Everything Else

I knew it would happen this morning, and Jay Zawaski pretty much told me it would happen. But I didn’t do anything about it. Anyway, this isn’t about me. The Hawks used their third pick to take Kirby Dach out of the WHL.

So what’s Dach’s deal? If the Hawks tell you they weren’t smitten by his size, they’re lying through their teeth and even those are false. However, that’s unfair to Dach to merely call him a big body. As far as vision and hands, most will tell you Dach’s are only second to Jack Hughes, and might even be a match. He’s a highlight reel waiting to happen, and if hockey were to ever have a Magic Johnson type-passer, here you go. Dach is going to send a few fans, and one certain color analyst, into orbit a couple times with his deferential play, but the plays he will make probably make up for that. And you can add looking for your own shot to one’s game over the years. You can’t add how they see the ice.

Dach skates very well for a player his size, so if you’re having shivers about another Strome or Anisimov, don’t. He’s a better skater than both of them now by some distance and that might improve. 73 points at 18 in the WHL, probably the realest league of the CHL, isn’t anything to sneeze at, though it’s not galactic.

The drawbacks for Dach are that some scouts, ones that probably snort a lot, believe he can be pushed around and out of games. There’s also some question about whether he brings it every night, because the ability to dominate every game is there. He’s big but is going to need some time with Paul Goodman, and a lot of it. The hope for the Hawks, if any of that is true, is that A) Dach’s playoff performance in 10 games was something that refuted a lot of this, and B) being around Jonathan Toews will show him the way. We shall see.

So what does this mean for the Hawks next year? Stan Bowman said after the pick they’re going to give him every chance to make the team this year. So look for him to get at least some if not all the nine game tryout, and he’ll have to kill it to stick. But if the Hawks are determined to get him on the team, you’d have to believe that Artem Anisimov is a goner. We can only hope. Still, it’s a little strange that no later than 2020-2021, the Hawks will have two sizable, pass-first centers. Then again, you can’t ever be too deep down the middle. So whatever.

Still, the Hawks still have no answers on the blue line. They have no one poised to be on their top pairing who can either do it or is ready for it, and that’s going to need addressing. Even if Dach makes the team, the top six looks short one finisher, though maybe after all this time Saad is going to be it (HA!). That also might need addressing.

There’s a lot of boom promised with Dach. There’s also a fair amount of bust. And whatever he is, the Hawks can’t be done. And the notion that Bowen Byram went next and will be in the division, and he solved a lot more than Dach does right now…well, good luck, kid.

Everything Else

We round out our look at possibilities for the Hawks at #3, assuring that they won’t actually take any of these guys, and we’ll stay with the USNMTDP, or whatever alphabet soup makes up what goes on in Ann Arbor. It’s Trevor Zegras.

Physical Stats

Height: 6′ 0″  Weight: 174   Shoots: L

On Ice Stats (’18-’19)

League: USDP   Team: USNTDP  Pos: C/LW

60 games – 26 G – 61 A – 87 P

Why The Hawks Should Take Him

If their Marian Hossa withdrawal is that bad, then Zegras might be the fix. Yes, every goddamn prospect who at least shows a passing interest in his own end gets compared to Marian Hossa, but Zegras might actually deserve it. He has plus-plus speed, and a great burst to get to it, and he is as willing to show it off getting back to his own zone as he is going forward. The inhaling of puck-carriers and stealing the puck you remember from #81 could be a hallmark of Zegras’s game as well, though he’s not as big (we’ll get to that). But it’s not just about willingness with Zegras, who has premier playmaking ability and vision. His hand-eye is also high up if not off the charts, which makes him a weapon around the net. Zegras also is something of a pain in the ass, in a good way, and you know how that always has hockey execs reaching for a hand towel. Zegras is strong for his size and age, but also isn’t afraid of getting into people’s heads and I’m sure a Brad Marchand comparison isn’t too far into his future. Zegras also have positional flexibility, being able to play center and wing, which means he can be eased into the league whenever he gets there on the wing and then moved to center if need be.

Why The Hawks Shouldn’t Take Him.

