Thursday, June 28, 2012

Make A New Plan, Stan
There Must Be
Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover

Tuesday, some wise ass gave me the old "what would you do? what is your plan?" regarding a comment I posted that eluded to the fact that I wasn't going to expect any big transactions from Stan Bowman until he proves that I should feel otherwise. I figured the best thing to do was put together some plans to quiet the wise asses. What does HE know? Maybe I just missed my calling. Maybe I secretly AM a brilliant hockey mind.

To blindly throw trust into a GM that has watched the team he controls progressively head in reverse is naive and irresponsible. Everyone and their housekeeper can criticize the President when the economy doesn't recover or Obamacare gets uphend, but Stan Bowman should be allowed carte blanche because his last name is Bowman, which obviously means he must be the right hand of God. If that's the case, Obama should seriously consider a name change to Barack Kennedy Roosevelt.

Contrary to the conclusions that most Twatters probably have drawn, I don't hate Bowman at all. If Cautious Stanley is the type of GM he is, then so be it. If that approach means that the Hawks will continue to fade into the lore of the '85 Bears, then Bowman should end up jobless in the near future. If that approach means that the conservative method works them back into the conference or cup finals, then great for everyone. Based on the evidence of his first 36 months in office, his cautious approach has yielded them draft picks aplenty and little else. Using the salary cap as an excuse for failure is really unfair, because every team has the same restrictions, and Bowman was billed as the cap savant that was going to make all the issues magically disappear. He has had a respectable amount of cap space for 12 months, now, and has done nothing to improve the team. These are facts, kind people. He is quickly losing my support.

A team getting ousted in the first round for two straight years with a decent amount of cap room left on the table smells of a few possible scenarios:

-Bowman hoped that the team would get lucky, catch fire, and some players would carry them for four rounds, which is like rubbing a lamp and hoping for a genie. Hoping and wishing is a bad business strategy.

-Bowman grossly overvalued the talent on this team, which is a seriously disturbing character flaw. If he watched this team play and thought they were capable of anything more than what happened, he's not smarter than the meatballs who were doing their chicken little dance in December.

-Bowman just simply gave up, which is unacceptable for any number of reasons.

I would put my money on one of the first two. None of them should make fans all that comfortable. Anyhow, Enough "angry" bashing of the chosen one, and on to my brilliant couch GM rantings.

With the draft in the rear view, and the UFA period period on the horizon, the Hawks have less opportunity than they did a week ago. The draft could have been a prime opportunity to drop some less than desirable players and some salaries. We don't know what happened within the inner circle Friday night and Saturday. Bowman may have been weeping and begging on his knees for someone to Nik Hjalmarsson and Michael Frolik, and ever single GM in the league turned him down. He may have cornered Doug Wilson and threatened to shank him if he didn't take Hjalmarsson this time around, only to have his bluff called. I highly doubt both, and it looks as though Bowman wasn't willing to take any more losses on deals to free up cabbage. Your call, Stan.

One thing that the team has on its side is that there are no RFA's to tender qualifying offers to. One less thing to complicate the process. See? I'm not completely negative. Good boy, Stanley; you're such a good boy!

On to the UFA frenzy. This is the biggest and most exciting transaction day in the NHL. Chum in the water, and the sharks are swimming. Before I examine just who the Hawks should put on the speed dial, it would be best to lay out the current rostered players under contract. The current roster lays out like this:

CJonathan Toews19
CDavid Bolland36
C/WJamal Mayers22
CMarcus Kruger16
WBryan Bickell29
WBrandon Bollig52
WDaniel Carcillo13
WMichael Frolik67
WJimmy Hayes39
WMarian Hossa81
WPatrick Kane88
WPatrick Sharp10
WAndrew Shaw65
WVictor Stalberg25
DDuncan Keith2
DBrent Seabrook7
DNick Leddy8
DJohnny Oduya27
DNiklas Hjalmarsson4
DSteve Montador5
DDylan Olsen34
GCorey Crawford50
GRay Emery30

That, right there, is what you call a full boat, folks. Four Centers (if you include MegaMayers), ten wings, seven defensemen, and two goalies. If the season began tonight, three of those players would be healthy scratches. The problem with this is that the roster above is the same team that lost 9 straight last season and was schooled by Phoenix in the first round; and are a year older. That cannot stay the same. If you keep going to war with the same army, you're going to keep getting the same results. Expecting different is the DEFINITION of insanity.

