Just like that, on consecutive nights, the United Center was eliminated from the playoffs.
On Monday night, the Bulls lost to the Knicks. Bang, officially out. First goal officially met.
On Tuesday night, the Blackhawks lost to the Avalanche. Bang, officially out. Firing speculation season officially opens.
Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2015, their third in six years, the Hawks haven't won a playoff series. Geez, last year they didn't even win one playoff game, a pantsing that came one postseason after losing a seven-game series to the evil, dreaded Blues.
Getting swept in a playoff series was deemed unacceptable last year. People lost jobs. Big verbal fingers were wagged. So, what does missing the playoffs altogether for the first time in 10 years bring?
The firing of GM Stan Bowman?
The end of Joel Quenneville as coach?
The argument for firing Bowman starts with Brent Seabrook's inexplicable contract that still has six years and more than $41 million remaining with a no-movement clause that makes it less a playing contract than a prison sentence.
The argument also extends to the no-movement clauses given to former heroes such as Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith. Toews isn't the No. 1 center on a Cup winner anymore the way Keith isn't a No. 1 defenseman on a future champion.
And then there are such things as curiously big contracts for defensemen Jan Rutta and Erik Gustafsson while remaining a franchise strapped by the salary cap.
The argument for firing Quenneville starts with that awful team defense and the painfully regular inability to protect a lead. Some of that blame is mitigated by the loss of star goalie Corey Crawford, but defensive responsibility team-wide has been hard to find.
The Hawks have allowed 228 goals, fourth-worst in the Western Conference. Blame Bowman for not having a backup goalie who can win. Blame Quenneville for not devising a system that protects clearly inferior goalies. And blame the players for not executing and for not scoring the way the Hawks must.
In goals for per 60 minutes, according to NaturalStatTrick.com, the Hawks rank 18th. They used to be the scariest team in the league. Now they're in the lottery.
If you're ranking causes of death this season, Crawford's injury is No. 1. Then comes the loss of Marian Hossa to a skin affliction. No. 3 is trading defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. Then the loss of Brandon Saad – or at least the loss of his ability to play hockey, which came at the cost of Artemi Panarin, with whom Patrick Kane won a scoring title.
Crawford's injury is not on Quenneville or Bowman. Ditto, Hossa. Hjalmarsson is Bowman's fault, same as the Saad trade, although Saad gets a ton of blame, too, as do the core players with no-movement clauses.
You can blame Quenneville for the lousy power play, but look at the talent out there. I'd blame the big names, too.
One knock on Quenneville is that he hates young players, something that goes back to Nick Leddy. But if he hated kids, how has Gustafsson gotten another chance after making the awful, series-deciding mistake in Game 7 against the Blues in 2016?
And look at Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz, youngsters showing they could play in the top six for years. Heck, DeBrincat looks like he's threatening to become Kane 2.0.
And Bowman gets credit for the drafting and development of that talent. This is how the game works. It's tangled, the blame and the credit. And then there's this question:
Who's available and who's better?
Quenneville trails only Scotty Bowman in all-time regular-season wins. Since the start of the 1997 playoffs, Quenneville is tied with Bowman with three Cups. Nobody has won more.
Quenneville won those Cups with Stan Bowman, although both received help from Dale Tallon.
So, you can fire Bowman or Quenneville, or both, and you could convince yourself you have legitimate reasons.
But I wouldn't. I wouldn't fire either of them. Their resumes earn one more chance to return to Cup contention. I think the case to fire Bowman is stronger, but I'd give both a do-over.
Because here's the hard truth: If Crawford doesn't come back as Crawford next season, then this team is going nowhere and John McDonough might as well serve as President/GM/coach to save the organ-I-zation some cash.