Since winning three Stanley Cups in six years, the Blackhawks have had back-to-back first-round exits and followed that up by missing the playoffs altogether for the first time since 2007-08.
It's unfamiliar territory for the Blackhawks. At least under Rocky Wirtz, it is.
The Blackhawks Chairman opened up about the team's recent struggles in an interview with Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business, and was asked to weigh in on what he believes has contributed most to the underachievement over the past three years.
"The better players all had off years," Wirtz said. "There were lots of reasons. ... We're not going to have a knee-jerk reaction. You can't let your emotions be in control."
Perhaps the main reason why it's important not to have a knee-jerk reaction is because Corey Crawford missed the final three and a half months with an injury, and that alone changed the entire complexion of the second half of the season.
Wirtz said Crawford "tells me he's OK," which is encouraging, but there's still that uncertainty about how the 33-year-old star goaltender will respond once he gets back into game action and whether he can be reliable for an 82-game season. Nobody can know for sure until it happens.
But the most revealing part of the interview came when Wirtz acknowledged changes could be coming if the results are status quo next year, and hinted he wouldn't necessarily wait for the end of the season to make them:
Overall, "I think the team will be fine." But, "if things are off at the beginning of the year, that's a different story. ... Nothing lasts forever."
Asked if that means changes could occur right after the holiday season if the team is doing poorly, Wirtz had a short answer: "Yes."
It's not surprising that jobs may be on the line up and down the organization — players, coaches, front office — depending on how the 2018-19 campaign unfolds, but it's telling when it's coming from the top that nobody is safe and the patience is running thin.
It only magnifies how important this offseason is for the Blackhawks.