July 5, 2013 by Cups n Pucks
After the 2010 Stanley Cup Championship it was well publicized that Stan Bowman inherited the Chicago Blackhawks in “salary cap hell,” having minimal money to sign — blah blah, yada yada…. Hawks fans know the drill. We’ve heard this all before. So with a seemingly redundant article thus far, why should I continue? Well, because Bowman once again has drawn the ire of Chicago Blackhawks fans. It may not be the majority, but distrust still exists. You hear it on the radio, read it in the papers, and of course, on social media. Amazingly, after two Stanley Cups in a matter of four years (albeit the first cup was a team Bowman inherited) there’s still an undercurrent of distrust with Bowman’s roster moves.
The outcries started with the trade of fan favorite David Bolland, which should have surprised no one, to the Maple Leafs for three draft picks, highlighted by the 51st overall draft pick – the second round draft pick Stan Bowman did not have, but vocally wanted. Not a bad pull for a player in a statistical decline, a growing injury history, and unimpressive CORSI ratings, which show that this year may be the first year he’s outmatched by opponent’s top lines.
The second and more surprising move was trading Michael Frolik to the Winnipeg Jets for the 73rd and 134th picks overall. As is the case with all Stanley Cup winning teams, the Blackhawks’ depth runs deep (so deep) and Frolik was a key to that depth, becoming an integral part to a stalwart penalty kill unit. Though I was caught off-guard by this move, Bowman saw himself with 5.6 million dollars of more cap space wiggle room by shedding only third and fourth line contracts. Commendable at the very least.
The final straw which fueled the (hopefully) vocal minority was Bowman’s signing of playoff stud Bryan Bickell to a four-year sixteen million dollar contract. If you consider yourself a consumer in this world (hint: that might be everyone) then you may notice that the price of, oh I don’t know, everything rises year-by-year. Oddly enough, that concept equivocally applies to NHL Free Agency. Bryan Bickell was bound to get a significant raise and he most certainly did. Many were taken aback (myself included) that this was the “hometown discount” Bickell was mentioning in previous interviews. I questioned it at first. I thought Stan reached, or even worse, got burned. It may have been the alcohol, or… well, most likely the alcohol, but I had my moment of clarity:
Let’s quickly revisit the beloved 2010 championship team. Bowman had multiple critical decisions to make, whether it was to hold on to several, or at the very least keep one of: Byfuglien, Ladd, Niemi, Versteeg, or Hjalmarsson. The possibilities were numerous and the outcome was surprising, with Bowman only signing Nicklas Hjalmarsson. Blackhawks Nation was up in arms, asking for more and getting what seemed to be the bare minimum in return from 2010’s salary cap debacle. Regardless of the argument at the time, the fact is that Bowman was right in his choice, evidenced by this “f’n beauty”. There may have been other outcomes also correct that we will never know, but Bowman’s very controversial decision was a correct one, validated three years down the road. He had a plan, and that plan paid off in glorious fashion.
And here we are again, in a similar juncture, this time not so much necessity as it is voluntary. That’s a huge factor. Stan knows what he’s doing: he continues to build an already impressive farm system while allowing some of the brightest performers in the minors a shot at the NHL roster. And in this whole process, the Blackhawks find themselves at the top of the NHL’s totem pole. Uh, that’s not how it’s supposed to work. Evidence can tilt either negatively or positively with 2013’s off-season moves, but hasn’t that always been the case with Stan? There’s been a lot of moves that could seemingly go either really well or really bad – like, Brendan Morrison bad. Ick. But as we always ask ourselves these questions – and we’ve asked them a lot in the past four years with major roster reconstruction- keep in mind that Stan Bowman reconstructed a roster and turned it into one of the most dominant teams in recent memory and achieved the one goal thirty hockey teams start out with every year. So as free agency begins, I’m asking you to trust that Stan knows what he’s doing. The evidence is right in front of you. Trust in THAT.