Along with being a stretch, Zegras is probably the farthest away from the NHL of everyone previewed. He will need at least a year at BU, and maybe two, as the game he wants to play is going to require strength he hasn’t needed yet and doesn’t have. Second, while the positional flexibility is a good thing to have, there are better players at each of them the Hawks can have. If they really want a center, Turcotte is probably better bet and comes with a lot of the same qualities. If it’s a wing they want, then get Caufield who already has an NHL-level skill in scoring, and perhaps a high-level NHL skill. And at just 6-0, playing a grinding game as Zegras is tempted to do might wear him down pretty quickly. And there’s always a chance he becomes in love with his nuisance persona, but that’s being harsh.


Zegras seems a nice floor guy. You know that at minimum you’ll get a two-way center or wing with a lot of speed who probably rarely if ever drops out of your bottom six. But at #3, you shouldn’t be worried about floor but ceiling, and his is a touch lower than Byram’s or Turcotte’s or even Caufield’s. While two years waiting isn’t that long, and Zegras could likely be ready after just a year at BU, the Hawks really can’t risk waiting around for two seasons for this pick to make an impact. By that point they may already be toast. A couple slots lower and this pick would make all the sense in the world. At #3, it would be kind of a lack of imagination.

Everything Else

The FFUD #3 pick preview keeps rolling on, and today we’ll look at one who would be a true stretch but also might put up the best numbers of anyone. 

Physical Stats

Height: 5′ 7″  Weight: 157   Shot: Right

On-Ice Stats (’18-’19)

League: USDP  Team: USNTDP  Position: LW

64 games – 72G – 28A – 100P

Why The Hawks Should Take Him

Goals. The name of the game is still scoring goals, and if you’re going to have a one-dimensional player, as long as that dimension is scoring the fuck out of the thing, then that’s ok. And Caufield is the best pure scorer in the draft. That’s clear, no one is disputing that. 72 goals in 64 games, even at that level, is enough for anyone to take notice. He’s also dominated at international level for his age group, with 14 goals in seven games at the U-18s. The release is already making people think of Ovechkin and MacKinnon, He’s not the skater that MacKinnon is but he’s hardly a plug on his feet and is more than fast and smart enough to get to the open spaces to get off that shot. The hands are there too, so the thought is that his playmaking could improve, whereas this year he had Jack Hughes to do all that and all he had to do was finish. Some would say getting to play with Hughes inflates the numbers, as if you could complain about 72 goals, but as we learned with DeBrincat you still gotta finish those chances and Caufield does it at what could be called a generational level.

Why The Hawks Shouldn’t Take Him

One, he’s a stretch. Even as he’s climbed up the boards as people ignore his size, he tops out as the fifth-highest rated prospect and lower on other boards. You’d be passing on what look to be better players to take him, unless you trade down and that would mean getting something tangible for the #3 pick. And the Hawks aren’t going to trade the #3 pick. If he’s your guy he’s your guy, though.

This is where I’m supposed to say size. No, the Hawks have shown they don’t really care about that if the talent is there, and hopefully they stick with that, but the Hawks are starting to specialize in small, nippy forwards and eventually you do have to have someone at least average-sized somewhere. Even if Caufield were in the NHL in ’20-’21 (which seems likely), there’s just about only one spot he can play and that’s across from Kane, and boy would that line be fun, in the good way offensively and the bad way defensively.

Third, the Hawks need a top-pairing d-man and they probably need someone to carry on from Jonathan Toews in two to three years, and Caufield isn’t either of those. The Hawks do have a chance to get either of those at #3, and while Caufield has a special skill you can’t really teach, wingers just don’t move the needle or change directions of teams as much or as often.


To call Caufield “a risk” is wide of the mark. The dude is going to score, and he’s going to score a ton. As soon as he arrives with whatever teams gets him, he’s going to fill the net and there will be a ton of articles about the teams that passed on him, simply because of that one stat. But it is THE stat. That said, at #3 and what the Hawks have a chance to get, it seems too much of a stretch. You can never have too many guys who can score 40, and Caufield probably gets to that before too long. But he just isn’t as dynamic as Byram or Turcotte.

Now if you get a bonkers package for the #3 pick and somehow end up at #5-8 where Caufield might go…then we’re talking…but that’s not going to happen.

Everything Else

Well, this offseason is off to a great start.

