Counterpoint: The Blackhawks' leadership structure is just fine
On Tuesday, new contributor Adam argued that Coach Q probably has too much control in the Blackhawks' organization. Here's why I don't agree with that.
The Blackhawks are a great team. For the last few years, the Blackhawks have been a great team. In the near future, the Blackhawks should continue to be a great team.
I think that is really, really important to remember when we start discussing the dynamics of power in the Blackhawks' organizational structure. The people currently in charge of things, however they may function behind closed doors, have ran an extremely competent franchise.
That doesn't mean the conversation isn't worth having, of course. The GM and head coach are the two most important roles in the organization that don't involve paying the payroll or playing the game, and the fact that so many fans are obsessed with the relationship between those people isn't that crazy. If you care about the team, and these are the guys who ultimately drive the results, then it only makes sense you'll care about them, too.
Adam makes some interesting points in his first article for SCH, and I think we can all see where the lines might be drawn to make this summer look like Bowman caving in to Quenneville's demands. The coach has often espoused his preference for experience and physicality -- hey, hockey coach says hockey coach things! -- and this summer culminated with the Blackhawks' roster often emphasizing those things.
Professional sports teams in the past have been undermined by crumbling relationships between key leadership figures, and like any healthy business, there's a certain order to way things need to be done to maintain structure and keep everything in motion. Egos getting out of check can be a quick means to battling dysfunction.
I don't think that's what's happened with the Blackhawks, though. Bowman is simply a manager with responsibility, trying to satisfy one of his most important employees while spinning the many plates involved with building a Cup-caliber roster. Does Bowman listen to his coach? Yeah, I'm guessing he does a lot. And it's entirely reasonable to disagree with the moves that Bowman makes as a result of that.
However, that's more of a fault with the ideas being supported -- vets over young guys, pro-Carcillo, etc. -- than how the GM interacts with his coach. It's not that Q influencing Bowman is a problem, it's the manner in which he's doing so. If one doesn't see eye to eye with some of that, hey, welcome to the club.
There are two points that I'd make with that in mind:
(a) A general manager runs the team, and is the coach's boss, but the team's style of play isn't solely determined by that person. Imagine Bowman just watching training camp with his assistants then telling Quenneville which guys are going to Rockford and which ones make the roster -- would that be the sign of a healthier organization? Probably not, and more likely, it would be the kind of initial step that spells the beginning of the end for one or the other person with the franchise.
You could almost make the case that what they're doing right now, by working together and making compromises of sorts, is precisely what you want to see from the franchise's braintrust. Don't you think Q asked for things this summer that he didn't get? I would gamble that's the case. So maybe one doesn't agree with the ultimate conclusions of the duo, but again, that's a different kind of criticism. The balance of power here seems rather normal.
(b) The Blackhawks are a pretty secure organization, in terms of leaks and such, so we don't really know the inner workings of the front office. One thing we can be confident of, however, is that Bowman has a larger stake in the team's future than Quenneville, simply as a result of their respective roles. And while he's certainly listening to the coach -- that much seems undeniable -- it's a leap in logic to then assume Q is the driving force in that equation.
There are just so many things that go into building a hockey team, from the salary cap to balancing egos, that boiling things down to a conflict between GM and coach would require more substantial evidence. Bowman doing things that Quenneville presumably likes, while potentially frustrating, isn't a confirmation that the former won't stand up to the latter.
Considering all that, I don't really see a Blackhawks organization anywhere near dysfunction. It's a debate we've had, and will probably continue having, but I don't see the reasons to waver in my support like others, including Adam. Quenneville is a powerful coach, but winning coaches are powerful coaches and people from Chicago should know that damn well after Ditka and Phil Jackson. Bowman listens to Q a lot because it's part of how he does his job. These two have earned the benefit of the doubt. Unless you want to want to see these two broken up, which I personally do not, then it's business as usual in Chicago.