Blackhawks Problems: Are They Stan Bowman’s Fault?

Lots of Blackhawks fans are placing blame on the job general manager Stan Bowman did last summer for the team’s perceived inability to compete.

With the ability to evaluate the additions made via free agency 52 games later, did Bowman miss the boat?

First of all, to address the perception that the Blackhawks can’t win, that’s not accurate. They’re sixth in the Western Conference with 65 points, one point out of fourth and five points ahead of seventh; they would be winning the Southeast and Pacific Divisions right now.

But is this roster without flaws? Obviously not. When you allow eight goals to the team sitting 14th in the Western Conference, there’s plenty of ammunition for angst.

However, when assigning blame to the general manager’s office for his summer additions “not working out,” one needs to put those complaints in a proper context. And context should change the perception of the job Bowman last summer.

Consider some of the deals that were handed to free agent forwards last summer.

Joel Ward, Washington Capitals
Four years, $12M

Ward was a guy lots of Hawks fans were high on as a physical forward. How has he repaid the Caps for his big deal? In 49 games, he has 14 points (five goals, nine assists), 39 hits, 32 blocked shots and is plus-six. Washington has him for three more years.

Max Talbot, Philadelphia Flyers
Five years, $8.75M

Talbot’s another guy that lots of Chicago fans were big on (including us). In 50 games with the Flyers, Talbot has 12 goals, 10 assists, 85 hits, 45 blocked shots and 32 penalty minutes while averaging 16:06 per game. He’s having a good season, but was he worth five years to the Blackhawks? In the third year of the deal, when Talbot is 31, Andrew Shaw might be the same player and eight years younger.

Sean Bergenheim, Florida Panthers
Four years, $11M

Again, here’s a forward that lots of people in Chicago liked. But what has Florida received for their multi-year contract? In 29 games, he has seven goals and one assist, is minus-three, and has accounted for 51 hits and 12 blocked shots.

Darroll Powe, Minnesota Wild
Three years, $3.2M

Powe, a guy who can play center that had the eye of some in Chicago, has 96 hits and 51 blocked shots while averaging 13:41 on the ice every night for the Wild. But he’s winning only 41.2 percent of his faceoffs and has produced only nine points (four goals, five assists) with 30 penalty minutes and is minus-nine in 51 games.

Instead of these guys, who did Bowman sign?

Jamal Mayers
One year, $500k
5 goals, 6 assists, 54.8% faceoffs, 71 hits, 9 blocked shots, 9:32 ATOI

Andrew Brunette
One year, $2M
9 goals, 10 assists, -9, 7 power-play points, 12:48 ATOI

Daniel Carcillo
One year, $775k
2 goals, 9 assists, 82 PIM, done for the year after 2 suspensions and 28 games

We won’t deny that Bowman didn’t hit a home run with Brunette or Carcillo, but Mayers was as good as any forward deal in the division last summer. For the role he’s been asked to play, he’s been fantastic; in fact, we’ve argued that he should play a bigger role.

The summer free agent class in 2011 wasn’t very good, and players were grossly overpaid all over the league. Rather than reach on a guy with a multi-year mistake, Bowman played it safe with one-year deals for three guys that filled a need from the 2010-11 roster’s performance.

On the blue line, we won’t defend Sami Lepisto. He continues to be a ghost and waste the 23rd roster spot on the NHL roster. But Sean O’Donnell, who also received a one-year deal worth $850k, has played the role of seventh defenseman well this season.

The biggest question mark from the summer spending of Bowman has to be Steve Montador. After his negotiating rights were acquired for the draft pick Bowman landed in exchange for Tomas Kopecky’s rights (another awful contract by the way), the Hawks handed Montador a four-year, $11M deal.

In 49 games, Montador has 14 points and is plus-four. He’s been credited with 48 hits and 45 blocked shots while skating an average of 15:05 per night, the fifth-highest ice time average among Hawks’ defensemen.

Looking around the NHL, though, the thin free agent class impacted spending on defensemen as well. Christian Ehrhoff was the only top-tier defenseman to hit the market, and Buffalo handed him $40M over 10 years.

When looking at players that would have fit a similar profile to Montador that Chicago could have signed, Tomas Kaberle (three years, $12.75M) and Ed Jovanovski (four years, $16.5M) both received more money per year than Montador. Kaberle’s already disappointed one team enough to be traded, and Jovanovski is now out with a broken hand suffered in a fight.

Again, while the length of the deal might cause an eyebrow to twitch, the cap hit of Montador’s deal is favorable to the franchise relative to what other teams were spending. Has he filled a top-four role? No. And does the naked eye see a good reason for both Montador and Niklas Hjalmarsson to be here for two more years after the 2011-12? Not right away. But considering the need and the market from which Bowman had to choose, the options were limited.

Again, is this roster perfect? Absolutely not. But it is always dangerous, and rarely responsible, to point a finger at one individual for the performance, good or bad, of a team. Certainly the general manager is responsible for putting together a competitive roster, but the standings still indicate that Bowman did precisely that.