For the link-shy, what that says there is Ian Mitchell is returning to Denver University for his junior season. That has been speculated on these pages and elsewhere, but now it’s official.

Which puts the Hawks in something of a bind. Of their magic quartet of defensive prospects, Mitchell is the closest to ready and probably could have cracked the Hawks lineup and skipped the AHL next year if he so chose. Certainly in the current configuration, and depending on how (or if) the Hawks make any changes there this summer. Adam Boqvist may have the highest upside, but Mitchell is probably the surest thing. Highest floor, let’s say.

It could be as simple as Mitchell telling the Hawks he wants to play just one more year, making up for Denver’s national semifinal loss last week, and then come over and almost assuredly walk onto the NHL roster. Except the Hawks wanted him in the system after last season, certainly after this one, so it doesn’t appear Mitchell is inclined to be all that interested in the Hawks’ interests. Which is his right, and mostly what you hear is that he wants the education, which one day will make him one of about five NHLers who can read and write above a 7th grade level. Fair enough, his life.

It does put the Hawks in something of a quandary. As we’ve said over and over, they’ll never fit all of Mitchell, Boqvist, Henri Jokiharju, and Nicholas Beaudin on the roster together, not while they still have a chance of being relevant at least. Five years from now doesn’t matter.

But Mitchell staying in college drops his trade value through the floor. After his junior season he’ll only be another year removed from being able to sign anywhere he chooses, and if he truly does like being at college and getting a degree and he’s already defied the Hawks wishes twice, there’s little reason to believe he’s not going to see it out. No one’s trading for a player they can’t sign eventually.

So he’s not helping next year, he’s 50-50 to help the year after that, and he’s not going to help via trade. That doesn’t make him a useless chip, but the only hope the Hawks have is that he still comes after three or four years in college and plays for them. That’s about it.

Which punts Boqvist and/or Jokiharju more into the trade window, if indeed the Hawks are serious about getting good next season. They’ll have the most value, they’ll have really any value (it’s just a hunch that Beaudin’s is lower). And they may be expendable depending on what the Hawks do with the third pick. Say, if they decide they’re taking the surest thing of all in Bowen Byram, as in he’d vault right to the top of their defensive prospect tree.

It also might push the Hawks even more to Byram, as he does seem a surer bet than either The HarJu or Boqvist and now Mitchell’s future is murky. Again, a lot of this depends on what the Hawks really want to do and not just what they tell you they want to do. If they’re looking at a serious turnaround next season, then one or both of the two above have to go. Or the third pick has to. If the Hawks are still embarking on a multi-year rebuild, then they don’t really have to do anything and we don’t have to pretend that next season is worth anyone’s time.

Who’s excited?


Everything Else

We spend a lot of time here trying to figure out where the Hawks want to go and how quickly they want to get there. After a day of pondering in initial response to the Hawks getting the #3 pick, which I assumed  only upped the urgency and if they can’t take a player who can help next year they have to trade it, now I’m not so sure. That’s certainly A solution, but is it THE solution? We have spent two seasons now trying to figure out what the Hawks want to do, how they want to go about it, while navigating what we perceive are the forces and what actually are the forces influencing their decisions.

Maybe they don’t even know?

We can say there are two, opposing sides pulling at the Hawks. One is their ONE GOAL URGENCY, which means you have to get as good as you can as fast as you can, in service to your Four Horsemen Of The Cup-acalypse and a fanbase that really has only known winning aside from the “hardcore” who aren’t really going anywhere but do include the construction workers yelling at McDonough outside his office window. It’s that feeling that causes them to utter words like, “Unacceptable, urgency, accountability.” It makes them say them, it doesn’t make them necessarily live up to them.

On the other side, you have the pretty rational urge to try and build a team for the next wave. A team that can stand on its own with Toews and Keith only being contributors instead of pillars (it’s hard to see anytime soon where Kane won’t be the latter). That the Hawks have to find a way to give a team to DeBrincat and now Strome and Boqvist and whoever else ends up being here.

We have spent a lot of time saying that there are so few avenues to getting a #1 d-man or center. That whatever “rebuild” or “retool” they want to embark on is pointless until you can find a way to either or both of those. And the main way is having a top three pick. Well, look at that.

