Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes



 Some thoughts on the end of Chicago, for now and maybe for good.

 Last year I wrote that if I were Stan Bowman I would trade Seabrook and Crawford and Sharp and load up on kids and picks and use the cap space to sign Saad and reload with younger (cheaper) players. The first two especially would bring back a nice return and by freeing up the space he could then either keep Sharp for another year or move him but under less duress.

 Instead Bowman doubled down, not only keeping Seabrook and Crawford but signing the former to a monster extension that is probably going to sink the Hawks unless he can Phaneuf him this summer or next before the wheels come completely off. He also moved Stephen Johns as part of the cost of moving Sharp and then at the deadline he traded Phillipe Daneault and Marko Dano, two youngsters who were cheap and could play, for the now. And did I mention he traded Saad.

 Now here's the thing. I don't blame Bowman entirely. I suspect he has job security that is pretty well ironclad but you see that kid who brought the World Series back to Boston and you realize that anyone in management can be fired, unless you are Bob Pulford. Then it actually takes a death to move you along.

 Anyhow while he probably has a lot of rope like most GMs he is living in the now and last summer he probably looked at his roster and saw Marian Hossa getting older and Keith and Seabrook on the wrong side of thirty and figured that he could take a step back to take another forward or he could roll the dice and take another shot before the window closes. Hossa and Keith are two Hall of Famers and not really replaceable (although Saad sure reminded me of Hossa in style and substance).

 And dismantling a team that had won two of the previous three Cups and was a bounce away from winning the third (yeah they beat the Rags in 2014) by trading Seabrook and Crawford? Well that would require massive balls. How do you sell that to the fans, to your players, to your coach, to ownership? Especially when you invariably take a step back. If you don't return to the promised land then your legacy will always be the guy who took apart a champion.

 Yeah I don't blame him.

 So he rolled the dice and the funny thing is the Hawks could have won the series and while I am not reneging on my preseason and preplayoff pick of Anaheim to come out of the West and win it all, the Blues are in the mix in a big way. Meaning yeah if Chicago had won they would have been in it too.

 The Hawks did a good job of replacing the forwards they lost - Panarin, Anisimov, Ladd, Weise and Fleishman for Sharp, Richards, Vermette, Saad and Versteeg is pretty close to a wash. You might give a slight edge to last year's group. But they never replaced Oduya and that is what killed them. Literally. Bring in a real top four guy and they probably beat the Blues.

 Oh well.

 Now Bowman is one step back anyway and he has no Saad and Andrew Shaw is probably out the door and Stephen Johns is in Dallas and the cap is going nowhere and he has, in Brent Seabrook, a major cap issue that is going to tie his hands for years. It's 2011 for the Hawks again and we know how that worked out but they are running out of runway now.

 That said, their accomplishments on the ice over the past six years bear real respect and awe really. Yes they are no 'dynasty' in the old school definition of the word but one could argue that this run is the best in hockey history. They won three cups and came within a bounce of probably winning a fourth (no doubt they beat the Rags in 2014) and they did this while all the while shipping quality out the door because they had to comply with the cap. And all this in a league where there are no soft touches come playoff time. The 70s Habs, the Isles, the Oilers - all faced creampuffs every year in the playoffs, teams they rolled over without breaking a sweat. One or two tough matchups to win and they were Cup winners. None of that for Chicago. What a great club.

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