Ask Bob Foltman

The national press has reported for years that Jeremy Roenick would like to retire as a Blackhawk. He has at least one more good year left in his career, why don't the Blackhawks bring him back? Granted, this would be an obvious move to appease fans but where's the harm in that? JR will put butts in seats and that's a good thing for the club, for the United Center and for the sport. JR will also engage the press and the public -- something that the players haven't done for years here in Chicago. Besides, there is always the chance that he could experience the sort of rebirth with the Blackhawks that Teemu Selanne is enjoying in Anaheim this year.

Another reason the Blackhawks should bring JR back is to try and repair the organization's reputation among the players as a club that does the right thing by its players. By enabling a superstar and future Hall of Fame player to finish his career with the club he hoped to, I think that the Blackhawks organization will be more appealing to free agents in the future.
--Rachel Beyler, Chicago

Rachel, that's a very good question and one that I've been going back and forth on all season. The last time the Kings were in town, JR supposedly told a member of the Hawks staff that he would be back. I understand the reasons you list for bringing him back and I think they all have some validity.

That being said, though, I think it's very important for general managers to try and put together the best team possible and take emotion out of the equation. Aaron Rowand was one of Kenny Williams' favorite players, but he felt he had to trade him in order to make the White Sox a better team. It would have been easy to give Magglio Ordonez whatever he wanted as well.

So, I think the question that needs to be asked regarding JR is a simple one: Can he still play and where does he fit in? Is he a top-line center or even a second center--the two biggest needs for the Hawks? I don't think so and he hasn't shown anything for the last couple of years to prove otherwise. Is he a third-line center? Maybe. But will JR accept being a third-line center? Don't forget, this is someone who felt he belonged on the Olympic team. Maybe he did, but his numbers said otherwise.

The next thing that has to be considered is how much is he going to cost? JR made $4.9 million this season from the Kings. Clearly he's not going to get anywhere close to that kind of money anymore. Would he want to play for $500-600k? I doubt it and frankly I think the Hawks could get just as much production for that kind of money as they would get from JR.

Finally, after spending the winter in Los Angeles, I'm not sure he'd be willing to leave there. Maybe he feels he has something left to prove and doesn't want to end his career with a season such as this one. It wouldn't surprise me, though, if he decided to retire. I guess what I'm saying is, while it might be nice for old-time's sake, I'm not sure bringing JR back is the best move to get the Hawks back on track to being a competitive team.

But I certainly understand the reasons you list for doing it.

Although I'm only one of three people to see hope, at least on the blue line, I know the Hawks need serious help at forward. With the collapse of the Canucks, doesn't Todd Bertuzzi have to be available this summer? With their great need of a shakeup, and his desperate need for a change of scenery, would he even cost that much? Would the Hawks consider this? --Sam Fels, Chicago

Another very good question. Sam, I don't think there is any doubt that Bertuzzi is going to be available and Vancouver may not want much in return. He needs a change and probably needs to get out of Canada and the spotlight. As much as I hate to say it, the Hawks have fallen so far off the radar that he wouldn't have to worry about the spotlight as much if he were here.

But, I've never been a big Todd Bertuzzi fan--even before the idiotic incident with Colorado. He can certainly be an impact player and perhaps a 40-plus goal scorer. But it seems every time I see him he costs his team as much with stupid plays as he helps them. I guess it would depend on what Vancouver wanted in return. The Hawks are going to have to do something bold and take a risk in order to upgrade their skill to the point they can seriously consider the playoffs next season. If I had my choice, I would rather have Keith Tkachuk, but if Bertuzzi were the best forward available and I didn't have to pay a ransom, I wouldn't be opposed to it.

I think at this point, GM Dale Tallon will listen to any offer involving anyone, so yes, I think they would at least listen.

I am a former Chicagoan living in Denver and I have all but completely lost interest in the Blackhawks. The folks in Colorado laugh at the franchise. Is there really any hope of a turnaround in the near future, or should I just cut my losses and begin rooting for the Avalanche? --Steve Price, Denver

Steve, you and I both know that no matter what I say, you'll always be a Hawks fan, no matter how bad they are. You may not follow them as much, but you'll always check their scores and be ready to jump back in with both feet when they turn it around. Nothing wrong with that, that's the joy of being a sports fan. Also, there is no reason not to follow the Av's and even be a fan of theirs. It's a fun team to watch. But at our core, we always stick with the team we grew up watching, no matter how much we wish we didn't!

Now, is there a hope for a turnaround in the near future? Depends on your definition of near future. If they are going to make the playoffs next season, they need to find at least 30 more points somewhere. Is that a lot to ask? Sure is, especially in the West, which is much deeper than the East. Is it impossible? Not at all. I do think there are some things to be optimistic about--their young defensemen, they have some promising prospects that they can also use in potential trades, I still think they made the right move in signing Khabibulin and Ruutu is a potential star, if he can stay healthy.

I think Tallon is committed to his plan of building from within, so maybe next season is another out of the post-season, but they have to show improvement and at least be somewhere between 75-85 points. But enjoy the Av's while wearing your Hawks hat or sweater.

