The firing of John McDonough and the slow drip of the Blackhawks’ decline

His ouster is another reminder that the 2010s are over and that the skating in place the Hawks have done for the better part of five years is not enough.

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The Blackhawks fired president John McDonough, who was part of the franchise’s three Stanley Cup titles in the 2010s.

The Blackhawks fired president John McDonough, who was part of the franchise’s three Stanley Cup titles in the 2010s.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Anyone can be fired. If you somehow had been under the impression that wasn’t true, you got a good first taste of it in 2018, when the Blackhawks dumped hugely popular and successful coach Joel Quenneville. But in case that didn’t quite register, the Hawks’ firing of team president John McDonough on Monday surely brings home the point for good.

Nobody is safe. I used to think general manager Stan Bowman could survive a nuclear attack, but he and coach Jeremy Colliton look especially vulnerable now.

McDonough’s shocking ouster is another reminder that the 2010s are over and that the skating in place the Hawks have done for the better part of five years isn’t enough. As though you needed another reminder.

Chairman Rocky Wirtz hired away McDonough from the Cubs in 2007 to modernize the Hawks’ off-ice operations — and modernize, he did. Mostly what he did was sweep away the backwardness of the organization while welcoming back some of the icons of the past, including Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita.

That gust of fresh air coincided perfectly with the arrivals of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. What followed was an incredible burst of success and civic energy. The Hawks won Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015. Chicago celebrated.

McDonough was known as a taskmaster in the office and a man who knew how to shake a hand and slap a shoulder outside of it. He received a lot of the credit for the Hawks’ re-emergence, some of it at the expense of former GM Dale Tallon. But what couldn’t be argued was the success. It was massive.

Was, past tense.

‘‘It will take a new mindset to successfully transition the organization to win both on and off the ice,’’ Wirtz said in a statement.

In the days and weeks to come, perhaps we’ll find out what the off-the-ice failings were that sent McDonough into the street. For now, we’re left to look at five years of not much of anything as a major clue.

One thing is sure: The drip, drip, drip of slow decline isn’t much of a spectator sport.

Maybe it was better that Michael Jordan’s Bulls ended the way they did. It was a sudden death, as opposed to what has gone on with the Hawks. Bulls general manager Jerry Krause pushed out coach Phil Jackson, causing Jordan to retire and many of the champion Bulls to scatter to the four corners of the NBA. Finality. Winter set in, and we bundled up.

This way, this slow demise, has been cold in its own dull way. Death by salary cap? There’s no drama in that, just the sight of good players getting more money to play elsewhere. We’ve had to watch Toews go from superstar to something less. When Jordan retired after the 1997-98 season, we thought it was for good. We had seen him win his sixth title and sixth Finals Most Valuable Player award, and we knew we had seen him still at the top at the end.

That he chose to play again with the Wizards a few years later was disturbing, but it was also out of sight, out of mind for Bulls fans. If it didn’t happen at the United Center, it didn’t happen.

The Hawks’ dynasty hasn’t gone away gracefully. Maybe Wirtz had gotten sick of the losing and the lack of progress. Who knows? He recently had told The Athletic that McDonough, Bowman and Colliton would be back next season. Something changed.

Sometimes it takes new people to see things for what they really are. If Wirtz came to the conclusion that major change was needed, it certainly would be understandable. Hawks fans, a discerning group, have been vocal about their displeasure with the post-dynasty slide. They happen to be the people who buy the tickets.

Is more change on the way? Ask the new president, whomever he is and whenever he shows up.

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