So what do the Hawks balance here? Maybe they look at it and think to themselves that Dylan Cozens or Alex Turcotte is the future #1 center that can take the torch from Toews in three years. And while that might not help you next year, it helps you for more years down the road. They may not get another chance to find that player. Certainly not an easier one.

While Boqvist, Mitchell, Jokiharju, and Beaudin all seem to have their problems, promise, ceilings, and floors, it’s pretty much agreed that if things progress as they should, Bowan Byram is a #1 d-man in the future. He has it all. And maybe Stan Bowman sees the most surefire heir to Keith’s reign. We know development curves for d-men are longer, and you have to live with some shit for a while, but again, that sets you up for longer. Again, this might be your best and/or only chance to get that player.

So how do you weigh that?

For the Hawks front office, things have gotten easier. Because Seabrook’s and Keith’s play this year, along with Keith’s attitude on the ice, means they have less influence. Or they should. You don’t have to “sell” to them, because if they throw a bitch about a continued rebuild, Seabrook should be bought out anyway and Keith doesn’t really have to be here.

So essentially, on the players side, you’re only selling this to Toews and Kane. Maybe they have enough pull between the two of them to say, “No, we’re not waiting around for another season, and certainly not another fucking two years.” And maybe that puts the brakes on any plans. Should it? I can’t really answer that. Is working in their interests best for the team in five years? 10?

Is there a push from outside the organization? Again, it’s hard to say that. The building is still full, even if they’re eating through their beloved waitlist. It’s hard to know how much longer that will last, and while there were some scatterings of open seats earlier in the year, there wasn’t anything resembling a mass exodus.

There isn’t a press baying for heads and blood. There aren’t column inches being devoted to changes the Hawks must make, riling up an already twitchy fanbase and poisoning the atmosphere in the arena. None of the columnists care. Do columnists even exist anymore? And the fanbase isn’t twitchy.

I’ve been of the opinion that the Hawks were either lying or incompetent. That their proclamations of being a playoff team were either being undercut by a front office actually trying to rebuild the roster on the fly using that as cover, or they really thought this was a playoff team and they have no idea how to build one. Maybe the answer is both? Or none? Maybe they’re trying to thread that needle of doing both? Maybe they don’t have any idea which they’re doing? Maybe they keep making half-measures toward one side or the other, which only leaves them stuck in the middle, moving toward neither?

Which makes this third pick fascinating. Because it’s something definitive either way. It also could be their chance to actually thread this needle and do both. For example: they could take Byram or Turcotte or Cozens, and then none of them would be here next year. A week after that, they could splash some cash for a free agent or two, package a couple of prospects for another, and improve the team for the now while really building it for the later. And this is what feels like is the most likely route.

There are a lot of ways that can go wrong, of course. You could spend on the wrong free agent or two. Make a bad trade, and leave your future depth in rubble. The kid you take at #3 just never makes the leap, or makes it at all and you look at them like the Coyotes looked at Strome, except deservedly.

What’s been so frustrating for some Hawks fans, clearly not all, is that there just didn’t seem to be any direction for the team. They said one thing, did another, and then said something else. But I haven’t Occam Razor’d this until yesterday. The most likely explanation is that they just don’t know.

Well now they have a key. They can do one, they can do the other, or they can attempt both. At least maybe they’ll pick one now. Maybe.


Everything Else

Here in the middle of the NHL All-Star Break, I find myself in a familiar place as last year – we’re 51 games into the Blackhawks’ season, and I’m about to talk about how they should probably tank. No, really, click this link and I literally wrote about the tank last year at the same 51 game mark. Funny how these things have a way of, erm, working out. At least I get another chance to use that ridiculous photoshop I made last year.

When I did this last year, I was basically contemplating an impossible. The Blackhawks were probably a bit too far out of the running for last place to make a true run at it, and even then they ended the season with the 7th-best lottery odds and actually ended up getting jumped and ended up picking 8th. They did address the main need area of the blue line with their pick of Adam Boqvist, and his ceiling appears to be rather high.

