It's not much of a secret that a lot of us remain unconvinced at Stan Bowman's abilities as a GM. There's the whole legacy thing that got him the job, along with the hatchet job done on Dale Tallon that still doesn't pass a smell test (though Tallon had his faults as well). Stan was then given a team that he didn't really need to do anything with, and his only move during the Cup year was a pretty good-looking trade that brought Nick Leddy and Kim Johnsson for Cam Barker. Sadly, that didn't bring instant results when Johnsson had his brains scrambled. Then, in his first summer where he could put his stamp on the team, Bowman first had to salvage what he could out of a cap clearout that would have any many GMs scrambling. It's not the best way to start. So let's take a step back, and try and evaluate Stan without getting to frothy at the mouth (that's more a direction to myself, as I get a little overheated at times with little Stan-Bo).
Positives: Considering that most of the league knew what Stan was up against, he didn't get the worst return, depending on how you feel about certain players. Obviously, Kris Versteeg is a better player than Viktor Stalberg, but I don't think Stals is without hope and neither do a lot of people. When you're over a barrel getting even a possibly-useful piece is a all right. The Byfuglien and rest for Jeremy Morin deal could look very good in time, as will the extra draft picks. And his midseason trade for Michael Frolik and Alex Salak for Jack Skille could eventually be considered a steal, unless Skille turns into something none of us envision him being. So there's that. Stan's only had one draft to work with, and none of those guys are anywhere close. But most reports on Kevin Hayes have been positive. And he did acquire his brother Jimmy, who potted 21 goals for BC and will be in Rockford next year with an outside shot of making some appearances for the big club as well.
Negatives: John Scott.
Other Negatives: Sorry, just felt like that one needed it's own thing. We've debated the Scott signing, though a debate would actually involve two sides to the discussion which this most certainly didn't have, so let's let that be. Bowman really dicked himself by having his allotment of 50 contracts filled up, which tied his hands in trying to acquire other players. Most agreed that Brandon Pirri didn't need to be in Rockford last year, though towards the end of the year he really picked it up. Nick Leddy was rushed to the NHL far too quickly, partly due to Bowman having no reserve when Campbell got hurt in training camp. There was the laughable and embarrassing hamstringing of Coach Q when Stan left him with only 10 forwards on far too many nights (far too many being defined as any) as he continually tried to prove his genius with the cap and the Rockford shuffle. His signings of Fernando Pisani and Nick Boynton clearly didn't work in any way, as well as the other bottom-feeding signings. But Stan really got himself in trouble last summer when he let both Hammer and Niemi twist in the wind far too long and thus had to lose the latter and Andrew Ladd. Both could have been re-signed during the season. He appears to have learned his lesson with Corey Crawford. What's a little more scary is Stan's apparent inability to scout his own system, which should be Job #1 for any GM. While the Hawks fourth line was a wasteland for most of the year, Ben Smith toiled in Rockford. While it was only his first year as a pro, the playoffs proved that Smith probably could have been helping the big club well before Game #80.
Outlook: Final judgement on Stan should be reserved until after this summer. This will be his first chance to work with unshackled hands, where he can genuinely add to this team, if he's smart. He can also prove that he can admit mistakes and move on, i.e. Scott and arguably Nick Leddy (though I won't sit on a hot stove waiting for that one). Stan has shown an ability to pull a trade to help the team, but now we need to know he can bring in the right free agents and pick the right kids to contribute to this team. Will he rush Morin to make us feel better about Byfuglien and Ladd? Will he trust Smith with too much? Is he seriously bringing back Kopecky? Does he have the balls to move Hammer? Which RFA is he going to bring back and which will he risk making him look silly elsewhere? What we do know is that Rocky and McD will not be confused with patient. If Stan has this team going balls-up again, his last name isn't going to save him from some serious scrutiny. It's going to be fun watching.
Final Grade: C-. There were obstacles Stan couldn't overcome, but he didn't help himself at times either. We'll find out more starting this month.