For defenseman Adrian Aucoin, being named the captain of an Original Six team for the 2005-06 season was tainted by the fact that at the time, the Chicago Blackhawks were a disaster.
"It was a struggle. I was here, basically they gave us these business cards that were good for two tickets, you'd redeem them online then I think you had a choice of three different games you could go to," Aucoin said on the latest episode of the Blackhawks Talk Podcast.
"We were standing one day, I think we went downtown and they said, 'Two guys at a train station, two guys at a bus station, two guys at a street corner.' And we'd just hand them out to people and people looked at us and thought we were crazy. Even a few people made smart aleck comments like, 'Oh, the Blackhawks still have a team?' It was one of those things."
From 1997-2008, the Hawks made the playoffs just once — losing to the St. Louis Blues 4-1 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Also during that stretch, you weren't able to find Blackhawks' home games on TV or fans in the stands if you attended a home game.
After playing over 1,100 NHL games, Aucoin retired as a player with the Columbus Blue Jackets after the 2012-13 season. He became a development coach with the Blackhawks — working with defensemen in the Hawks' system — in the fall of 2013 and resigned in the middle of the 2014-15 season to spend more time with his family.
Adrian played for three teams before he arrived in Chicago and three times after he left the Hawks, but as tough as his 2005-07 stint was, it was a vital time in the history of the franchise in which players like Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — rookies in 05-06 — were allowed to fail to develop into the three-time Stanley-Cup hoisting organizational cornerstones they became. Patrick Sharp, who came over from Philly in 05-06, found his role and his game while facing overwhelming adversity early on too.
Next season, as the Hawks dive deeper into a rebuild around the core four, you'll see a similar thing. Young players will get a lot of opportunities, often in key moments. It won't be a formula for immediate success, but it won't be nearly as bad as what Aucoin witnessed in the Windy City.
"I would say not even close," Aucoin said. "They have too many champions on this team to let it happen. You look at the locker room, you start off with those two defensemen, you add (Patrick Kane) and (Jonathan) Toews, it could never go backwards. I think there'll be some tough times for sure, just because of depth, but if you look at some of these young guys like Kirby Dach coming in, they've done a great job. I think goaltending will be a little bit of a question mark. I know that they like their guys, I personally don't know them as well. So it'll be tough.
"And a new coach, I think they're still transitioning. When you go from a coach like (Joel) Quenneville, who was obviously time-tested and true, Jeremy is obviously a good coach in what he does, but there's going to be transition. I think taking over at that point in the year (Nov. 6, 2018) was probably tough on him. To establish himself obviously takes a while. When you get the veterans like these guys, the quality people they are, they're going to do whatever it takes. So I think they'll be fine."