Im hearing a lot of people on twitter and other outlets being very hard on Stan Bowman. While he does deserve some of the blame for the teams recent losing streak, I do not believe he deserves as much blame as some would give. One point i would like to make first off is this, Bowman has been on the record recently as saying that no one is selling. Many in Hawk nation have blasted him for saying this while also labeling him as hesitant or passive as a GM. While i would love them to acquire a solid PK and reliable defenseman such as Bryan Allen or Niklas Grossman, its just not going to happen until the eleventh hour. Brian Burke, Notorious douche that he is, was recently quoted saying the trade market "is like a snakepit." Most team are within 10 points of playoff spots with the playoff teams moving up and down daily and do not want to sell. My big point here for the non believers of Stan is this; If there were trades to be made as you say, why have we not seen one of the other 29 teams make a big deal? The only deals that have been made so far are for prospects or for fringe AHL roster players. As far as I recall, Brendan Morrison is about the only NHL starter to move this year.
I do believe in two things right now.
1. Stan is working around the clock to acquire players, but is most likely stonewalled by GM's and owners who want to make a run at the playoffs for the extra profit and games.
2. This team will improve and still make the playoffs.
Arguably no team in the league has a better collection of talent in the top of their lineup than the Blackhawks. With Jonathon Toews looking more and more healthy everyday,(I think his FO% is a good indicator of how his wrist is doing) this team will bounce back in a major way, and i think it will start tonight versus Nashville.
if I may for a moment take everyone back to the summer of 2010 and the dreaded "Cap-o-pocalypse." While I know most of the readers here know what moves were made, id like to analyze those moves a bit. Ill also include moves made since then because it has to do with the Hawks position this season.
Starters traded away:
Dustin Byfuglien, Current cap hit: $5.2 Million
Kris Versteeg, Cap hit: $3.083 Million
Andrew Ladd, Cap hit: $4.4 Million
Brent Sopel,currently in the KHL
Ben Eager, Cap hit: $1.1 Million
Adam Burish, Cap hit: $1.15 Million
Colin Fraser, Cap hit: $825k
Marty Reasoner(briefly acquired and then not able to afford, whom I believe would have been a solid player for the Hawks) Cap hit: $1.35 Million
Troy Brouwer, Cap hit: $2.35 Million
Brian Campbell, Cap hit $7.14 Million
Tomas Kopecky, Cap hit $3 Million
Fraser trade: 6th rounder (Mirko Hoefflin)
Reasoner trade: Jeff Taffe
Brouwer trade: First rounder (Phillip Danault)
Campbell trade: Rostislav Olesz $3.125 Million
Alright, now that that is over with, lets take a look at what happened. While the vast majority of you know all this information, some of the cliff jumpers i believe do not understand what Stan did when he traded away all of those players. Obviously the main reason was the Salary cap. Looking at the 2010 team today, the Blackhawks would be $48.199 (including patrick Sharps 3.9 Million this year which increases to 5.9 million next year) Million alone for the forwards, and $24.308 Million For the defense, for a grand total of 72.507 Million, 8 million dollars over the current salary cap and 10+ million over the 2010-2011 Cap. (I couldn't find salary information on a few players who are no longer around, probably totaling about 2-3 million, but I believe my point was made as I did it.) Clearly the Hawks could not afford to keep most of the players on their 2010 team or they would be way over the cap.
Its really what else happened during these salary dumps and trades that I believe a lot of fans do not understand. If you take a look at what was traded, 8 NHL Starting forwards(9 if you include Marty Reasoner), and 2 NHL starting Defensemen. Thats a big loss for any team over two years, especially right after lifting Lord Stanleys Chalice.
But the question here is, 'What did we get in return?'
Of everything that Stan traded for, Viktor Stalberg is the ONLY starting player thus far. Jeremy Morin, still a highly regarded prospect, was most likely expected to start this year when the trade was consumated. But after a nasty concussion in the AHL last year he has slowed a bit, but recently started to pick up his game. With the uncertainty of concussions, its very unfortunate that he hasnt played with the team this year, but I still believe he will be a top 6 forward.
