Stan Bowman’s Summer of Standing Pat and Readers’ Mailbag

CHICAGO (FOX Chicago 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.

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