Man, I really enjoyed that week where I didn’t write about the Hawks. But as that obnoxious bar on the Southside wrote on November 3rd, 2016, “All good things must come to an end.”
There seems to be two schools of thought on the Henri Jokiharju trade, probably the last big move of the summer aside from all the “Boy this kid looked good in drills at Prospects Camp!” articles. One is it’s a sign of the true incompetence of the Hawks, giving up on a player before his second professional season merely because he was confident and thought he belonged in the lineup over Brent Seabrook, which he did, and getting essentially nothing in return. The other is that Jokiharju only impressed in the Hawks defense last season because it was that bad, really never flashed a plus-skill, and seemed very much a floor-guy instead of a ceiling guy.
I happen to think both of these things are true, but I’m going to use it to frame a larger picture.
The prevailing theory around here has been that the Hawks pro scouting sucks ass (and it does), while their European and amateur scouting has been pretty good. The former still remains true, though that will hinge on what Kubalik and Wedin provide this season. It’s the latter that we really have to start to question.
Over the last seven drafts, here are the players taken to make any impact for the Hawks: Teravainen, Hinostroza, Hartman, Schmaltz, DeBrincat. You can add a couple names that have played but really didn’t do much: Dahlstrom, Hayden, Sikura, Jokiharju. On that list, only Dahlstrom is even on the roster.
Just looking around, that’s not a terrible number. For example, the Lightning have taken six players (arguably) over the last seven years to make a serious impact for them: Joseph, Cirelli, Vasilevskiy, Pacquette, Point, Drouin (who got them Sergachev, and we’ll come back to this). The Predators have only had five: Arvidsson, Fiala, Seth Jones, Saros, and Sissons, though Kamenev and Girard did land them Kyle Turris (whatever that means for you). The Bruins, a team that’s been competitive for as long if not longer than the Hawks, have seven: Grzelcyk, Heinen, Pastrnak, Carlo, DeBrusk, McAvoy, and arguably Donato who helped get them Coyle.
The Penguins have only taken five players to make an impact in the league in the past seven years: Guentzel, Murray, Simon, Kapanen, and Maatta, with Kapanen used to get Phil Kessel in part.
So I guess the Hawks are something like average or so. What’s galling is that because none of the players who actually had an impact are on the team anymore, the only thing the Hawks have to show for all of them is Dylan Strome, with the jury very much out on (at least in my mind, the Hawks seem desperate to hand him $7M after the season. Though they were for Schmaltz, too). Teravainen and Hinostroza were lost simply to get rid of bad contracts. Hartman for a pick and EggShell, who will now never play another game for the Hawks. You’ve got the one prime player in Top Cat, and maybe a useful piece in Sikura (very questionable) and whatever Strome turns out to be.
Which makes it feel like when the Hawks move a player they’ve taken, they’re always selling low. Having a logjam of defensive prospects isn’t a bad thing. Even if you were down on Jokiharju, this is still a player who is 20, who was the top pairing d-man on a World Junior championship team, and a former first round pick. Would it have been a crime to let him tear up the AHL for another half-season or so to entice someone into actually giving you something for him? It’s not like there was a clock on this.
Or perhaps the whole league had seen Jokiharju for what he might be, but that doesn’t exactly give you confidence in the Hawks’ scouting and development either. This smacked of getting rid of to get rid of, which isn’t exactly how you build a consistent winner. And this is the NHL, there’s a sucker in a GM chair tons of places. Just throw a rock and you’ll hit one.
We could do a whole other full post, and probably will, about how Jokiharju was moved really in service of their terror of Seabrook turning on them, which is yet another discouraging sign of how the Hawks operate. But for now, it’s kind of alarming how many picks just turn into nothing for the Hawks. The record over seven classes is one star, and one traded for what might be a lateral move in Strome.
Curiouser and curiouser…