What else did we get? Well for one thing, Salary cap room. Weve heard all year how it allows flexibility at the trade deadline. Will Stan make a move? I believe so. Will it be a blockbuster for a Rick Nash or Ryan Suter type? No, i do not think so. You would have to give up far too much to get one of those players. The whole point of the "Cap-o-pocalypse" was to clear Cap room, and to restock a declining prospect pool.
With what the hawks have right now coming through the prospect ranks, im very excited about. But it doesnt do us much good if they arent going to play for 2-3 years.
Can you consider the Stan Bowman moves a failure?
Even if he did trade for more starting players, they could not have kept them with the team before Brian Campbell was traded because of the salary cap. So I believe they cannot be judged at this point as most of the players acquired have not seen NHL action. In 2-3 years when some of them come up, maybe even next year, then we can make a judgement on whether they were good or bad. Personally, i love what he did, he gave the team with MASSIVE Cap issues freedom to sign free agents and aquire money at the trade deadline in only a year and a half.
Not only did he free cap space, but he drafted players who can contribute at the NHL level and whose rights he owns for 3 years at affordable prices. Not only can they help the hawks in the future, but some of them can be used to acquire current NHL talent through trades.
What is my grade for Stan Bowman?
So far its mostly incomplete, but I have a lot of optimism for the organizational depth and future for the NHL team. Injuries happen, slumps happen, and shaky goaltending happen. Maybe what we are seeing here is a perfect storm of all three at the same time. Losing 8 games sucks, but its better than losing 8 games right before or during the playoffs. As most of sports are showing right now, its now about who is the best team in the league, its about the one that is playing great when it matters.
Part 2: Free agency
Lets take a look at the added free agents and the free agents who were available and were not added. (looking only at roster players, not AHL or junior players.)
Marty Turco G
While he had a few good games, he really didnt fit the organizations belief in goalies, Big, butterfly, and Cheap. Lost the job to Corey Crawford, who played very well last year and in the playoffs.
Fernando Pisani RW
A lot of people thought he would be better than he was, but with the money Stan didnt have after the purge of 2010, he was about the only option.
Ryan Johnson C
Played well for a fourth liner, won faceoffs killed penalties. was a bit too old to resign imo.
He also signed Jonathon Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook to contract extensions.
John Scott F/D
Obviously this was a bad sign, as someone who skates 4-5 minutes a night hurts the team. The idea of signing him was solid in my opinion. They needed someone to protect Toews and Kane from goons. The real world results of the idea were a disaster. Thank god hes gone after next year, at least we can all hope.
Nick Leddy D
Signed to a 3 year entry level contract. The trade to acquire him was obviously a win and one of Stan's prouder moments. Giving up Cam Barker, who has done nothing but disappoint since leaving the Hawks for Kim Johnsson(who was actually solid when he did play for those 8 or so games.) and Leddy was a very lopsided deal.
Jordan Hendry D
Constantly in Q's doghouse, but again, didnt have any cap room to go out and get someone to replace him. Honestly, this is the guy that we replaced with Steve Montador. Does anyone really want Hendry back?
Nick Boynton D
fifth or Sixth D man, played ok, then waived I believe.
Corey Crawford G
Well as of now this deal doesnt look good, but one bad year does not a golie make. i still think Crawford will bounce back and be a solid goalie. The argument in a lot of Hawks fans minds is him vs. Antti Niemi. But ill look at that later.
Steve Montador D
Signed to be a 4-6 Defenseman. Personally I think he has been fine. yes hes made mistakes, but do we really expect him to be Brent Seabrook or Duncan Keith? I didnt. Why he hasnt gotten more of a chance on the PK I will never know. Someone ask Q why he insists on putting and undersized Leddy there instead of a known PK specialist like Montador.
Jamal Mayers F
has been a solid fourth liner and PK forward. Can play Center, which this team always loves. Is responsible with the puck and will step up for teammates in a pinch. One of the better signings.
