Hockey

The last time Stan Bowman came out to open his mouth and find out with the rest of us what would come out of it, and a continuing theme the Hawks have hid behind, is that the price for “going for it” every season there for a bit cost them their future. Which is what we’re living with now. And it seems reasonable, but I thought I’d go a little more into it than just taking it by word.

I’m going to start with 2015, even though that season ended with a Cup and no one’s complaining at least about Antoine Vermette. Before that was six years ago, and even picks the Hawks gave up then would be veterans now that the Hawks likely wouldn’t be able to afford anyway. This is also going to assume that the Hawks would have nailed even any of these picks, much less all of them. But we will see who might have ended up as a Hawk if they still were making those pick. So let’s review:

2015

Antoine Vermette – Acquired for Klas Dahlbeck and 1st round pick (30th)

Coyotes drafted: Nick Merkley

Players that followed immediately: Christian Fischer, Travis Dermott, Sebastien Aho, Brandon Carlo

Clearly, Merkley never became anything. And again, the Hawks won the Cup that year, so this is what you sacrifice. But clearly, any of the four taken directly after Merkley would have been a huge help to the Hawks going forward. Even Dermott would have been the best defensive prospect they’ve produced other than Boqvist. Aho…d’oh.

Kimmo Timonen – Acquired for 2015 2nd round pick (61st) and 2016 2nd round pick (52nd)

Maple Leafs drafted (2015): Jeremy Bracco 

Players that followed immediately: Kyle Copabianco

Flyers Drafted (2016): Wade Allison

Players that followed immediately: Filip Hronek, Dillon Dube

Not as damaging as what came before. In 2016, Hronke would have definitely made this Hawks roster and showed some promise, while Dube probably could have been a useful bottom-sixer. Or he would have gotten the Dylan Sikura treatment for no reason other than the Hawks didn’t see him fight the one night they were scouting Rockford. Who knows?

2016

Andrew Ladd – Acquired for Marko Dano, 1st rounder in 2016 and conditional pick in 2018

Pick later traded to Flyers, drafted: German Rubstov

Players that followed immediately: Henrik Borgstrom, Max Jones, Tage Thompson, Brett Howden

Didn’t miss out on much here, but Howden would have been nice.

Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann – Acquired for Phillip Danault and 2018 2nd round pick

Canadiens Drafted: Alex Romanov

Player that immediately followed: No one

So Bowman can bemoan going all in all the time cost them the future, but this trade is more than that. It’s just bad. Fleischmann and Weise weren’t as valuable as Danault was that season, let alone what would come after. And deep down, we knew that at the time. This was splurging for the sake of splurging. And from the draft that they gave up a pick from, they didn’t really miss anything, although Howden’s future looks promising, except he hasn’t done much in the NHL yet. So he wouldn’t really be pulling the Hawks out of their current spot, just promising a better future than they have now.

2017

Johnny Oduya – Acquired for Mark McNeill and 2018 4th round pick

Dallas Drafted: Adam Mascherin

Players that immediately followed: No one

The Hawks didn’t really go all in at this deadline, as they were in first and felt pretty good about themselves, even if it felt like it was all on stilts at the time. McNeill never went on to be anything, and there’s no one from the fourth round of the 2018 draft who has mattered yet.

So looking back on all this, on the surface it seems like the Hawks sacrificed a lot to win in ’15 and try again the next two years. But the only cost really was that 1st round pick for Vermette. Now, maybe the Hawks would have taken Sebastien Aho, and things would look awfully different right now. Even Brandon Carlo would have changed the trajectory a bit. But how much?

At this point, this is deflection from the front office. The Danault trade was just bad. That wasn’t a sacrifice, that was idiocy. Extending Anisimov immediately to try and justify giving up a fan favorite in Brandon Saad for him wasn’t a sacrifice, it was idiocy (coming from on high). That cost you Teuvo Teravainen.

And the players Stan did draft, as the Hawks haven’t been bereft of picks, have been hit and miss. They’re not exceptionally good at it, but they’re not bad at it either. Still, on this current team, only Boqvist, Dach, and Debrincat look like Hawks draft picks that will make a difference for the Hawks. That’s just not good enough. That’s not about sacrifice, at least not entirely.

Again, this is Stan hiding while trying to justify his continued employment. And it looks thinner and thinner every day.

 

Everything Else

Oh right, the Islanders.