This year, the potential for “tanking” is much higher, because the Hawks are a measly two points ahead of the last place tie between the Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils. The problem is there are five other teams who can make that claim as well, and three others that are only six points ahead of the Sens/Devils. That being said, our local idiots have played at least one more game than every other team below them in the standings, and three more than the Devils (who boatraced them last week, lest we forget), so the case for them being the worst team in the league and the front runner for the last place sweepstakes is not a hard one to make, though Detroit has a case as well considering they’re tied with the Hawks through 51 games played themselves.

The situation is eerily similar to last year as well. If I wrote the following today, it would still apply , but I assure you that this cut and paste from the article referenced above:

The Crawford situation has become a lose-lose for the Blackhawks. Crow’s health is obviously the most important thing, and you don’t want to rush him back and risk anything going wrong in the future because he is going to be the key to this team contending in the years to come. And we’re seeing how well things are going without him – you have two dudes who never spent significant time in the NHL trying each game to not play as bad as they did last game. So you don’t want to rush Crow back, but without him you’re up shit’s creek without a paddle.

Then you also have the question of whether Crawford coming back this year at all is really even worth it, even if you don’t rush it. We’ve already seen reports that he might miss the whole season, so it may not be a stretch to say that the Hawks bringing him back at all could be a form of rushing him back. And even if he does come back and squeeze you into a playoff spot, is it really going to be worth playing those extra games just to more than likely get bounced by Nashville or God forbid WINNIPEG? Even if your draft lottery odds are the longest shot, that’s better chance at the apparently generational talent of Rasmus Dahlin than zero.

Clearly Rasmus Dahlin is not available this year, but insert Jack Hughes – or Kaapo Kakko if that’s your fancy – in for him (and maybe remove generational, cuz Hughes is good but certainly no McDavid/Eichel/Matthews) and it’s current. The Hawks are in a really nasty spot with Crawford and it’s arguably worse this year than it was last year, because now we’re in round two of a serious concussion problem. He’s been skating already so there’s a decent chance he returns, but as the podcast crew talked about this week he probably isn’t giving you anything more than half of the remaining games if he does come back, and even then he hasn’t had the kind of season that would see him carry them back into the playoff hunt.

Who has that kind of season is Collin Delia, who’s posted a .923 save percentage in his 10 games this year, doing so behind a defense so bad that even with that impressive save rate he still has a 3.oo GAA. If Delia proves to ultimately be a franchise goalie, then him de-railing any kind of last place finish race would definitely be okay by me. That being said, we probably won’t really know quite yet if he is a franchise goalie, even if he does help them go on some kind of run and keeps them well out of last place this year. So that’s a bit of a Sophie’s Choice for us in the pro-tank crowd – do we prefer the potential franchise goalie plays bad to help secure a franchise 1C, or do we prefer Delia ruin our chances at a franchise 1C even if he won’t ultimately be a franchise goalie? If you have a firm answer to that, I envy you.

Further complicating things is the simple fact that you can’t coach a team to tank – though Coach Cool Youth Pastor running this man-to-man system with a roster not nearly fast enough to do it properly is about as close to doing so you’ll find. Despite the system, Colliton can’t convince Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews or Alex DeBrincat to stop being extremely good at hockey, and he certainly can’t tell anyone else not to try. Even if most of these players are not long for the roster if this franchise is going to return to competing, they’re still auditioning for NHL jobs either here or elsewhere and they owe it to themselves to play well. On top of that, a lot of this team is young and we still need to see what we have in them – Dylan Strome, Henri Jokiharju, and Delia are all examples of this. So we need them at their best.

So it comes down to if Stan Bowman is going to ultimately admit that everything he and McD have tried to force feed us this year about this team competing was just a bunch of bullshit. It’s kind of started already, but they’ll never come out and explicitly say “actually this roster sucks ass and we wanted it this way,” and they certainly won’t cop to signing shitty players in an effort to give Joel Quenneville enough rope to hang himself – which, based on what we’ve seem from this team since Q was fired in favor of CCYP, he didn’t even truly manage to do.

And if Bowman does decide to that he’s going to sell off what he can in order to maximize lottery odds, what does he really have to sell? Do you really think shipping Erik Gustafsson out of here is going to be the final straw that bottoms out this team? Has Chris Kunitz really brought enough to the table for this team to such when he leaves (the answer is no, they’ll actually get better with that)? If you can even convince Cam Ward to leave, and convince some team to take him, does that make the Hawks chances of winning the games he would’ve played that much higher?