Sean O'Donnell D
Was hailed as a big physical defenseman who would clear the crease of opposing forwards looking for rebounds and loose pucks. What he actually is? Slow, not very responsible and all over the place. Watch a few of those October Colorado games and see him not where he is supposed to be when goals are scored. A bit ironic that the hawks are looking for a Dman of what he was billed to be. Fortunately he is only signed to a one year deal. i think if he was what he was last year in Philly he would have been much better as a hawk. he just may be done. It happens to 40 year olds.
Andrew Brunette F
Everyone said he was slow. Holy crap is he really slow. Being said, his best work is on the walls and behind the net. Almost every shift he plays with any semblance of talent, there is a nice behind the net pass that is close to a goal. Seems to me every game hes puts the puck on someone stick with a prime scoring chance. I just wish he was fast enough to skate with Toews and Kane, because that would be something special. Hes been pretty much what everyone expected.
Dan Carcillo F
This is a tough one. He was signed to be a Adam Burish type player to stick up for the DDN line and play with a bit of an edge. For the good part of the year he was more than anyone expected of him. Yes he took some dumb penalties, but he played really well and actually toned down his goonery until that Edmonton game where he blew out his knee. An underrated signing because he was more then anyone thought he was gonna be the day he was signed. Honestly he was exactly what Q and Stan billed him, and agitating forward with a bit of skill.
Resigned Viktor Stalberg F
This is actually a great signing in my opinion, as Viktor has been playing really well almost all year. If he was only signed to a one year deal, with the year he has had, I could see a team paying him 2-3 million a year this offseason. needs to get more of a chance on the power play though. I believe he leads the league in even strength points which is all of his points.
Sami Lepisto D
This is a strange signing as Sami has yet to see significant action this year. Kind of billed as a poor mans Chirs Campoli. My review on him is inconclusive. Although I do believe he should be playing over O'Donnell.
Resigned Michael Frolik F
At the time, almost everyone thought this was a great signing. However its a lot to pay a guy who doesnt score. He plays solid minutes but he just cant buy a goal. If he plays like he did in the playoffs last year this could turn out to be a great deal.
Ray Emery G
Very shrewd signing for almost league minimum. Has been solid as the backup and may be the starter down the road. Pretty good for a guy who was just in camp on a try-out.
Part 2A, Looking at the loss of Antti Niemi
On the goalie front, as i said earlier, it was basically Corey Crawford replacing Antti Niemi. On the Jesse Rogers side, people see Niemi as a second coming of Jesus Christ. However im a bit skeptical on that front. If I take a look at some of the postseason games from 2010 when Niemi wore the Indian head, i see that Niemi was good but not great.
4-2, 920% SV, 1.66 GAA
While he had two shutouts, hes was downright terrible in Games 1 and 3, and just OK in games 5 and 6. At the same time, Nashville just always figures ways to score against the Hawks with little offensive firepower. Overall, he was good for two games and meh for 4.
4-2, 898% SV, 2.83 GAA
This whole series was won by offense and the Hawks ability to sit inside of Roberto Luongos head. The Canucks once again like 2009, formed a line to the sin bin and the hawks made them pay. At the same time, Niemi wasnt very good this series. Game 6 he was great but he allowed quite a few soft goals during this series. Good, but not great.
San Jose Series:
4-0, 949% SV, 1.75 GAA
This is the series where Niemi stood on his damn head. He was absolutely fantastic against the Sharks, and watching that History will be made video still gives me goosebumps. Ohh and that save was on Ryan Clowe, my pants just got tighter.
4-2, 882% SV, 3.5 GAA
Niemi just wasnt very good here aside from game 2. Maybe it was just the change in the game tempo, but I dont buy that. 5 of the 6 games he played he did make some great saves, but he also let in some goals that shouldnt have been scored. He was ok, and honestly not that good against the Flyers.