It’s not easy to wipe away the buzz and impact of sweeping a long-time tormentor with just the flick of a wrist, but then nothing has been normal about the Islanders since…well, ever. You’re supposed to carry the momentum of a franchise-turning win like the first-round sweep of the Penguins into something that will define this era and be remembered for a while. Scoring five goals in the next four games, including getting two and a half games against the perpetually bewildered Curtis McElhinney reduces that first round to odd trivia shared in various Long Island and New York bars where Tammy from Queens will offer to blow you in the bathroom but won’t remove her bubblegum to do so.

The Islanders sold their soul already, assuming they had one. You can’t blame them, really. This is a franchise that has managed consecutive playoff appearances just once in the past 15 years. So you see why they turned to Barry Trotz, the Jose Mourinho of hockey (though about 1/130th of the asshole). You’ll get results, your defense will improve, but good god it will be about as entertaining as checking your dog for fleas. And if you give him a historic collection of offensive talent, he just might get your team to grunt and belch to a Cup (though it’s important to note no other Trotz team has ever made a conference final, which seems his destiny in wherever the Isles call home). There’s definitely a floor you acquire with Trotz, you’re just going to end up on it if you watch them for more then two weeks straight.

You’ll hear a lot over the coming weeks about how the Isles future is so bright after this. Yes, clearly a GM who has acquired Matt Martin twice and Leo Komarov  for a second team, who has openly admitted he hates playing players anything, and is managing a team with literally no home is sure to steer this club into the sunshine. Nothing hockey players love quite like shaving every day and having to throw a dart to remember where the home game is today! Certainly worked out well for the last big free agent the Islanders had, all the way back to last summer. Can’t help but notice Brock Nelson and Anders Lee haven’t re-upped yet. Perhaps they and their agents are going over the Lamiorello, “Every player is overpaid,” comment and wondering just how much they enjoy life between the highways of Long Island and commuting an hour to an arena where the structure and the fans are constantly off-center.

And the Islanders need them, and then probably another two top six forwards. See how they do that when they’ve never been a free agent destination before. Thomas Vanek once went here to die, I think. Andrew Ladd did die, and he’s only got four years left on his deal. If you sign in Brooklyn in the summer you’re going to end up smelling like Brooklyn in the summer…sweat and mistakes. No, the Isles acquire players when they essentially become Australia and other teams send their unwanted contracts there just to get them off the books. And then they stay, because much like a prison a lot of Islanders realize they don’t belong anywhere else.

Still, this is the Metro Division and you can stay around the top merely by floating for a while. The Penguins are exhausted, the Flyers, Rangers, and Devils are too busy trying to give themselves enemas orally. So maybe your future can remain bright by doing literally nothing and watching everyone else fuck up. That must be what Isles fans are getting at. Assuming both their goalies don’t quit the team to go build the wall on the Texas border themselves, or bring guns into the dressing room (which is hilarious, because would the NHL actually punish anyone for doing that?).

But hey, the Islanders have now won a round in consecutive playoff appearances, which they haven’t done since 1985. And yes, those playoff appearances are three years apart, but when you’re an Isles fan or player you have to grab onto whatever you can. That, and perhaps the most boisterous atmosphere in the league, for the 10 games the Isles play on Long Island that is. Just another lesson in how Brooklyn pretty much ruins everything. Tell us about your parking lot tailgates again though, which you have to have because there’s literally nothing else in Nassau. Is Nassau even a place? I don’t know and I don’t care and no one else does either. It only is inhabited because Robert Moses built a kingdom on getting white people to flee black people. And the only team that belongs in Brooklyn plays in Chavez Ravine.

So farewell to the Islanders, who will spend the next few years wondering if an arena can be built next to Belmont Race Track, which will hinge basically on how to get at train to go backwards efficiently. No really, it will. You have to take a moment to realize the wonder of a sports organization longing to get to a nowhere place like Elmont, NY. Every other team wants to get downtown, the Islanders want to get to a freeway exit. That pretty much tells you everything you need to know.

 

 

Everything Else

One of the more ironic things about Chicago sports is how often the teams in this town get referred to as “storied franchises” despite most of them not really having great stories. Run down the list and not a single of the major sports teams in the city have won more than six championships in their given sport, and only the Blackhawks and Bulls have shown any level of world dominance style success in anyone’s recent memory (the Cubs may get there, but please don’t try to convince me they’re already there).

I am normally an overly optimistic sports fan when it comes to my teams, so it’s been kind of a weird juxtaposition for me to hold the belief that my favorite teams are “destination teams” for players while also realizing they don’t quite have the history to back up that belief. Add the fact that the various ownership and management groups of the Chicago franchises don’t have the best track records – especially among fans – and maybe Chicago sports franchises have a reputation they haven’t quite earned.

