Stan Bowman's summer of standing pat and Readers' Mailbag

Stan Bowman's summer of standing pat and Readers' Mailbag

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

So far it has been a summer of inactivity for Blackhawk GM Stan Bowman. Many fans are left bewildered by the failed attempts to acquire big name free agents and a reluctance, or inability, to pull off a significant trade. It would be best for those fretting about next season to just enjoy the remainder of the summer.

Bowman did make a nice value pick up with the signing of free agent defender Sheldon Brookbank, formerly of the Anaheim Ducks. Brookbank brings some size and physicality to the Hawks blue line and has shown the ability to play significant minutes. The good news is Brookbank can play 15 minutes or more a night. The bad news is that won't mean much if Joel Quenneville sticks to his habit of seldom playing third pairing defensemen.

The point was made here many times last season the Hawks were a disjointed group which often couldn't play consistent, effective hockey. We will find out in the fall if the supposed rift between Bowman and Quenneville is over and if newly signed assistant coach Jamie Kompon will make a difference.

As for the rest of the summer, let me share a saying that was printed on a sign in front of a business in my neighborhood. To those who wait, keep in mind all that will be left is what those who hustled didn't want. There really aren't any UFA's left that would excite most fans. To make a big impact, Bowman would have to make a trade.

For now, the Blackhawks are aware fans are concerned but Bowman's actions thus far indicate he is comfortable to begin his season with the current group.

This will be my last article until training camp begins and hopefully CBA problems won't delay the start of the season. I would like to thank everyone that has followed me on MyFoxChicago.com and to all who have read my articles faithfully for years. Below are some questions submitted by some very sharp Blackhawk fans that I not only enjoy interacting with but who always keep me on my toes.

The questions selected came from the Chicago area, from other parts of the U.S. and as far away as Poland.

"Is it more that the 'hotness' of Chicago has worn down since their re-emergence and other teams have taken over the 'hotness' factor? Or has Chicago somehow gained a reputation as a place to actually avoid under the current command?" - Tom (shruew)

The picture painted on a Hockey Night in Canada telecast during the playoffs about a dysfunctional front office wasn't flattering. It was confirmed in a way by Bowman with his remarks about the coaching staff and surely that hasn't helped.

In the last few years, there has been a lot of player turnover and people have left management positions to join other franchises, so stories will get out. To be frank, there was unflattering chatter going around the NHL ever since Dale Tallon was dismissed/reassigned, but winning quiets controversy.

We all believe Chicago is a great city but there is more involved in a free agent decision as to where to sign than great restaurants. The Blackhawks made a splash with Brian Campbell's mega-contract which included a bad team premium; same way with Cristobal Huet. There was a time free agents would avoid coming here, not making the playoffs and playing in front of sparse crowds matter. For many years, the Hawks couldn't attract big name free agents. Maybe we feel the choice for some is more obvious now than is actually the case.

Possibly, after winning a Cup, Rocky Wirtz feels the Hawks should be a destination of choice. Fans probably agree with Wirtz and feel if the money offered is similar the Hawks should be the place. In reality, there are many choices for sought after free agents these days and the Hawks have a highly paid core already in place.

I wouldn't say the Blackhawks have become a franchise to avoid but there has been some bad press which won't help in a very competitive environment.

"Do you think entering 2012/13 season with slightly tweaked roster is a sign of indolence from GM or is there a method in his madness? Is there any hope this group of people can keep Toews and Kane onboard two years from now when they hit free agency?" - Jacek Kasprzyk

It would be unfair to criticize Bowman as being asleep but in my view, he has chosen to do very little. If the Hawks don't make a long playoff run in 2013, this will be the second consecutive wasted season. I can't fault Bowman for the campaign following the Stanley Cup.

To make a meaningful trade, Bowman would have to most likely part with prospects from the 2011 Draft Class. So far he has held onto every draft pick he has ever made. I thought the Hawks would make a big trade this summer but evidently Bowman must have high expectations of the current group.