Crawford Against the Canucks:
3-4, 926% SV, 2.66 GAA
Crawford was pretty spectacular in this series, playing behind an arguably worse defense. Now yes it is only one series, but his numbers here are pretty damn good. Like the organization said when they let Niemi go, its more about defense than it is goaltending. What the hawks did was find a cheaper younger option to Niemi who gave them a pretty good performance. But the point isnt the goalie performance, the point is comparing the value of defense to the Value of goaltending in todays league. What im trying to say here, is that those longing for the return of Niemi, really didnt need him in the first place. Would they have won the cup without him? I cant say. But, could they have won the cup with another goalie? Probably. There was so much talent on that roster(which is now gone) they most likely would have still beat anyone. Niemis play in the playoffs wasnt that of an elite goalie, even though he may now have become one, it was that of about league average goaltending. Really this decision to not retain Niemi relies on how well Hjalmarsson progresses. Hes become a shot blocking specialist and a pretty solid Defenseman. if he could eliminate the brain lapses when around his own net, he could become quite valuable. Remember one thing, hes only 24. Its not like were talking about a 30 year old vet who at that age is pretty much who he is. Hammer as like most defensemen will probably improve and really hit his stride in the coming years. At the same time, this is only his third full year in the league. i still subscribe the the school of when Stan says, its more about defense than goaltending. yes goalies can have bad nights, but a good defense limits the chances on those bad nights, limiting the goals given up. Id rather go with relying on 6-7 Dmen than relying on one goalie having a great game every night.
Part 2b, Free Agents that were desired, but signed elsewhere
Ok now that thats out of the way, lets take a look at the Free Agent class of 2011 and a lot of players who hawks fans wanted.
Joel Ward F, signed to 4 year-$12 million deal by Washington
5 Goals, 10 Assists, 15 Points, +6
A lot of people wanted him to play a 2nd or 3rd line role. Having not watched a lot of Capitals games im not sure where hes played, but thats not a lot of production for someone getting paid 3 mil a year. Is he a solid player? Yes. Is he worth $3 million a year? No.
Sean Bergenheim F, Signed to a 4yr-$11 Million deal by Florida
11g, 2A, 13 Pts. -1
A lot of Hawks fans wanted him to be a third liner, PK specialist. once again a decent player, but not a whole lot of production for $2.75 Million. i dont think hes much better on the Hawks, especially for 4 years.
Jason Arnott C, Signed by the Blues, 1yr, 2.875 Million
12g, 12a, 24pts, +11
This was actually a guy I wanted the hawks to sign. hes good defensively, wins faceoffs and usually scores some clutch goals. Of course most of this was against the hawks, so you never know what would happen if he was playing for them. however, hes been injured a lot of this year and not really a 2nd line center. At almost 3 million, hes way overpaid. if the Hawks could have signed him for somewhere in the 1-1.5 range I think it would have been great, but the blues decided to overpay for him, a trend that followed most of the Free agent signings this offseason.
Tim Connolly C, Signed by the Leafs, 2 years, 9.5 Million
7g, 18A, 25 Pts, even
Also a possible 2nd line center a lot of Hawks fans were clamoring for. Started out the year horrible and had a good stretch or two, but at a cap hit of 4.75 Million, not even close to being worth it.
Max Talbot, Signed by the Flyers, 5 years, 8.75 Million
14g, 11A, 25 Pts, +2
This is also a guy that I liked as well as a lot of Hawks fans. First off there was no way Stan would have signed him to a five year deal. The cap hit on him is actually quite good in my opinion, at 1.75 million. However, he was looking for a long term commitment, and Stan wasnt willing the go there. This really is about the only player i think the Hawks missed out on. But would they have signed him to a 4 or 5 year contract? I dont know.
Once again, for What Stan did by signing short term cheap players, he will have over $10 Million in cap space next year. Maybe there will be better Free agents next year and he will sign someone, but thats another story. What he did was give the team the chance to once again get some depth, and acquire talent at the deadline while not saddling himself with long term, bad contracts.
God this is long now, sorry for the wall of text.
I'm sure a lot of the readers know most of this information, but I just felt like I needed to share it for some who do not. I hope someone reads this and steps off the ledge.