So yeah – personally I think that tanking, in whatever form the Hawks might be able to do so, is the best way forward for this year’s Hawks. They have a decent crop of forwards locked up for the future, but there’s no 1C of the future here, so Jack Hughes is more than welcome. Even if you end up with Kakko, that’s an improvement for the future and he might even wind up as this year’s Patrick Laine.

The thing is, like last year, there is no clear and obvious way to go about “tanking” that really results in a tank, because outside of the unrealistic Kane trade that Rose talked about on Wednesday, you’re not shipping out much talent worth anything. So, like last year, we’re almost stuck hoping that the team ends up bad enough – and the teams below them string enough wins together – to have the Hawks end up with the highest possible lottery chances, and then we again hope and pray for the ping pong balls to favor us. It’s – still – the good ol’ hockey game.

Everything Else

Moving back to looking at actual possible draftees tonight, it would seem if the Hawks want a mobile, offensively-inclined, mobile defenseman, they can have one. There’s plenty out there. And here’s another one, Noah Dobson from Acadie-Bathurst in the QMJHL.

The problem with players from the Q is the desire is to throw out their production with a wave and a dismissal of, “A drunken goat can rack up a point per game in that league. ” Also a drunken goat represents a couple of different sections of Quebec in Parliament. And it’s true, the Q is by far the highest scoring league of the three junior leagues. So Dobson racking up 69 points in 62 games is as impressive on the sheet as say Ty Smith’s total in the WHL, Smith’s are probably more hard-earned.

Still, Dobson has a lot of things that are going to make NHL teams’ eyes widen. One, he’s big. 6-3, 180 now and can probably fill out to near or at 200 pounds one day. And that doesn’t take away from his speed, because he’s probably the fastest d-man in the draft, non-Dahlin Division. As far as physical package goes, there are few more enticing than Dobson. And considering the different priorities of all the voices in the Hawks’ war room, he should have something for everyone.

Statistically, Dobson has some things that make you take notice and some that give you pause. 11 of his 17 goals and 29 of his 69 points were on the power play, where he has a boomstick of a one-timer, on par with Wahlstrom’s. And hey, power play points count the same. Secondly, Dobson bombed 4.2 shots per game at all strengths on net, which is basically insane for a d-man at any level. So he gets into the play and he makes things happen there. All good.

The concern with Dobson is while he did pile up points, he doesn’t have great vision or hands. He’s the guy who gets the puck to the guy who gets the puck to the guy, or people are cashing in on his rebounds. He also might not be able to weave out of traffic with only ok hands, though his speed might keep him out of traffic more than most.

There’s also concern about his defensive reactions and instincts, and the Hawks are big on closing gaps and stepping up. But you can be taught that, if the Hawks were patient. Though that’s not been a strong-suit for them either.

Still, the Q just doesn’t produce that many good d-men. In the past five years, of all the leading scorers on the blue line in the league the only one to have any sort of impact at the NHL level is Samuel Girard, and that’s really only as a trade piece in the Duchene/Turris deal. Going back all the way to 2010, the only d-men who scored a ton there who had any sort of time in The Show are Barbeiro, Beaulieu, and David Savard. Compare that with the leaderboard in the OHL just two years ago where Sergachev, Dunn and Chychrun have all made something at the top level.

Dobson figures to be around for the Hawks when they pick. He’s been slotted anywhere from 7th to the mid-teens, and really only if there’s a run on d-men would the Hawks feel pressured to take him. He checks a lot of boxes, but I’d worry about the path he’s taken to get here.

Everything Else

Perhaps it’s a good thing, at least for him, that Stan Bowman has become a master in saying nothing. Because if he were honest or forthcoming about the position he finds himself in, we all might understand just what a difficult spot he’s in at the moment.

Obviously, everything hinges on Corey Crawford, and there isn’t much Stan can do about that. But if he were to come out and say publicly they don’t have any idea when and if Crawford is going to play again, then whatever calls he’s making for even a backup goalie suddenly get a lot tougher. Whether that’s Darling, or maybe a call on Grubauer, or whatever other idea he might have, everyone is going to know that he’s looking for someone who can step in as a starter if need be, not just a backup.

