Before we can look ahead to potential summer shopping, it’s a worthy exercise to look back at the past performance of Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman.
Bowman made a number of moves before and during the 2011-12 season that he hoped would put the team a position to win. Ultimately, the roster he gave coach Joel Quenneville finished in fourth place in the Central Division, sixth place in the Western Conference, and made a first round exit from the postseason for the second straight year.
As we pointed out in early February, if we’re going to appropriately judge the complete work of Bowman in free agency last year we need to do so with a proper frame of context.
Bowman refused to sign veteran forwards to multi-year deals, and that led to useful players like Eric Cole signing in Montreal and Max Talbot going to Philadelphia. But most of the free agent “studs” from the Class of 2011 ended up doing very little in their big-money destinations; Ville Leino and Joel Ward were a couple names many Hawks fans liked last summer, and they were both disasters this year.
While Steve Montador signed for four seasons, the rest of Bowman’s deals were limited to one season. A couple players have been extended late in the season, but for the most part this disappointing group will walk away on July 1.
Let’s grade the moves individually.
This video is from the press conference introducing Brunette to Chicago. One of the questions he was asked was about coach Joel Quenneville pointing out his lack of speed up and down the ice, which he was able to joke about at the time.
Over the coming 88 games, that lack of speed proved to be a painful achilles’ heel for the team.
His size and hands around the net were supposed to make him an asset on the power play, and he continued to get some of the heaviest minutes on the roster when the team had an advantage… but the Hawks power play was awful all year. He scored only four power play goals this year.
Brunette had one goal and was minus-three in the playoffs after having his worst offensive regular season wince 1997-98, when he was in Washington. His 27 points were roughly what the Hawks were hoping he would score before the All-Star Game, but he wasn’t a good fit at all.
Mayers was brought in to provide a physical presence on the Hawks fourth line. He ended up being the best faceoff guy on the team not-named-Toews, winning 56.1 percent of his draws. Mayers also played a significant role in special teams during the regular season and scored as many goals for the Hawks as he had in the last two years combined.
Quenneville decided to scratch Mayers from three of the six playoff games, favoring Brendan Morrison and a number of rookies to fill minutes in the bottom-six. His benching didn’t make a lot of sense, and ultimately didn’t work out well for the Hawks.
Montador was an enigma this year. He came in and was supposed to help the power play, but it wasn’t until he was moved into the forward rotation on the unit that it clicked. And his four-year deal would seem to indicate that he could step in and be a top-four defenseman, but he was never comfortable skating more than 13-14 minutes a night.
His season was cut short because of concussion problems. Six of Montador’s 14 points came on the power play, however.
It’s hard to give him a full grade because of the concussion, but we can grade what we did see of him on the ice.
There were many, including me, that felt Alexander Salak had outplayed Emery in the preseason battle to backup Corey Crawford. But to Emery’s credit, he came out and played very well at times this year.
In December, when Crawford found himself stuck in an ugly slump, Emery stepped into the top spot on the depth chart and went 6-1-1 in the month. But a 1-7-0 record in February buried a lot of the positive energy that he brought to the season.
He ended up with a 15-9-4 record, 2.81 goals against average and .900 save percentage, all while making barely above the league minimum. Emery received a one-year contract extension during the season finale in Detroit.
Carcillo missed the opening of the season because of a suspension that carried over from last season. He was suspended again in late October for a couple games for a hit on Carolina’s Joni Pitkanen. And his season ended with a seven-game suspension (and knee injury) after an ugly, illegal hit on Edmonton’s Tom Gilbert.
In between those suspensions, Carcillo scored two goals, added nine assists and was plus-ten in only 28 games. He did, however, rack up 82 penalty minutes in that limited action.
The Blackhawks need the little-bit-of-crazy that Carcillo brings to the ice, and he was surprisingly effective on the offensive end of the ice at times.
But the concerns we had when he initially signed will remain for the two more years he’ll be in Chicago (he signed an extension): as long as Carcillo is on the Hawks roster, the team’s penalty kill unit must be good, if not exceptional. And this year they were terrible.
It’s hard to have a terrible penalty kill unit and a player who is a penalty magnet in the same sweater, but that’s what the Hawks did for 28 games this year. For the next two years, they’ll need Carcillo to spend less time suspended and more time creating space for the team’s skill players to create scoring chances.
Lepisto found himself in the doghouse early in the year and never really got out of it. He was limited to averaging 10:34 per game in only 26 games, scoring one goal and adding two assists. He was moderately effective when he got into the game, but was buried for most of the year.
He’s old, and looked every bit of it during his time with the Blackhawks. O’Donnell should have been a serviceable seventh defenseman, but he played in 51 games this year and average 13:31 in those contests. He was credited with seven assists in the regular season.
For a complete list of Bowman’s history as general manager of the Chicago Blackhawks, click here.