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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hawks Bowman STILL Has Decisions To Make in 2014

To have Stan Bowman's job from a distant glance appears to be an easy job. 2x Stanley Cup winners, a plethora of future HOF players, a solid core with 15 players on the docket for next would seem that he could just put his feet up and have a cup of espresso.

Well, the reason the Hawks are at the top is because Bowman does not rest. He has to consistently keep this standard.

Following the Detroit Redwings formula of success (yes,...Hawks fans), the Blackhawks are year in and year out making themselves the marquis team to play. The Hawks have to constantly replenish and keep young players hungry without wanting to leave the nest for another team.

These are the two top prospects that are able to fly the coup and the end of the year. The Hawks have put both of them in and let them experience the NHL, but have sent both of them down to work on their game. Both appear to be ready to step in,...and sure, for other teams in the NHL they might be able to do so. (i.e. Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen). But, it is important to let both of them know that their game level is close....but, just not there. NOT great enough to stick it on an NHL level. It is important for both of them to see the professionalism of the Hawks and just what they can become if they decide to stay with the Hawks organization. If they do consider offers to play for another team, (and 1 or both of them may just do that at the end of the year), then they need to know what they could be missing. Smart move on the Hawks part. In fact, I don't think either of them are finished with the Rockford- Chicago buss express. I think because this is such a long year, it could happen a few more times.

No one expected Corey Crawford to go down, but with Khabibulin on the LTIR, they were able to get what they really wanted. They need Antti Raanta to get American playing experience on the smaller ice. He got that and did well. He came up and has filled the roll nicely. It is going to be difficult for me to believe that Nikolai Khabibulin is THAT injured. The Hawks are keeping him on reserve because Raanta is the better goalie. Khabibulin's play was putrid, to say the least. He was on his last straw in that last game, and it is my belief he fabricated that injury in order to remain paid and to keep the Hawks from either cutting him. Hawks would have taken a cap hit by cutting him. The way it is now, they can still pay him, but his salary doesn't count against the cap as long as he is on the LTIR. Fortunate? Timely? Circumstantial? Who knows, but it is a bit "convenient" that it happened this way, don't you think? Hawks found out that 4th goal tender  Kent Simpson isn't even close to an NHL level. So, he will be sent back down to Rockford as soon as newly acquired Jason LaBarbera gets some playing time. Right now though, the Hawks are literally maxed out. $631,667 is Kent Simpson's salary, and Jason LaBarbera is at $1m.
Before Morin went down the Hawks were in the black with $3,747,489 and Morin got sent down.
Morin's salary hit was: $735,000
$3,747,489  + $735,000 = $4,482, Bickell get's reinstated( subtract) $4m = + $482,489

Simpson will go back to Rockford: + $631,667 = + $1,114, LaBarbera comes up (subtract) $1m =  +$114,! that is THIN.

With the available cap just over 100k, can you see the difficulty Bowman has to work with?
That is why Morin and/or Pirri aren't on the team. Kostka ($625,000)  would have to go down for anyone to come up. (Pirri, Morin, Nordstrom, etc...)

If Kostka went down they'd only have $ 739,156  of cap room. Right now, they are happy with Kostka up while Nordstrom, Pirri and Morin are getting playing time.

Wondering who is worth keeping and who to let go is another difficulty. The Hawks have plenty of players in their system to draw from, but have players that are most likely not going to return from this 2013-14 team. Who of the unsigned players will they keep next year? (Bollig, Smith, Handzus, Brookbank, Kostka, Khabibulin). Khabibulin is as good as dead. His bags will be waiting all packed with the last game's final horn. (Hopefully that is the Stanley Cup Final with a Hawks victory :) )
Brookbank has been a platoon player and so has Handzus. Coach Q has liked the way that Smith and Bollig have been playing together with Marcus Kruger, so the brass may keep them. Kostka should come cheaply, as well.  So, if I was a betting man, I would say the Hawks dump Handzus, Brookbank and Khabibulin.

16 (already signed) + Bollig, Smith, Kostka and Raanta,...leaving 2-3 open positions for next season.
Handzus a centerman to be replaced by Pirri or Teravainen or LeBlanc or McNeill or Danault.

Brookbank a defenseman to be replaced by Clendening or a free agent experienced vet.

Hawks are currently carrying 22 on their roster because of the tight cap. Next years projected $71m cap may allow them to go to 23 players.

2 players that will expect a BIG raise. Brandon Saad and Antti Raanta. The Hawks may look to sign them up before the end of the year to prevent "summer drama". Let's hope that is the case.

Anyway, as you can see, Stan Bowman's job with the NUMBERS is tough. Now, the other difficult thing. Making sure the TEAM CHEMISTRY is there. With their solid core (Toews, Kane, Sharp, Hossa, Seabrook, Keith), they have locked up that chemistry. Now add people who are playing very well and belong in that core. (Hjalmarsson, Saad, Versteeg, Bickelly, Crawford, Bollig, Kruger), where all these players know their roles and don't try to disrupt that chemistry.

Solid veterans that have been very stable emotionally (Rozsival, Brookbank and Handzus) and you have yourself a solid foundation.

Young bucks that are learning their way (Leddy, Shaw). Leddy still needs to improve, but has shown improvement. Shaw, can sometimes be disruptive, but he knows his place.

A veteran that don't quite my opinion...that would be Johnny Oduya.  Johnny Oduya is doing a decent job, but his name appears forgotten. At nearly a $3.4m cap hit, will the Hawks try to trade Johnny? He does have chemistry with Hjalmarsson, but Hjalmarsson appears to be able to play with most of the D-men on that team. We'll keep an eye out for that one.

So,...want to be a General Manager? Not as easy as it looks eh?

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