But it runs deeper than that. A theme of Stan’s press conference yesterday was that he wasn’t going all-in on this season, wanting to build for as much down the road as this season. That hasn’t stopped us from pointing out that if the Hawks don’t massively rebound this year, the long-term isn’t going to matter for him because Stan’s not going to have a job, at least not here.

But there’s a two-pronged problem with that. One, even if Stan went all-in on this season, where does that leave him? What’s a successful season for the Hawks next year? Second round of the playoffs? When you’ve won three playoff games in three years that’s a pretty big step, but is it enough for McD and Rocky? A valiant defeat to Nashville or Winnipeg there? Because it’s unlikely there’s any amount of moves the Hawks can make this summer where you’d go into next season saying they’d be favored over either of those teams. The Hawks can overhaul Minnesota, St. Louis, Colorado and Dallas, but those two remain ahead of the rest of the pack.

So say you do all that, but in the process you lose…oh I don’t know, Jokiharju and/or Sikura and maybe one or two others in pursuit of the defenseman and forward you need and more, without giving up anything major on the NHL roster. Where are you for ’19-’20? Is it likely with “THE CORE” another year older that you can improve without a pipeline of kids aiding them? Would you have to keep being active in free agency after you’ve used all the powder in your system? Would you have just put off your firing one season? Any free agent you sign is likely to skew older as well. Justin Faulk is a good age, but he’s not turning it around on his own.

Secondly, Stan might be gun-shy on any “win now” moves, considering how his coach has handled them in the recent past. Go back all the way to the Vermette trade. It took until Game 4 of the conference final before Q bought into Vermette, who cost a pretty penny. The following season, Stan brought in Ladd, Weise, and Fleischmann. The latter two were discarded essentially by the time the playoffs rolled around, and Ladd didn’t have much to offer. Those trades cost picks and Phillip Danault, and man would Danault look nice about now.

Connor Murphy was a move for now and later, and spent most of the season having his coach shit on him like he was Roman Reigns (WRESTLING REFERENCE). Alex DeBrincat, certainly one for the future but definitely a help now, spent way too much of the season on a third line and on the right side.

So if you’re Stan, are you truly confident any big move you make is going to be deployed properly? Because if they aren’t, then you have to fire the coach in the middle of the season. Does Stan draw enough water to do that? Who’s more important to the higher-ups, Stan or Q? Does he already know he doesn’t? Do we know? Does Stan have a Plan B in case he does get to make that move? Would Jeremy Colliton be ready? And as a GM if you pull the trigger on a coaching change, your neck is now exposed. If it doesn’t turn things around, you and the coach you hired are out on your ass come the summer.

It seems Stan knows that whatever moves he makes specifically for next season, he can’t completely lose what’s after that, even if he’s not around for it. Because this roster is going to need to be augmented, fed, freshened by kids through the system each of the next two, three, four years to maintain and eventually replace THE CORE.

With Tavares looking likely to stay put, the one-and-done answer in free agency isn’t there. Anything else is subject to usage, which hasn’t always gone Stan’s way. We’ve said it wouldn’t make sense to fire a GM and not a coach midseason, because an interim GM can’t change much midseason. But not everything with the Hawks management has made sense, despite what their success says. They apparently gave the reins fully to Stan last summer, and then they missed the playoffs. Is he still as trusted? Or are Q and his allies getting their influence back?

We’ll know soon enough.

Everything Else

Though I’m not sure you can have a staring contest via conference call, if anyone could it would be Stan Bowman.

We know that Bowman hates talking to the media, and even if he did it the only thing he’s good at is saying nothing. His update on a Marian Hossa injury years ago of, “Well he’s on schedule, but there’s no timetable,” being pretty much the perfect example of what we get when Bowman gets a microphone in his face. At best, he’s a master at saying exactly nothing. It was more of it today.

So we’ll get to the top of it, which is that the situation on Corey Crawford is exactly the same. Or more to the point, ain’t nobody sayin’ shit. There’s no update, and if there’s a key quote it’s, “We have no reason to believe that Corey won’t be ready for training camp.”