Maybe Brandon Saad will have to be a Calder Trophy Finalist in addition to a lot of good luck for the current group to be a strong Cup contender. For now it would be best to characterize Bowman as content. Time will tell if his current strategy is correct. If things don't go according to plan I would suspect the Hawks will make changes sooner than later.

I don't see Jonathan Toews leaving Chicago unless someday he wants out. As for Patrick Kane, his long-term future here is much more uncertain.

"What do you think of inviting Dominik Hasek for a tryout like we did for Emery?" - Milton Passon

To answer your question directly about Dominik Hasek, I would say no way.

I don't think Bowman has had any real intention in upgrading his goal tending tandem this summer. My thinking is the interest in acquiring Marty Brodeur was more for show than anything else. If goaltending was high up on Bowman's list of fixes, Ray Emery would not have been resigned so soon and other options would have been explored.

Corey Crawford was the chosen one of the Hawks front office when Antti Niemi wasn't resigned. Yes, the Hawks were in a tight cap bind in 2010 but there were other choices which could have been made. Niemi could have been resigned for the same $2 million the San Jose Sharks gave him because the offer was more than 10 percent below the arbitration award amount.

The point in bringing up ancient history again is because Hawk management was all in on Crawford, who they drafted and developed for a number of years. They won't stay with him forever but he will be given every opportunity to succeed, at least during the first few months of this season.

"Is poor coaching to blame for having a poor power play and penalty killing unit and do you agree with the Jamie Kompon hiring?" - Mark Salerno

Sub-par coaching is a significant factor in having poor special teams. It is not only using the correct scheme but also choosing the right personnel. Coach Q didn't have a great season last year and his hand dealt by Bowman wasn't as good as it could have been. So Q stuck with things which didn't work and also stayed with many of the same players despite their poor performances. From Quenneville's remarks earlier in the summer, he may not be as tole rent of poor efforts and ice time could be reduced for some of the bigger names.

The head coach's biggest influence over a player is by dictating playing time. The GM must supply the correct personnel so the head coach can succeed. Duncan Keith should not be on the first team power play if his shooting percentage in no better than the 2.5 percent of last season.

I won't criticize the Kompon hiring yet. Sticking to what I have heard, nothing he accomplished in the past leads me to believe the special teams will significantly improve upon his arrival. Kompon's qualifications do check every box for the person who hired him, Quenneville.

Kompon has a past connection with Quenneville and is someone he can trust. In my view, Quenneville wasn't going to hire a big name who could eventually replace him. In the beginning, Kompon will have to negotiate some rough waters because Mike Haviland was very well thought of by the players who have been here the longest.

"It sounded like there was a clear definition of holes on the Blackhawks (#2 Center, #1 Goalie, better 3rd pairing on defense, and more grit). Brookbank replaces O'Donnell nicely but why does Stan Bowman feel so content with the same team that has been ousted in the first round the past two years running?" – Ikeane

I thought there would be more urgency to add players and fill some of the holes you mentioned. For whatever reason, Bowman wants to stay the course and I can't be sure why he is so content.

My thinking remains the same as it was before the trade deadline in February. The Western Conference was wide open and as we know for the first time ever the eight seed won the Stanley Cup. With some meaningful additions, the Hawks should have been able to have a longer playoff run. In that case the experience gained by the younger players would have been priceless.

Prospects are no more than hopes and wishes until they prove to be otherwise and putting too much faith in potential can often lead to failure. The cap space from the Brian Campbell salary dump still hasn't been used and the glow of the Stanley Cup victory is growing dimmer.

Unless a meaningful trade happens, my take is if the team struggles in the first few months, Quenneville will fall on the sword first. If a new head coach doesn't turn the tide then there will be big changes in personnel. That's the danger because Bowman will be forced to take drastic measures and operating in panic mode may not suit him. The 14,000 season ticket holder waiting list can shrink quickly and Rocky Wirtz and John McDonough should realize the same.

