Whatever the Hawks say, it’s been an open secret to just about everyone in the league and those following the Hawks that Joel Qunneville and Stan Bowman didn’t see eye to eye. Everyone got past it because the Hawks were so successful. When that stopped, this is what you get. And their disagreements spilled everywhere. You didn’t have to have inside information to know this, because you could see how the team was deployed. I’m going to do this mostly from memory, but this is a rough outline of how things went that led to today.
2010-2011: There wasn’t much to be done here. The season before had gone so swimmingly, aside from Quenneville starting the season with John Madden as a Patrick Kane’s center. But that was Tallon’s signing, and it only last two or three games. So we move to this particular season, and after the roster was gutted due to the cap. And there wasn’t much Q could do when half or more of his team spend about seven minutes sober. Duncan Keith admitted he wasn’t totally focused during this season, and I guess if you wanted to you could pin it on Q to have run a tighter ship. But that would have been awfully tough.
If you want to look deeper, the immediate promotion of Nick Leddy to pair with Duncan Keith didn’t make a lot of sense. The acquisition of Michael Frolik was a tad confusing, as he was billed as a center, which came as news to him. Q tried him there but quickly moved him to wing, which is what he was and is. He bounced all over the lineup. Marcus Kruger came over at the end of the season, which is when “The Plan All Along” was born. This season went about as it should.
Oh wait, did I mention John Scott on the power play in the playoffs? Yeah, there was that.
2011-2012: This is where the real trouble starts. The year started with Q moving Patrick Kane to center. You could definitely argue that there were few other options, as this was when Patrick Sharp basically decided he didn’t want to play center anymore, Dave Bolland wasn’t cut out for it, and anyone else they tried was pants. This was the offseason that Stan brought it Andrew Brunette, Steve Montador, and Jamal Mayers. Montador started as a scratch and on the wing. Eventually Toews got hurt and Sharp and Kane basically had to play center, and it was better than you remember. Montador was never a fit and then had his devastating head injuries, which had fatal consequences. Andrew Shaw came up in the middle of the year. Niklas Hjalmarsson was a disaster. Johnny Oduya came in midseason, but he wasn’t much better, especially in the playoffs.
You’ll also recall it was in the spring of this season that Stan sent Barry Smith into practice and onto the staff to fix a dysfunctional power play (sounds familiar) which did not go over well. Nor should it, because this was as clear a nads-cutting as you can get.
It was the summer following this season that Q nearly either was fired and went to Montreal or just left for Montreal. The Hawks were bounced for the second straight year in the 1st round. In exit interviews, the players made it clear to Bowman that they wanted Mike Kitchen out, because they thought he was A. an idiot (he is) B. a mole for Q (possibly) or C. both. Stan wanted to fire Kitchen, but Q was going to take the fall for his guy. Eventually, McDonough came down and made it clear what the lines o the authority where. He hired the GM, the GM hired the coach, the coach hired his assistants. In a “fuck you” to the players, Q fired their guy Mike Haviland and replaced him with his guy, a for-certain moron Jamie Kompon.
2013: And these problems could have really fissured if every single Hawk didn’t have a career year in the lockout season-in-a-can. But they did. The only mark you could find was it taking Daniel Carcillo to blow his knee out again to get Brandon Saad into the lineup, but once he was there he never came out.
Sure, Michal Handzus was over-promoted, but he actually did play pretty well that spring. Bickell had the playoff run that got him that contract. Whatever issues the coach and GM had were washed away in confetti.
2013-2014: Again, there are only little things here. Starting a tradition, a failing tradition mind, of bringing former players back, Kris Versteeg was re-acquired in November. Andrew Shaw and Handzus bounced between taking the #2 center role, because Brandon Pirri never grabbed it even though Stan made it clear he wanted him to. This was also the first season that Brent Seabrook was pretty damn bloated. It was the season that ended when Q tried to steal an overtime shift with Handzus, Bollig, and Versteeg on an offensive zone draw after an icing in overtime. You know the rest.
2014-2015: Brad Richards was signed to finally anchor the #2 center role that had been in darkness for years. But it took ten games or more to get him there because Q insisted on putting Shaw there. Everything went just about swimmingly until Patrick Kane got hurt and missed the last six weeks. Teuvo Teravainen was called up for good in his absence. He bounces between center and wing and various lines. Antoine Vermette was acquired, and he had the same fate. Kimmo Timonen was actually dead. This was the spring that Q scratched Teuvo and Vermette in Game 3 against Anaheim. They went on to score four of the biggest goals the rest of the way to win a Cup.
2015-2016: It was basically over after this. Brandon Saad was traded because he got expensive and the coach was never sold, and this was the height of Q getting personnel say. Johnny Oduya left and proceeded to age 80 years. Kane and Panarin dragged the Hawks to a playoff spot but Toews was starting his decline and the defense never found anyone to replace Oduya. It was the full TVR Experience. Fleischmann and Weise were acquired at the deadline at the cost of Phillip Danault, and both were scratches before the season was out. Hawks bounced in first round.
2016-2017: Hawks finish first but are gassed by the time the playoffs roll around and a terrible matchup with Nashville. Defense is still thin and slowing, and Oduya’s reacquisition didn’t come close to helping with that. Hjalmarsson can’t keep up with the Preds. Toews is still nowhere and is eaten alive by Ryan Johansen (you’ll be shocked to hear Johansen was playing for a contract then). Schmaltz, Hartman, Forsling, and other kids can’t seem to find a home in the lineup.
And of course this led to the trade of Hjalmarsson right from under Q’s nose, as well as Panarin. This was the organization giving control back to Bowman, which is where the trail to today basically really gets going.