It’s interesting wording there, because there’s also no reason to believe he will be either. He hasn’t been on the ice, no one’s talked to him, and the Hawks can’t tell us where he is. At least not until the convention they can’t. And at this point it sounds like they’re going to dump this on Crow himself, which is how that phrase plays out.

It wouldn’t be the first time the Hawks have made a face at someone recovering from a head injury, if indeed that is what’s going on here. Jeremy Morin’s career stalled out here partly because the Hawks thought he took too long to come back from a head injury, and thus he wanted to fight everyone when he came back. They started whispering that Dave Bolland was taking too long to come back from a concussion as well, though we all later found out Bolland didn’t have a brain to bruise.

But of course, it might not be just a head injury, as those are the whispers that keep popping up more and more with all this idleness. Which, and we’re just speculating because it’s all we can do, if it is the recovery is entirely up to Crawford. You can’t put a timeframe on something that isn’t a physical injury, one would think, if that’s what we’re dealing with. And again, the “we have no reason to believe” kind of absolves the Hawks of doing anything, not that anyone thinks they’ve done anything wrong here.

It could not be a murkier situation, and maybe the Hawks are counting on everyone counting on it being cleared up at the Convention where Crawford is slated to appear. Except he could come out for his ovation at the opening ceremonies, and then basically not speak to the media from there on out and that would be very Hawks.

At this point, I’m not going to believe that Crawford is going to be at training camp on time, or even the regular season, until there’s reason to. If he were working out, you’d think they’d tell us. If he’s skated, you’d think they’d tell us. Or he has and had to stop. Really any conclusion you draw is not a good one, and we may find out more if the Hawks go out and get not just a credible backup but someone who might be a 1B.

-Other than that, Bowman’s call was a masterclass of being a mushmouth. They may move up in the draft, they may not. They like a lot of guys at #8. They’re trying to improve short-term and long-term. They may trade, they may not. They may sign guys, they may not. If I didn’t know any better I’d swear he was a GM.

With the rumblings of John Tavares staying put the odds of the Hawks making a huge splash went down, because there’s really only one or two other things to make a big splash with. John Carlson really doesn’t make that much sense for how expensive he’s going to be, and James van Riemsdyk probably does. Past that I can’t help you.

Sadly, Stan didn’t take the opportunity to completely rule out signing Slava Voynov, because if you’re an organization that has greatly welcomed and put up a statue of pieces of shit in your past, really why would you? He gave it the boilerplate “we can’t talk about anyone right now” instead of, “God no, I don’t want that fucking scumbag anywhere near the scumbag I already have” but then again no NHL GM has.


Everything Else

Essentially, what we wrote here about Quinton Hughes at Michigan we could copy and paste for Smith out of the WHL. A tad undersized, but a dynamic offensive force from the blue line who exploded in his second year in the Western Hockey League.

After a 32-point season in his debut with Spokane, Smith went nuclear last year with 73 points in 69 games. That made him the second leading scorer as a d-man in the league, behind David Quenneville and ahead of one Henri Jokiharju. I suppose if I’m advocating having Jokiharju go straight to the NHL, then you could make the same case for Smith.

Smith doesn’t have the international experience that Jokiharju does, and hey, it’s a bitch being Canadian that way. Smith is also going to have to overcome the stigma of his size. He’s listed at 5-10 and 176, and that’s probably being generous. While the NHL is skewing smaller and faster, there are times when d-men have to be sturdy and strong and Smith is going to have to prove he can do so in those moments.

What Smith has that you can’t teach is being a plus-plus skater and instincts. Smith’s vision is already at a higher level than he plays according to scouting reports, and projects as a #1 power play QB in the not too distant future. He already has a great sense of when we can skate himself out of trouble, which is most times given his grace, and when he has to make a pass. He’s also not afraid to step up into the rush, or above his blue line to break up play quickly, which is a skill the Hawks prioritize heavily.

Unlike some others we’ve previewed, Smith is likely to be around when the Hawks pick. He’s been projected as low as #17 in some mock drafts and as high as #7 in others. The Hawks could conceivably drop down a few spots and get him and gobble up another pick if one team was desperate to move up. Again, the Hawks are basically short everywhere in the pipeline with only Jokiharju and Mitchell as d-men they’re counting on to make an impact at the NHL-level. Smith looks like he could be another.