Blackhawks can't wait for the season to get underway, but let's hope their anxiousness doesn't lead to yet another offseason faux pas.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Dan Di Sciullo at ddisciullo@sportsnetwork.com.
Dan Di Sciullo