The only two choices are trade, and then free agency. One doesn't have to come before the other, but if they sign someone July 1, they will need to move a body or two somewhere. They have three open slots in the entire organization to sign players, because currently teams in the NHL can only have 50 players signed to contracts. As I sit here, the team has 23 in the NHL and 24 in the depths of hell. They can currently sign three players for a total of $8,134,872 annually, with the recent salary cap announcement. For those mouth breathers having this read to them in their cages, that is $2,711,624 a year. Not exactly bait for any big fish unless they just sign one or two players.

The first scenario is trade. It is pretty much understood that the names most mentioned in trade rumors are Hjalmarsson, Stalberg, Frolik, Bickell, and any of the assorted kids in the system. Most of you should be aware of this, but there aren't many teams out there bidding for those players. The pickins are slim, as they say. Bolland and Montador have been discussed, but they are players with injury histories and fat contracts. Of the players listed, the Hawks are most likely to hear back about Hjalmarsson, Bolland and Stalberg. I could sit here and dream up some crazy scenarios like a certain message board, without knowing if the players at the other end are even available. Not worth wasting my time. What IS worth telling you is that Hammer would free up $3.5 million, Bolland $3.375 million, Stalberg $875K, Frolik $2.333 million, Montador $2.75 million, and Bickell frees up virtually nothing while swimming in the shallow end at the league minimum. The would, no doubt, have to take SOME salary back, but it's safe to say they could clear up another $2 million without breaking a sweat. With Stall off the market, Evander Kane is a possible big name guy, but they would have to trade for, and then resign him. I don't see it happening.

If they are able to pull off some fat trimming, they would have enough room to make a run at either a big name player or a couple of lesser solid ones. I'm fine with either, as long as it is an honest attempt to make the team better. What I'm NOT fine with is Bowman sitting on his thumb while teams like the Rangers, Pens or Wings make significant additions. The Hawks are not that good. They are not a team that can stand pat and dominate. One more year of mediocrity and this team is bordering on the need for a rebuild.

I know all the wise asses are out there saying, "OK, genius, tell me who they should get". In a fantasy land, Zach Parise, Shea Weber or Ryan Suter sound like lovely plans, but this isn't NHL 12 and there are other factors. Of those three, Suter is the one most likely to wear an Indianhead, but I'd give that a %15 chance, at best. Again, I'm all for a run, but I don't think the Hawks can compete, and I can accept that.

Where I think they need to make their mark is where they have failed pretty miserably since Bowman's promotion, and that is the second level FA market. I could run down the list, but there are a few names out there. Jason Garrison, Sheldon Souray, Matt Carle, and a host of others are out there on the back end.

As far as forwards go, there are people out there, just not the big names. Filling the hole at center would be a huge upgrade, but that would probably mean that Bolland needs to move up or Sharp bites the bullet. Kane cannot be the Blackhawks second line center, long term because he can't win a faceoff. Someone like Paul Gaustad could step in at #3 or #4, and I always like the face-off ability of Zenon Konopka at the #4 center. Hell, even Olli Jokinen is an attempt. It has been put out that Toews was sweet talking Shane Doan in the NHLPA meetings. If they can get him for $2 million or less, by all means, sign his tough ass. Otherwise, they are at risk of another Andrew Brunette debacle with an aging player, on the decline, getting pulled around the ice by the kids.

Take this for what it is worth, folks. It is a plan of attack. When all is said and done, I don't want to have to criticize anyone in the organization. I was a stern supporter of the Capocalypse of 2010. It was a necessary evil. Two years removed and the team is still moving in the wrong direction. As a fan, I SHOULDN'T be happy with this, and neither should you. Damn the man! Save the Empire!


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