"Do you agree that Q wants more of a fast & loose / run & gun squad like when we won the cup, or was that part of his frustration, he knew the Hawks were no longer that team?" - Doug Rietveld

With the roster assembled to begin last season, the Hawks were not capable of playing a super-fast transition game. Quenneville seemed to stick with that thinking until the Hawks had the long losing streak and Toews suffered a concussion.

With Toews injured, the Hawks tweaked their style of play and became more aware of defensive coverage. For example, the weak side wing wasn't flying out of the defensive zone as quickly, the team as a whole became more responsible.

They were successful for awhile but were caught somewhat in between. From the beginning of February until the end of the regular season, the Hawks only averaged two goals per game in regulation. Without top goaltending and better special teams winning by a 2-1 score every game is a difficult task. The loss to Phoenix indicates the same, a disjointed group which can't play sound defense and offense at the same time.

The NHL has turned into a dump and chase league, especially in the playoffs. It appears the Hawks will need to change and Quenneville has to alter his thinking. The big unknown is whether the correct players are here to respond and if Quenneville is able to lead in a different direction.

"Do the Blackhawks or any other NHL teams use any kind of statistical analysis for player evaluation similar to what MLB teams do with sabermetrics?" – E.

I have heard pretty much every team uses statistical analyses but to different degrees. I am not sure where the Hawks rank as to their commitment to going by the numbers. My own belief is stats do matter but their usefulness in certain areas changes, almost from season to season. It probably will remain that way until the NHL rule book isn't constantly being compromised by different ongoing interpretation.

Would you do this trade proposal? - E.

Chicago gets: Tomas Plekanec, P.K. Subban, 3rd round pick
Montreal gets: Patrick Kane & Nick Leddy, 4th round pick

The Hawks would be giving up the best player in the deal, Patrick Kane, for a second line center in Tomas Plekanec. I don't like the trade off.

If Nick Leddy had the same amount of power play time as PK Subban, I think he would be more of an offensive force. Subban has an edge defensively but he took over two times as many shots as Leddy and still wound up with less points.

I don't see an edge for the Hawks and the only way I consider trading Kane is as part of a bigger, better package.

"How can the GM swing for the fences on Suter and Parise, miss out, then simply walk back to the dugout and say he was happy with his at bat ??" - Craig Nigrelli

Like with many things which have taken place over the last couple of years, it is difficult to connect the dots and this is another head-scratcher.

It has been difficult for most teams to connect on either big signings or meaningful trades so the Hawks aren't alone. My biggest confusion is there were not the depth signings or acquisitions which could have helped. There wasn't even a solid penalty killing specialist and/or a solid faceoff man acquired.

From 30,000 feet away or actually a lot closer, one could say the Hawks are more concerned about appearance than substance. How many teams called a press conference at 7:30 p.m. on July 4 to tell the media they were really in on the Parise/Suter sweepstakes but came up empty?

The Hawks hierarchy is apparently concerned with appearance, making sure the fan base is aware they offered big contracts to two players they had only a slight chance of signing. On the other hand, there appears to be a reluctance to pull the trigger on anything but one value signing in Brookbank.

So it is a confusing situation for now and hopefully soon those who watch closely will be able to see that a plan for another Stanley Cup is actually in place.

"Can you think outside of the GM box. Who would be an ideal fit? Not necessarily available, but just in general." – Brad V.

My wish list included Evander Kane who is still contemplating signing a big contract extension in Winnipeg and Paul Stastny who is expensive but would fill the second line center role to a tee.

My own speculation has caused my antennae to go up on Kane from before the trade deadline. It has been reported the Jets have put a $29 million multiyear contract offer in front of him awhile ago and so far Kane hasn't signed. If Kane agrees to only a one year deal, that would tell me he will be gone by the trade deadline or maybe this summer. I have heard Kane may not want to stay in Winnipeg and could be looking for an even bigger payday than the Jets are willing to offer. Kane would give the Hawks a young north/south skilled, power forward.

