Everything Else

God bless our friend Scott Powers. Here, even in this nuclear winter of Hawks news while the playoffs go one without them, he’s got seven thousand words on Hawks prospects, some of whom might even matter! I need to take whatever it is he’s taking.

Anyway, the meat of this stuff is right at the top, and concerns Bowen Byram. Scott does something I do a lot, which is to look at players drafted in the same or similar position that play the same spot. That list of first d-men taken certainly makes you sit up straight when you see names like Heiskanen or Makar, and then make your asshole itch when you see Gudbranson or Reinhart get mentioned, though some of this is varied based on the depth of forwards in the draft as well.

Let’s go one better than Scott, and just go through any d-man taken in the top three picks the past few years: Dahlin, Heiskanen, Ekblad, Ryan Murray, Gudbranson, and Hedman in the past 10 years. So that’s possibly three franchise-turners in Dahlin, Heiskanen, and Hedman (Heiskanen is the only reach there but he sure looks like he could be). One just below that in Ekblad, and then two whiffs in Murray and Gudbranson. And even Murray found some use this year.

No one would say Byram is a reach at three, and every projection you read says he’s a future #1 d-man, and could even be ready to play in the NHL next year. He’s certainly more certain and projects out better than anything the Hawks already have. But Powers goes on to note the wealth of other prospects the Hawks have on the blue line, the ones they already have signed, and says the Hawks might skip over him because of that.

Which I think is horseshit.

Look (say that like Terry Boers), if the Hawks think Alex Turcotte has the hands to take the torch from Jonathan Toews one day to anchor this team from center, then I or no one else could have complaints. He might be that. We wouldn’t get the immediate satisfaction of seeing him, because he’s going to Madison for a year (lucky boy), but long-term that could be just as good of a pick and prospect. Fine. If he’s higher on their board than Byram, you do that.

But if Byram is highest on their board, you take him and you worry about the rest later. That “wealth” of defensive prospects puts you on the radar for any big piece you want to trade for (say, what’s up, PK? You like Italian beef?). Having too many prospects or players for a position is a better spot to be in than not having enough. It’s not like any of these guys are on the cap yet anyway.

And none of the prospects the Hawks have are projected to be all-world, do-everything ass-kickers for the lord. They may become that, or combine with Byram to be that. But that’s built on more hope than it seems to be with Byram. There are no sure things after the top two picks, but Byram certainly is close enough.

We’ve run over this again and again, but you can’t talk about this without discussing what the Hawks already have locked in for next year. You know the list: Keith, Seabrook, Murphy, Jokiharju Gustafsson. And you know what we’ll say. Seabrook shouldn’t even be a consideration. Saying he has to play and play a lot simply because of his salary is doubling the mistake. Maybe the Hawks are doing this, and they would never say it publicly, but maybe they know that Seabrook is the #7 next year, and not just the number on his back.

Here’s another thing. The Hawks aren’t the only team badly needing defensive help, and there’s only one true difference-maker on the UFA market, and you know that by now. There’s one or two more that might help a team, but spending in the middle of the market is what gets you in cap hell. So a few teams are going to miss out on Erik Karlsson, and I’m willing to bet you could sucker them into Erik Gustafsson in a hurry. That points total is going to be the light that blinds some GM to his faults. He’s only going to be here one more year anyway, then be far too expensive for a glorified Lubomir Visnovsky. You were a dogshit team with him popping off for 65 points anyway, so what’s the difference here? I’d make the bet that Jokiharju can do most of the stuff he did on the power play with a little prodding. Byram or Boqvist certainly can, if they prove ready from the off.  You can do something here.

If you were to take that tack, you only have three spots locked up for next year, and fuck Jokiharju could play himself out of one just like he did this term. You never know. That’s plenty of room for an actual prospect or two to take a dive, not Gustav Forsling or Carl Dahlstrom. It’s also enough room for an acquisition. And it probably saves your cap space for help at forward.

There, I’ve done it. I’m so smart.

It would be a mistake for the Hawks to draft for need when they may not have another swing at a pick like this for a while (and when they do, it won’t be this front office taking it). They also need to have a frank discussion of what they really have, not what they want us to think they have. There’s a lot of ways to screw this up, but there’s a lot of ways to get it right too.

Everything Else

Sorry, A Few Good Men was on when I got home last night.

To preserve any kind of sanity about the state of the Hawks, I work under the theory that behind closed doors, Stan Bowman told John McDonough and Rocky Wirtz that basically this season was going to be a toss, but they wouldn’t tell the fans that because they’re terrified no one would understand (even though I’m fairly sure they would?), but he would take the bullets about it all. I take him at his word that the team’s future is resting basically upon Adam Boqvist, Henri Jokiharju, and some combination of Ian Mitchell and Nicolas Beaudin. That, and some big free agent signing, which they’re trying real hard to make you believe is Artemi Panarin and I still remain unconvinced that’s a great idea. But unless he goes entirely late-career Patrick Sharp and does more floating than a drunk yuppie in the Chicago River on St. Patrick’s Day, it won’t end up that badly.

