There’s been a lot of words both written and spoken about the Hawks cap crunch, and yet there hasn’t been a lot of focus as to how we got here as once again a member of the Hawks’ brass escapes any scrutiny from the main press. That’s ok, gives me something to do!
That said, I am a Stan Bowman fan. But since the parade of 2013… well, let’s just say that Stan hasn’t done his best work.
We’ve been over last year’s missteps enough, essentially deciding to stand pat and bring back Michal Handzus while watching the rest of the Western Conference catch up (or at least L.A.). The Versteeg trade, the insistence on Bollig, blah blah blah.
So in the immediacy, why are the Hawks crunched out money-wise? There’s a couple things we can look toward. One, the kind of inexplicable decision to give Michal Rozsival a two-year deal and a no-trade clause. Hey, we all loved the Rozsival signing before the 2013 season and thought it might prove sneaky good. It did, as Rozie was incredibly solid in that run, at times utterly heroic.
But let’s be honest about what Rozie was. A solid #6 d-man who can barely move and can’t get through 82 games without taking at least 20 off. Sure, the Hawks didn’t really have someone in the pipeline to take this admittedly small role. But two years at 2.2 mildo? With a no-trade? This is the kind of role you’re supposed to be able to just find “guys” to fill out, and you even had one already here in Brookbank (who was better than Rozsival for long stretches last season). Signing Rozsival for one more year would have made sense, especially after Rozie made it clear he didn’t really want to play anywhere else. Rozie’s 36 now, is only a part time player and his cap number is almost exactly how much the Hawks are over the cap. This year you do have candidates who could take that #6-7 swing role, like Dahlbeck or Johns for much cheaper, but you’re stuck with this. Fuck, even re-signing Brookbank for 750K or whatever wouldn’t have been the worst idea. I have no idea if the Hawks have tried to move Rozie and been rebuffed by his no-move. But I know the Hawks wouldn’t be looking at having to trade Nick Leddy, which you can be almost sure will bite the Hawks in the ass in a serious way not too far down the road. Say Oduya gets hurt this year and Leddy’s traded. Where’s the push from the back coming now?
It’s not just Rozie however, because removing his salary only puts you right at the cap. Obviously, it’s easy to point at Versteeg’s number, and according to Uncle Bob they’re trying to piggyback him onto Leddy for any trade to open up more space, and we’ve covered that ground. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the first day of camp Q was playing up how good Versteeg looked. Oh you don’t say, Q? But at the time, no one thought Versteeg could the disaster he turned out to be, especially when the Hawks were only taking on half his contract.
Elsewhere, it would be easy to point to Corey Crawford’s extension as another sticking point. But I’m not so sure. If Stan had waited for last year to play out before trying to sign Crow, I doubt he’d come in at much lower than the $6 million he’s getting, and we clearly saw that Raanta is in no way ready to be a #1 on a Cup contender. So I’ll give him a pass on that.
Of course, you’re never filled with confidence when Stan shows up in the booth and talks about how much the organization likes “the element” that a Bass or Mashinter can bring to the team. This is such utter bullshit my balls crawl up into my intestines when I hear it. As we’ve speculated, the Hawks could roll out the best 4th line in the game in Shaw-Kruger-Smith if they wanted to. Because of decisions like those above and the mind-set of having to have some glorified door guy, they simply won’t. A team that prides itself on speed and skill and going four lines deep to wear opponents down is not going to put the most speedy and skillful lineup out there, because they don’t want to.
To give you some idea of how backwards Stan can get, along with his forward thinking decisions, someone who has a pretty good feel on the pulse of the organization, one Chris Block from TheThirdManIn.com, told me last season the organization wasn’t completely sold on Brandon Saad yet because “he doesn’t always take a glove in the face for a teammate.” Like, who gives a shit when you see all the things Saad can do.
There is still a knuckle-dragging element to the Hawks braintrust. It’s also unclear who between the GM and coach is giving orders, because we’ve seen how that goes and part of the reason Leddy is on the block is that Q simply won’t trust him, with varying levels of justification. But Q would much rather have Oduya and you could easily envision an open revolt if Oduya were traded.
It’s these cap concerns, some of them self-made, that Stan couldn’t get around to bring in Kesler when the Kings were getting Gaborik, or again this summer when Kesler went to the Ducks (which won’t prevent them from losing Game 7 at home to the Kings again in the second round, but it’s still nice to dream) The Stars got Spezza and Hemsky, the Wild Vanek, the Blues Stastny and Stan was basically forced to take a flier on Brad Richards that we can only safely state will be an improvement on the scrap brick that was in that slot before.
Thankfully, and due to a lot of Stan’s work, the talent on the Hawks is so overwhelming that they can generally overcome silliness like this. But it really doesn’t have to be this way.