Will Eric Daze ever get back on the ice? Why aren't the Blackhawks releasing him to free up cap space if he can't play? --John Wineman, Refugio, Texas

John, I'm sorry to say that I think Eric Daze is finished, which is really too bad because he's a quality person who really could have done some damage in this new NHL. Even if the Hawks released him, they would still have to pay him the rest of his contract, which expires at the end of the season. With his being hurt all season and on injured reserve, they would have received relief from the salary cap. Having him this year had no effect on their cap space.

What is the point of the Chicago Blackhawks? Is there one? --Will, Chicago

Will, not sure what to make of your question. I guess we can ask the same question about the Cubs or the Los Angeles Clippers or any other sports franchise that just can't seem to get it right.

I guess the point is hockey, like any other sport, is entertainment. There are many people who faithfully go to the United Center every game, as bad as the Hawks are, because they enjoy hockey and for them, it's entertaining. Plus they hope that one day when, or if, they ever once again contend for a championship, they will have seen the re-growth of a franchise.

It's an individual choice, Will. If you don't see the point, by all means, find something else to invest your time and money in. Like I said, sports franchises have to earn your trust, faith and money. I'm not saying you never pay attention to them again, because like I said to Steve above, as much as we'd like to sometimes, I don't think it's possible. But you can certainly put them on the back burner until they've done something to warrant your interest.

It's just sports, it's supposed to be fun.

I keep hearing and reading about how the Hawks need to get some top-six forwards on the roster. Let's be honest, why would a top forward want to play in Chicago? The franchise is run by the worst owner in professional sports, the team has no foreseeable future, so hat do the Hawks have that is attractive to any top free agent? --Logan Huff, Groton, Conn.

Logan, why would any top free agent want to play in Chicago? $$$$$$$$$. Seriously though I understand your point and it's one I've been trying to make for the last couple years. As much as the Hawks wanted a salary cap, in the long run it may hurt their chances in the free-agent market. In the past, the Hawks could overpay to get someone to come here with their sorry background. That's still possible and something the Hawks may have to do, but not as easy as in the past with the cap. If the Hawks are able to offer a player the same amount as a Colorado or Philadelphia, that player will likely go to the team he knows is going to be in the playoffs every year. That's one reason why I don't think it's wise to solve all your problems through free agency. They had no choice last summer, they didn't have any players. But it didn't work out the way they thought it would.

It may take another year, maybe two, out of the post-season, but if they trust their scouts, can make a couple of astute trades and build from within, then they may find it easier to attract the kind of free agents for specific needs and not to try and turn the franchise around.

Hey, Bob, I really like your honesty, brutal as it can be sometimes. Can you let all fans know what your personal feelings are for this longstanding nightmare to get started in the right direction? Please don't sugarcoat it! --Thomas Cleveland, Schaumburg, Ill.

Thomas, my true feelings of this organization? How much time do you have? Let's put it this way, this franchise is like a car stuck in a ditch with people trying to push it out from the front and others trying to push it out from the back, meanwhile the car is spinning its wheels.

There are times when I don't think this franchise will ever turn it around because the hierarchy either isn't capable of or won't do what's necessary. There are very few things this franchise does right and it's maddening. This is one of the best hockey markets in North America, but it's not one that can be taken for granted, which the Hawks have done for the last 40 years. It's no longer enough to just release the schedule and expect people to show up. There are too many options for people to spend their money.

The Hawks have to realize that they are not only competing against other teams on the ice, but they are competing against the Bulls, Bears, college basketball, movies, plays, concerts and every other venue that people spend their hard-earned money on for entertainment.

I'm not sure they understand that or if they do, are incapable of adequately competing in that marketplace. Having been in every NHL building, the Hawks have to dramatically improve the experience of being at the United Center. Just because the team is bad doesn't mean the experience of being at a game has to be bad as well.

Personally, I believe this organization is too loyal to people who haven't really done much lately to warrant it. I respect all that Bob Pulford has done in his career, both as a Hall of Fame player and coach. But how many team executives stay in place for 30 years? Other than Harry Sinden in Boston--another franchise spiraling to nowhere--is there another decision-maker that's held his post for that long? In order to compete in any business, you constantly need to make changes and get new ideas and thoughts and fresh thinking into the top levels of decision-making. That hasn't happened with the Hawks and when people have come in with new thoughts or ideas, they've been undermined or sabotaged.

I'm not willing to say that the Wirtz family doesn't want to win, but I do question whether they are willing to do what is necessary in order to make this franchise an elite one. It seems as though they have the same business plan they had back in the late 1960s and expect it to still work today.

So, in order for a turnaround on the ice, they need to do some soul-searching in the executive offices.

Hi, Bob, a few suggestions from a longtime disgusted fan. Would the NHL consider moving the Hawks to the IHL? Or moving the Wolves to the NHL? Next, I propose someone make a movie on the Hawks, history, similar to "The Bad News Bears" and "Major League." The worst team in sports history. Bar none. GO WINGS!!! The closest Chicago will be to a Stanley Cup, ever. --F. MacRae, Bloomington, Ill.

F., well, the IHL folded a couple years ago, so I guess the NHL is stuck with them. As far as making a movie of the team, I've long maintained that they are a Nicolette Sheridan away from being a full-fledged soap opera with all the front office intrigue they seem to have.