There’s one problem with that theory. Stan Bowman may not have any idea how to scout, develop, or identify a defenseman.

Here’s a list of d-men that Stan Bowman has drafted that have had more than a cameo in the NHL: Stephen Johns, Klas Dahlbeck, Adam Clendening, Henri Jokiharju. That’s in nine years.

Here’s a list of d-men that Bowman has either acquired or signed: Nick Leddy, Nick Boynton, Chris Campoli, Jassen Cullimore, “John Scott” (the quotes because he rarely played defense but he did start there), Johnny Oduya, Sami Lepisto (Sami Lepisto! Sami in the Taco Bell!), Steve Montador, Sean O’Donnell, Sheldon Brookbank, Michal Rozsival (fine the first time, not the next 12), Mike Kostka, David Rundblad, Kyle Cumiskey, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Tim Erixon (you forgot, didn’t you?), Kimmo Timmonen, Trevor Daley (who sucks out loud despite what any writer tells you), Christian Ehrhoff, Erik Gustafsson, Rob Scuderi, Darko Svedberg, brought Brian Campbell back, Gustav Forsling, Michal Kempny, brought Johnny Oduya back, Cody Franson, Connor Murphy, Jordan Oesterle, Jan Rutta, Blay Killman, Brandon Manning, Brandon Davidson.

How many times did you throw up? Eleventy-billion?

Now, let’s throw one note of a qualifier in there. For most of the years Stan has been here, the top four was set. So they really only had to find third-pairing players. Ok, now that’s out of the way…

So in nine drafts, Bowman found all of four d-men that could play at the NHL at all, and only one has any hope of being more than a third-pairing guy, and I’m giving Jokiharju some credit there. And he’s the only one to make any kind of impact on the Hawks.

Add those four, and the 33 that Bowman has signed or acquired in some way. So that’s 37. How many rise above just third-pairing status? Oduya the first time is clearly the pick of the bunch. Nick Leddy didn’t here but is a second-pairing player for sure, so we’ll give him that. Michal Kempny clearly is, but he couldn’t get his coach to agree. Connor Murphy probably, but now he has a back made out of rubber cement. So that’s four. Five out of 37. 13% of the d-men he’s tried have been something more than scenery, and only two here in Chicago where the Hawks could benefit. Two and a half as Leddy was pretty damn good in ’13 and ’14.

It’s like saying the Cubs will eventually develop starting pitching. We have more than 10 years of evidence in two organizations that Theo Epstein can’t really develop a starter. Maybe it’s just not going to happen.

So every time Stan stands in front of the media and tries to sell you on Boqvist, Beaudin, and Mitchell being some kind of savior(s), I would raise an eyebrow or six. Because the track record just isn’t there.

Everything Else

For the second time this season, the Trib’s Chris Kuc has let it be known that the Hawks are after another blue liner in the trade market. This continues a pattern of Stan Bowman the past few years letting everyone in the world know what he’s looking for, which was a trait he had a couple years ago. And nothing gets into the press the Hawks don’t want, so this is no accident. It’s not really that big of a deal, because any punter with a vague concept of the rules of hockey could look at the collection of players dressing as d-men for the Hawks right now, let out a hearty “EEE GADS!”, and conclude the Hawks need someone else.

However, it is strange to make it so clear what you’re after, because every other GM is pretty much going to hold you upside down and shake. And maybe that’s why, so when the Hawks can’t find anyone they can say everyone was asking for too much. But whatever. Where are the Hawks going shopping?

Everything Else

Today’s question comes from ExOnMS.

How long until we see Stephen John’s in the lineup, and what should we expect from him straight away?

Johns has somewhat gotten lost in all the Teuvo hysteria, but we shouldn’t think the Hawks are any less excited about the Golden Domer. The Hawks tried to pry Johns out of South Bend for at least the past two years, disappointed when Johns chose to finish out his entire college career. But they have him now, and he’s clearly the best prospect the Hawks have on the blue line.

Everything Else

Today’s question comes from ExOnMS.

How long until we see Stephen John’s in the lineup, and what should we expect from him straight away?

Johns has somewhat gotten lost in all the Teuvo hysteria, but we shouldn’t think the Hawks are any less excited about the Golden Domer. The Hawks tried to pry Johns out of South Bend for at least the past two years, disappointed when Johns chose to finish out his entire college career. But they have him now, and he’s clearly the best prospect the Hawks have on the blue line.

Everything Else

Gonna jump around here a bit, as we’ll get to wingers either later today or on the holiday. But the other pretty obvious gap for the Hawks other than center is a #6-7 defenseman, or at least someone to make sure Sheldon Brookbank has a platoon partner. This could easily be solved by simply re-signing Michal Rozsival, but that comes with a couple risks. One, he may have priced himself right out of it with a superb playoff performance. Two, counting on year-to-year consistency from your bottom pairing d-men usually ends up biting you in the ass. Remember how Brent Sopel went from hero in 2008 to hated in 2009 to loved again in 2010? Essentially, your third pairing is your middle relief, and by its very nature can swing wildly from useful to a giant sucking sound one season to the next. We present Shawn Camp as Exhibit A, your honor.