Hey Stan Bowman, WTF!?!?!
I know people will probably be salty about this blog, but I think it’s time to start looking at Stan Bowman’s body of work. Bowman was recently extended through the end of the 2016 season, but I am not sure he has earned it. Stan Bowman has done some things very well and made some shrewd moves so far in his tenure, but he has failed to surround his top talent with a supporting cast capable of winning the Stanley Cup or even the Central Division. A team led by Toews, Kane, Sharp, Hossa, Keith and Seabrook should not be backing into the playoffs following their Cup run, and certainly shouldn’t be in fourth place in the Central after the All-Star break. The window for winning is short in the salary cap era, and in my opinion Stan Bowman did not deserve that extension.
I do want to acknowledge certain elements of Stan’s job in which I feel he has performed very well. Firstly, the Blackhawks have completely rebuilt their prospect pool, and did so in a very short order. The Blackhawks system is ranked in the top 5 by just about every scouting service and Stan deserves plenty of credit for that. Some may point to the fact that much of the scouting staff was built by former GM Dale Tallon, but Bowman has been with the organization since 2001 and certainly played a huge role in the overall direction and development of the club. Stan has also been able to lock up the six core players listed above while still having plenty of wiggle room under the salary cap. However, it’s Bowman’s use of that wiggle room that has provided the problems for the Blackhawks.
Let’s start by taking a look at the moves Stan made last summer
- Andrew Brunette: 1 year $2m– This acquisition was a head scratcher from the minute it was announced. The Hawks have built themselves as a team that skates tremendously well and possesses the puck. Brunette flat-out can’t skate. It’s not like Brunette suddenly aged either. He’s never been able to skate. He does well along the boards and has pretty good hands in front of the net, but overall he was never a fit for the Hawks style of play. Brunette has 9 goals, 10 assists, and is a minus-10 in 53 games. 9 goals is pathetic considering the amount of powerplay and top 6 ice-time he got early in the season. This was a complete miss by Stan.
- Michael Frolik: 3 years $2.333m–Ouch. This signing is probably the most glaring mistake. Frolik strung together a few nice games against Vancouver and cashed in big time. Stan obviously put too much weight on three playoff games. Instead he should have looked at Frolik’s body of work. During his 28 games with Hawks last season Frolik scored a whopping 3 goals. THREE. He is on pace to net 8 goals this season. Frolik was a restricted free agent and the Hawks would have received some form of draft pick compensation had Stan elected to let him walk. Big mistake.
- Viktor Stalberg: 2 years $875k– This was a very nice signing by Stan. Stalberg is having the best season of his career. His game is really rounding nicely into form and he should finish the season with over 25 goals. Stalberg has played on all four lines this year and has been effective on all. 25 goals from a guy making $875k is a steal. Stalberg is finally using his speed. He reminds me of “Nuke” LaLoosh from Bull Durham. Don’t think…just skate. Anyways…great bargain re-sign by Stan here.
- Dan Carcillo: 1 year $775k– Carcillo was a disaster even before he got hurt. He had a reputation coming in of a guy that too often plays over the edge and he certainly lived up to that. The Blackhawks were desperate for some grit, but went looking in the wrong direction. Thankfully the Hawks can put Carcillo on long-term Injury reserve so his $775k doesn’t count against the salary cap.
- Jamal Mayers: 1 year $550k– Mayers has been everything you could want in a fourth line player. He had provided leadership and toughness. Mayers kills penalties and has even chipped in a handful of points. Good value out of this signing.
- Steve Montador: 4 years $2.75m– I am on record as a being a Montador guy. He has some offensive ability and is always willing to stand up for a teammate. However, a $2.75m cap hit for a guy always projected to be in your 3rd pair is a steep price. Giving that much money to a 32 year-old Montador seems like a reach so imagine how it will look when a 36 year-old Montador is pulling down that much cash against the cap.
- Sean O’Donnell: 1 year $850k– O’Donnell is another veteran well passed his prime that Stan brought in this summer to be a depth player. O’Donnell, much like Brunette, simply can’t skate well enough to be a consistent factor for this team. He still thinks the game at an exceptional level which makes up for his physical short comings. He is a fine as your 7th or 8th defenseman, but O’Donnell has averaged 15 minutes in the 37 games he has dressed. Which is both too much and too little at the same time.
- Sami Lepisto: 1 year 750k– I mean…who even knows? Lepisto has only dressed 11 games for the Hawks this season. If the Hawks felt comfortable with Lepisto they’d throw him out there more than they have. Instead it seems the Hawks have looked for answers from everywhere else. O’Donnell and John Scott have played more games that Lepisto and now the Hawks have recalled rookie Dylan Olsen from Rockford rather than turn to Lepisto as a replacement for the injured Montador. Another $750k in wasted funds against the cap.
- Corey Crawford: 3 years 2.67m– It’s hard for me to fault Stan Bowman for this one. Crawford put up exceptional numbers last season and played very capably against Vancouver in the playoffs. I have always questioned Crawford’s ability. To me he doesn’t seem like a great athlete. He lacks explosion moving side to side and his rebound control isn’t great. Crawford will always be a guy that needs to have his angles and his mechanics on lock down because he can’t rely on athleticism to make up for errors. His weaknesses this year have been exposed for many reasons. Obviously the Hawks team defense hasn’t helped him, and it seems as though he is lacking confidence. That split second when Crawford questions himself has led to too many goals this season. While there were other goaltending options out there this summer, it’s tough to blame all of this on Stan. Perhaps he should have been more aggressive in seeking a capable back-up
- Ray Emery: 1 year $600k– This deal only looks bad because of how poorly Crawford has played. Perhaps if the Hawks had pursued a Brian Elliot or a Mike Smith they wouldn’t be in the position they currently find themselves.
The Brendan Morrison trade was kind of the straw that broke camel’s back for me when it comes to Stan Bowman’s extension. The Blackhawks only gave up Brian Connelly. Was Connelly ever going to play for the Hawks? Probably not. He is an under-sized puck moving defenseman. The Blackhawks have plenty of those guys on the varsity already. However, that doesn’t mean the Connelly can never be an NHL defenseman. He still has value and Stan basically gave him away for an aging center who wasn’t producing. Connelly was an asset that perhaps could have been used in a package to bring in a piece that actually helps the Blackhawks. Whereas Morrison has already been relegated to the end of the bench/press box. Bowman wasted an asset for guy who can’t play and carries at $1.25m cap hit.
If you count Crawford, the Blackhawks have $12,124,996 in payroll this season that is essentially dead weight. The Hawks are in fourth place in the Central, still don’t have a legit number 2 center, still can’t find a consistent goalie, and are still thin outside of their top 6 players. Top teams like Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Boston have been able to win the Cup, manage the cap, and stay extremely competitive. Those teams have built deeper teams and spent more wisely than the Hawks and the only person to blame here is Stan. Hindsight is 20/20, but there were other options to fill out this roster. Jose Theodore, Mike Smith, Brian Elliot were all relatively cheap options for goalie. Mike Rupp for grit. Among others.
I think it’s time for the Hawks to cut bait and go young. Put Brunette, Frolik, and Lepisto on waivers and bring up the young guys. My team would be…
Taxi squad Fs= Smith and Bickell
Taxi sqaud Ds= O’Donnell and Scott
This team isn’t winning the Cup with the dead weight they are carrying. Might as well roll with the young guys and find out what you have. The young guys can’t get experience until somebody gives it to them.
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