Friday, April 27, 2012

Ya Gotta Go With The Devil You Know

Let the right one in
Ya gotta go with the devil you know
It's a goddamn sin
Ya gotta go with the devil you know
I'm ready, ready to begin
You bastard
Let the right one in
Ya gotta go with the devil that you know

This describes how I feel about the Blackhawks situation, following the disappointing 4-2 series loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. This is a team that is still on the verge of dominance and greatness, but two disappointing first round exits following a Stanley Cup are hard to swallow. Where does one chuck the blame? There is really no single solution. These are deeper issues that have many layers. Let me get a few things off the plate, right off the bat:
  • Stan Bowman is not a terrible GM, YET he has not proven to be a great one, either. Mike Milbury is/was a terrible GM.
  • Joel Quenneville, while being extremely stubborn, is a proven and very successful coach. Davis Payne is/was a terrible Head Coach.
  • The Hawks core is one of the top in the league. Bar none.
That being said, there are some glaring holes with this team and it's management. This is where I say, "Ya gotta go with the devil you know", because turning this team upside down is NOT going to fix things. What happened in Philly is rare occurrence that doesn't often work. The core of the Blackhawks management and back office deserve another year to fix some of what ills them. If this team is in the same position or worse next spring, then BURN IT DOWN! Now, There are a few things that should logically happen within this organization over the next few months:
  1. They need to evaluate all talent, as well as Coaching. Quenneville is not going anywhere, but don't be so sure about Kitchen or Haviland. Quenneville and Haviland were around for the cup, so you can imagine who the odd man out should be. Unless they are hiding something from everyone, Kitchen is the squeaky wheel. Once John Tochetti left for Atlanta, and Kitchen was brought in to replace him, the special teams went down the proverbial crapper. My money is on Kitch taking his walking papers. As far as talent, no one really knows for sure where they want to be, come training camp, if training camp even happens. You'd have to guess that they would like to cut some fat, and make some room for some possible free agent moves or additions through trade.
  2. The Hawks next need to address the draft, which will be held on June 22-23 in Pittsburgh. With the success of last year's draft, they can ride that wave and stockpile some talent. The Blackhawks have 8 picks in the draft, one in each round and an additional 5th rounder from the Rangers for John Scott. The exact location of the picks won't be laid out until more teams are eliminated from the playoffs. Suffice to say that the Hawks will pick somewhere in the 20's, and that Rangers pick will be even deeper in the 5th round. This is where a trade could be pulled off, and where Bowman/Bowman and Associates could ride the momentum of last year's draft by grabbing some keepers.
  3. Once the draft is complete, the team needs to evaluate their current RFA's and which ones they want back, which might be none. Their RFA's this year are: Simon Danis-Pepin, Ben Smith, Chris DiDomenico, Igor Makarov (who is playing in the KHL), Brandon Bollig and Carter Hutton. I wouldn't shed a tear if none of those players were resigned, but a couple of them will, no doubt, be tendered qualifying offers. Hopefully this year, they will be on time, eh Dale Tallon?
  4. After the RFA period, begins the UFA feeding frenzy. The Blackhawks scheduled to become UFA's on July 1st are, again, a list of people that wouldn't break my heart if they were left to sign elsewhere. They are: Brunette, Oduya, O'Donnell, Mayers, Morrison, Huet, and Lepisto. That doesn't hurt so much, does it? The Hawks, and I, would no doubt love to see Oduya back, and Lepisto is only 27, but the rest of the guys are over 35 and won't be back.
  5. That leads us to the next step, which is the available Free Agents. You will hear every moronic idea imaginable about who the Hawks will sign, and the fact of the matter is that no one knows who will end up wearing the Indianhead next fall. With no players resigned, they go into free agency with nearly 7 million a year available. They left money on the table this past season, and never addressed their weaknesses, and it would be nice to see them leave a little less, this year. Names like Suter, Parise, Doan, and Jackman might get thrown around, but based on Bowman's past reputation, I don't see a big name coming in. There aren't really much in the way of big names that the Hawks could afford, anyway. If you're getting your hopes up about a UFA goalie, let me slow your roll right here. The top UFA Goalie, as listed by Cap Geek, is Cristobal Huet. Yes, THAT Cristobal Huet. He wasn't in a horrible windsurfing accident with Kim Johnsson. Granted, they are listed by previous salary, not talent, but I digress. The only goalie in the whole list that looks remotely attractive is Minnesota's Josh Harding. Otherwise it's a bunch of "has-beens", "never-weres", and "never-will-bes", many of which are dry humping 40 years of age. No thanks. Didn't they learn this lesson with Turco, O'Donnell, and Brunette already?
So, there you have the events of the next few months, in a nutshell. This is all dependent on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, as well. If the NHL and NHL Player's Association don't agree, there won't be a 2012/13 season for this to play out. Sports business is fun, isn't it? Whatever the case, these two gentlemen have their work cut out for them, for at least, the next few months.

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