This is yet another post we’ll probably have to revisit when the summer moves are complete, because some ballast still has to dumped before anyone calls this complete. But it’s not so easy to evaluate Stan Bowman’s performance this summer because there’s a ton of emotion packed up in every move. And seeing as how I’ve been accused as driving most of the noise, it’s probably up to me to try and suss it all out.
At the top, no I don’t think this has been Stan’s best work, but it’s probably better than most think and it’s certainly not a complete failure. Let’s see why.
It’s important to note that there are a couple of huge factors completely out of Stan’s control, and maybe completely unforeseen. One, Stan did not flatten the Canadian dollar, which is what helped basically smush the salary cap (and how much worse would it be without the escalator?).
Second, I don’t think anyone every saw Brandon Saad asking for, and getting, $6 million per year. Even in our most disastrous projections, and pretty much everyone I saw, thought $5 million was the absolute cap he would get (and the Hawks apparently offered that).
So I think Stan does have to get some credit in having a Plan B there, because he didn’t come up with Anisimov and Dano within five minutes. He clearly had a “break glass in case of outrageous Saad demands” plan, and he didn’t get caught holding nothing when that went sideways.
Essentially, how you grade Stan’s summer is not what you think of the Sharp/Johns-for Daley/Garbutt trade, but what you think of Stan’s choice to make a hockey trade of Sharp instead of something resembling more a salary dump. And this is where I don’t agree with what Stan did.
From the start, it was reported that Stan wasn’t going to simply toss Sharp for picks only. He didn’t want to create a hole on his team that wasn’t at least being balanced out by an addition somewhere else. On the surface, you get that. But what he found was that teams didn’t want to make a hockey trade for Sharp. According to The Score’s Jay Zawaski, there was basically one other offer, at least in hockey-trade terms, and it was apparently pretty laughable.
But it’s hard to believe that if Stan had showed up the day before the draft and wanted to move Sharp for just picks, essentially selling Sharp for pennies on the dollar, he couldn’t have found a dance partner. If Phil Kessel’s contract can get moved, Patrick Sharp’s can get moved. Would the Penguins have rather just given up the picks for Sharp instead of the picks and prospects they did for Kessel? I would wonder. Other teams certainly would have too.
Now, either way Johnny Oduya isn’t coming back. We accepted that long ago. And at the draft, Stan probably doesn’t know he’s not getting Saad back either. And even if he was somehow able to dump Sharp for merely picks and not have to take any sort of salary back (either another bad contract or eating some Sharp money, both likely to have happened), you still can’t pay Saad what he got from the Jackets. You can’t pay him that because of the way it’ll tie up the cap, and you can’t pay him that because what does Teuvo ask for in two years, when he’s likely to end up just as important if not more so than Saad? Standards have to be set.
So let’s just live in a fantasy world for a second where Sharp is traded for picks or enough of one where the Hawks gained $4 million on the cap but still had to trade Saad for Dano and Anisimov. Yes, they have a hole on defense but they still have Johns to possibly help fill it. Obviously, Daley and Garbutt aren’t here, and Garbutt’s hit for the Hawks and Johns’s cancel out, so you have an additional 3.3 million to play with. Marcus Kruger would certainly already be re-signed. You’d have plenty of money to sign a veteran placeholder like John Moore or David Schlemko to give you time to figure out what Johns is and can and cannot do. You might have had enough left over to get a veteran left winger as well (hi there, Eric Fehr), and that’s without whatever space Bickell and Versteeg are eventually stripped for parts for.
But holding out for a hockey trade left Stan short of the offers he probably thought he’d get. And while Daley certainly is a veteran to fill the Oduya shaped hole, he comes with only slightly less questions than Johns would have. And he’s older and more expensive. Oh, and you’d have more space next year for the Seabrook extension that’s coming, because you’d best believe they’re not going to slap an “A” on him before next season and then watch him walk a season later.
We also have to understand that draft picks really don’t mean much to the Hawks right now. Even if they were to “hit” on their first round picks all the time, those players are a minimum two years away from being drafted from being contributors, and that’s being as optimistic as possible. That becomes a question of how long you think the Hawks’ window is. You’ve got maybe, at most, three years of dominant Duncan Keith left (maybe four, and another two or three years after that where he’ll probably be really effective but not dominant). You’ve got five years, maybe six, of dominant hockey from Kane and Toews. Once they hit 32-33, they’ll still be very good and effective, but dominant? Henrik Zetterberg was 34 this past season, and when was the last time you called him dominant?
So the Hawks are in a position where they have to do their best to maximize every single season they have left with peak 19, 88, 2, 7, 4 and whoever else you throw in that. Maybe Daley does that, maybe he doesn’t, but clearly the purpose behind it is understandable. And maybe that’s why they felt they could get away with not waiting on Johns and to a lesser extent Paliotta, because they just don’t have time to wait now. I don’t necessarily agree, but I certainly see where they’re coming from.
And they’re still poised to be very good at forward for a while, with Teuvo, Dano, Danault (whom I still believe in), and I’m calling this now but Tyler Motte is going to be a very effective player and the one out of training camp ’16 that wows Q and ends up on the roster. So really, as Fifth Feather has pointed out, the only glaring hole on the team for now and in the future is support on defense. And there may still be time and way to address that.
Overall, I think Stan overplayed his Sharp hand by A) trying to make a straight hockey-trade and B) what he thought he could get for him in that scenario. Obviously, I wasn’t sitting in his office (they’d have had me arrested if so) when these talks were going on, so this could all be way wide of the mark. It’s not an F- summer for Stan, because as stated at the top there were things that tied his hands that had nothing to do with him (and if you want to throw Bickell’s contract on that list of things Stan didn’t have anything to do with that tied his hands, I won’t stop you). And really it came down to one decision, but one that might, repeat: might, bite him in the ass. Let’s give him a C/C- and move on. That might even be harsh, too.