Which is why I was intrigued by this poll posted on Twitter by Cheer The Anthem last week:

It’s a very clouded question, because outside of Theo/Jed, Chicago’s  sports teams really have very questionable front offices. GarPax chased an elite player in Jimmy Butler out of town rather than ever making a real effort at building a championship team around him, so I’m not in the least bit surprised that they were low on the list. Even as a White Sox fan I was surprised Rick Hahn finished so high, because the question was referencing the last three years, and not just one. Hahn couldn’t build a winner around Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton, Jose Quintana, and other young, controllable players, so one year of very good trades only makes up for so much of that.

Honestly, I voted for Ryan Pace, not because I think he’s done an incredible job with the Bears in the last three years, but because he’s the only GM on the list who has his team essentially where he expected to have them three years ago, and the Bears seem to be headed in the right direction. Again, I’m an optimist.

But honestly, I think the fact that Stan Bowman won the vote there is kind of laughable. Now, I know the list isn’t exactly stuffed full of incredible GMs, but Bowman has been damn near pitiful over the past three years. Second City Hockey has made posts tracking the major moves Bowman has made over the past three years, so I went back and reviewed those lists (see them here – 2015, 2016, 2017), and basically rated them as either Good, Whatever, or Bad using entirely my own opinion. This was actually pretty easy, and I think most people would probably agree with my evaluations.

For brevity I won’t post my rating for every single transaction, but here’s how it shook out – 2015 had seven good moves, seven whatever moves, and eight bad moves, so I’d chalk that up as a “whatever” year that leans a bit toward bad. The good moves included signing Artemi Panarin, the Brandon Saad trade, and re-signing Anisimov. The bad moves included the Brent Seabrook extension, Patrick Sharp trade, and the David Rundblad extension. Seriously, the Seabrook extension was so bad, even when it was signed. The nearly $1-million raise for an aging player, plus the max term, and the full NMC, all when StanBo wasn’t even negotiating against anybody. Just embarrassing, and it clearly hasn’t aged well.

The moves made in 2017 were mostly “whatever” moves, and I didn’t actually rate anything as bad. The two moves that I consider especially good were the Scott Darling trade and Panarin/Saad swap. The Darling trade was pretty much masterful work, because to get a third round pick for a guy that otherwise would’ve walked for free is a really good move. The other big move of the year, the Hjalmarsson/Murphy swap, I graded as Whatever, which is probably bad, but Murphy has been fine this year and there is time for that move to pan out. And Stan started 2018 off right with a pretty good deal on Wednesday night, swapping Richard Panik for Anthony Duclair, making his team younger and faster while also saving cap space.

In the middle of all of that was 2016, which rated out with four good moves, four bad moves, and eleven whatever moves. But don’t let those numbers fool you, 2016 was awful for Bowman, and really could end up proving as the year that ultimately un-did all that he had built up here in Chicago. The best move he made was trading Andrew Shaw for two draft picks, one of which became our Special Boy Top Cat. The next best move was trading Jeremy Morin for Richard Panik. Panik hasn’t been awful, but that move is hardly anything to write home about. I also rated re-signing Q as good, so if you wanna take that out since it isn’t directly roster related, there’s only three good moves. But the bad moves were very, very bad.

Starting with the Andrew Ladd trade, which basically undid most of the goodness of the original Brandon Saad trade. Marko Dano hasn’t quite delivered on some of the promised potential, but I think his game was well suited for the Hawks’ style, and there’s a chance that had he been afforded more playing time with the Hawks in Chicago, he’d be a serviceable-or-maybe-good forward for them now, and probably at least better than the likes of Tommy Wingels or Lance Bouma. Plus the Hawks also gave up a first round pick in the deal. From the moment it was completed, it was a trade that was going to need a Cup to justify it. But Ladd brought them basically nothing worth mentioning down the stretch of the season and the Hawks were bounced by St. Louis in the first round. Little did we know this might have been the first domino that started the downfall of the Hawks “dynasty.”

Then there was the Philip Danault trade, which basically made the eventual overpriced Marcus Kruger contract extension not just necessary, but really Stan’s only option if the team was gonna have any semblance of a checking line in 2016-17. Trading Danault – who was already a very promising defensive forward with the potential to be Kruger 2.0 but with a bit more offensive upside – and other assets for Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise proved to be another big mistake. Weise and “Flash” were supposed to provide enviable forward depth for the Hawks as they prepared to go on a run to repeat as Cup champs. Instead they, like Ladd, didn’t provide much worth mentioning and were gone in the summer. Danault has gone on to be good bottom six forward for the Habs, with 22 points in 42 games this year and a CF of 54.56%. Ho hum.