Stastny is expensive, a $6.6 million cap hit for the next two seasons. With the emergence of other younger skilled players with more modest contracts, Colorado might look to deal him. Stastny is paid like a number one center but I could see him in Chicago on the second line with Marian Hossa and being very productive.

Jay Bouwmeester is like Stastny in a way. He has a big contract and is paid like a number one defenseman in Calgary but isn't their top blueliner. JayBo is a big player who can skate and pass the puck well and could fill the number three role in Chicago. His acquisition makes sense if the Hawks could deal Niklas Hjalmarsson to fill another need.

Shane Doan could be a great addition for a year or two but he is looking for a longer term contract. Doan would bring toughness and leadership but he is 35-years-old. Talk is Doan is looking for a four year contract for around $30 million and that type of financial commitment would be tough to swallow. If the Hawks are to acquire another right wing, that would likely mean Kane would have to play center.

There probably will not be anything as meaningful as acquiring those mentioned unless Bowman is going to part with some top prospects. Those coveted by teams around the league would be from the Hawks 2011 Draft Class. (McNeill, Danault, Clendening, Saad)

"What is the real reason why there has not been an All-Star Game in Chicago for many years or an Entry Draft hosted by the Blackhawks ever?" - Vince Naccarato

I think there was a time when Bill Wirtz was alive the NHL would back off giving any special favors to the Blackhawks. Times have changed as now the Hawks have every game televised and are a big part of NHL merchandising.

I would guess within the next three years the Hawks will either host the Draft, the All Star Game or be part of another Winter Classic.

"How long until the Hawk failures are put at Rocky's front door by the "mainstream" media and does nepotism in the front office hurt the on ice product??" - Cougars

I don't know when and where others will place blame. In my view, Rocky has been around the game his whole life and should be able to lead effectively.

I wrote the Hawks future is resting with Wirtz back in an article on May 8. Wirtz must try to get the Hawks back in balance and under the current structure, that won't be easy. Every misstep could cost Wirtz financially and he already has done his share of eating bloated contracts.

The second part of your question concerning the relationship between Stan and Scotty Bowman could be a cause for concern. I have never written Stan got the GM spot due to his last name, and actually he was promoted before Scotty was hired. By all accounts, Stan was a hard worker who deserved a chance.

Scotty's given position, Senior Advisor Hockey Operations, indicates to me he is at the top of the decision chain of commands, just below his son Stan.

Is a strong-minded father "reporting" to his son the best structure to follow? A prudent mind would probably say no. Although Scotty is considered one of the greatest hockey coaches of all time, his resume as a GM wasn't sparkling.

It could be valuable to have input from Scotty but in my view, it would be better if his son wasn't also the GM. Neither should be graded heavily on winning the 2010 Stanley Cup but more so by what has happened afterwards. Maybe the two can make things work and achieve high marks under the current structure but until proven so, things appear a bit awkward.

"What defensive pairing will be considered the second pairing at the end of the season? Oduya and Hjalmarsson or Leddy and Brookbank?" - Molly

Judging from views expressed by others, I appear to be in the minority concerning Leddy. The Hawks have given Leddy a ton of ice time the past two seasons. Probably more than he should have received so far but to take a step backwards and demote him to the third pairing doesn't make sense to me. Brookbank could surprise and play a more significant role but barring a trade, he could be pointed to battle for ice time with Steve Montador.

My take is Leddy starts the season on the second pairing. His partner could be either Hjalmarsson or Oduya. My feeling is if Bowman was writing out the lineup card Oduya, his signing, would have a more prominent role. Quenneville's choice would most likely be Hammer.

In my perfect world, Leddy sees a lot more power play time and is paired with a more stay at home defender. In that way, his best talent of being a puck rusher could be utilized. Also the bottom four defenders should be given enough ice time so minutes can be reduced for Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. For my scenario to play out, concerning allocation of playing time, Quenneville would have to change.

Training camp will hopefully be starting before we know it and I will be back then. Stay safe and enjoy the rest of the summer.

Follow me on Twitter for more Hawks talk @AlCimaglia.

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