But the real killer came in the summer with the trade that might end up defining Stan Bowman’s time as Blackhawks GM even more than his rebuilding of the team for the two Cup wins, at least in the minds of most of the hooligans who write words on this website. We always knew trading Bryan Bickell was going to be hard, and definitely was going to require some sweetening. It shouldn’t have required sweetening in the form of Teuvo Teravainen. Teuvo isn’t exactly a generational talent, but he’s been very good for Carolina over the past year and a half. He posted an encouraging 42 points in 81 games last year, and has been on a tear this year with 33 points (11G, 22A) in 41 games. He’s also posted a 55.69 CF% this season. That kind of production and possession dominance would be huge for the Blackhawks this year, but instead we have to watch the NHL Twitter account continually tweet videos of the original Very Special Boy do good things for the fuckin Hurricanes. AND I JUST GOT A TEUVO JERSEY LIKE A 10 MONTHS BEFORE THAT. I will not forgive Stan for this.

Now, every GM is prone to bad moves, and probably even prone to a series of them from time to time. Peter Chiarelli has chased bona fide stars away from his teams more times than we can count, and Jim Benning has only made like one good deal so far during his tenure in Vancover. But what Stan Bowman did in 2016, in essentially two trades, was plant a fucking iceberg in the path of the Titanic ship he had built. Again, imagine what this team would look like with Teuvo and Danault in tow instead of Wingels and/or Bouma. That kind of legitimate forward depth would help make up for a lot of the shortcomings on the Hawks embattled blue line, and probably have them closer to being a contender than a last place team.

And look, I don’t mean to say that Stan is a bad GM in general, because he isn’t. He did manage to retool his 2010 Cup winner into a team that was basically the best in the NHL over a 3-year stretch from 2013-2015, so maybe he can still do that here. And at least some of his bad moves were only made necessary because the Loonie went to shit, and took the NHL’s salary cap with it. But there isn’t much exciting talent in the pipeline, and the best players on his NHL squad are declining much too quickly for anyone’s liking. And he put himself in this position.

So don’t go telling me that Stan Bowman is the best GM in Chicago over the last three years. He literally took a Stanley Cup Champion and stripped it down to what is currently barely better than a last place team, all while thinking, as far as we can tell, that he was making his team better. He just about slammed his team’s championship window shut while trying to keep it open. At least his last name still carries some weight in the NHL.

Everything Else

Can you believe it’s been 10 years since Garth Snow retired as an NHL goaltender and immediately moved into the GM’s chair on the Island? At the time it just seemed the latest spasm of insanity from a complete basketcase of an organization that the Islanders were under Charles Wang at times. It always felt like something that would be quickly corrected once someone with any kind of sense finally bought the Isles. Well, that took 10 years and Snow is still here (and Wang wasn’t actually the huge goof he played at being when he first arrived on the scene, though he had goof tendencies).

What became even more surprising is that Snow turned out to be not terrible at his job, or at least not every aspect of it. Which was stunning considered he didn’t serve any kind of apprenticeship or training. He basically took off the gear and there was a suit under it.

Everything Else

Boxscore

Event Summary

War On Ice

At this time of year, and with the way things had been going, points are pretty much all that matters. You can worry about the style points later. Which is good, because the last two wouldn’t really have any outside of the 4th line and Scott Darling. The Hawks clinched a playoff spot, not that that was in doubt, and can at least claim a mini-winning streak. They did what they had to, even if it was by the skin of their teeth, Dave Mustaine.

On the other side, needing you goalie to bail you out against the dreck of the Pacific Division isn’t going to cause anyone to write songs. The Hawks gave up 15 shots in the 3rd period to a team with four forwards (maybe) and two defensemen that you’d call NHL quality. I think the past two games are more the Hawks struggling to find interest more than anything structural, as past games against better teams probably have been. But whatever changes they have in store we’re not going to see for another two weeks, so let us deal with what is.

Everything Else

Hawk Wrestler vs. Kenny Smith

PUCK DROP: 7pm Central

TV/RADIO: CSN, WGN Radio

JET CITY WOMAN: Arctic Ice Hockey

Jets Stats

Jets War On Ice

Well, there can’t be a  better way to get healthy after losing four in a row than spending the weekend taking on the Central Division jobbers known as the Jets and Wild (and then a Stars team that will be without Klingberg and Seguin, or the Western Canada swing after that… say, the schedule gets pretty light here, huh?) Considering the Stars’ injuries and the Blues’ sudden case of suck-itis (13 goals to the Flames and Oilers, huh?), if the Hawks have any desire to win the division or put one last regular season surge on film then you’d have to think it starts now.