And, as quickly as fans are willing to blame Bowman for the perceived mistakes, rarely does anyone give him credit for adding a player like Viktor Stalberg via trade or finding Andrew Shaw in the fifth round of this year’s draft.

The trade deadline is in four weeks, and Bowman’s restraint over the summer allows him more flexibility to fill the holes on this roster both now and in coming years through free agency.

31 thoughts on “Blackhawks Problems: Are They Stan Bowman’s Fault?

  • February 3, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    TAB nice way to respond to the grumblings… But I just want to let people know I posted my last comment on the Oilers game page before this article came out.

  • February 3, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    I think that most fans do give Bowman his credit. They realize he inherited a tough position that would be difficult to get out of effectively. Also, most realize he has executed 2 outstanding drafts that have set us up for the future…but as you well know Tab, in pro sports, the future is now, and at one point we were leading the NHL in points…and now we quite quickly sit 6th in the Western Conference…and where will we be after game 60? That will be a more accurate study in this team’s abilities as we are finally having a beneficial soft early schedule balance itself out.

    With regards to the offseason, Bowman had hit and miss results. Based on what was out there, I guess one could say he did an average job. But to be more honest with his appraisal you have to dig a little deeper. You have to add trading Brian Campbell for more than nothing in return (how do you get more than nothing? See Rusty Olescz and his $3+ million contract), you have to add trading Troy Brouwer (having a very good season in a disappointing Washington) for a 1st round pick. Then you have to see where Bowman was going with all of this…he trusted Hammer would get better off of a very disappointing season (he had to, because he chose Hammer over a very good Niemi) and paired with the 20 year old rookie, Nick Leddy, they were going to become our 2nd pairing…$3 million dollar Montador would hold down the #5 spot with a combination of Sasquatches, Friendly Giants, and Aging Dinosaurs.

    To say that this hasn’t worked out is the understatement of the year. Okay, so he was wrong…okay, maybe Stan never thought Toews would be this good and get us to #1 overall in this rebuilding year, but here we are, his additions aren’t enough, and his subtractions were too many. And now he has to try and correct this. Well his first stop was Brendan Morrison…are you kidding??? In his first 2 games he has shown himself to be out of shape, old, slow, and babying a sore knee…not quite the elixir that Toews was looking for.

    And now we hear talk that his finances have been limited (no wonder when Rocky is currently paying $10 million for 2 players NOT to play with us), and we are contemplating a Jeff Schultz type move for the Defence…and what will he cost???

    This is why if Stan IS the GM you feel he is, then he needs to admit what this season is, and what his plan has been all along…we are a year away from competing for the Cup…next year Olsen and LaLonde should be ready to help the Defence, Leddy will be that much better (if we get him off the 2nd pairing now), and there will be a bevy of forwards ready to go…Jimmy Hayes, Brandon Pirri, Brandon Saad, Ben Smith, Jeremy Morin, and maybe even Mark McNeil…

    Now, I have no problem with this…and I think that becoming Sellers at the deadline makes more sense than trading for short term bums that will cost us real talent. But Bowman needs to have the courage to stick to his plan and SAY IT.

    We are NOT one or two little tweaks away from the Cup…we will be in a battle just to make the playoffs with this team, and we are building still, for next year. Crawford should rebound in year 3, but there is no guarantee.

    So stay the course Stan, and trust on the talent you have drafted or traded into this organization…personally, I am loving the thought of Shaw, Hayes, Pirri, Saad, and Olsen starting next year. Just don’t try and tell us that everything is a go for the Cup this year!

  • February 3, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Tab you didn’t address the biggest complaint, which is the decision of getting ridding of Campbell in exchange for Montador plus whatever we get/give up at the trade deadline. We lost speed and skill with that decision and that is a big reason why Edmonton easily beats us.

  • February 3, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Great job with this. There have been a few bad signings but they aren’t huge deals (in terms of cap hit or term) so it’s not like the team is set back for years. Stan & Co. have done well with Leddy, Stalberg, Shaw, Hayes, Frolik (hasn’t exactly panned out but he’s 10x the defensive player Skille was). Morrison isn’t everything we want him to be sure, but right now there aren’t a lot of options for top six forwards (or solid D-Men) without giving up core players in some sort of panic move.

    Mayers has exceeded expectations on the ice, but you know what else? Watch the community service videos on Blackhawks TV. Jamal Mayers is in almost all of them. That’s the kind of guy you want to keep around.

    I’m *way* more concerned with the coaching staffs lineup decisions, shift management and special teams strategies than anything Bowman may or may not have cooking.

  • February 3, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    For a little more, they could’ve kept Brouwer but instead he wastes 2 mil on a washed up has been in Brunette & then craps away money on Frolik.

  • February 3, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Again, I agree with Brad. No cup this year….big deal. WE NEED D. Organization is a little thin but there are a couple of NHL Dmen a year or so away. I still say Leddy would benefit from some AHL time. The D needs to be rebuilt. Losing Campbell was a shame but look what we gained. Towes, Kieth, Seabrook and Sharp tied up for years. I just hope Bowman doesn’t give away the farm to chase a cup this year.

  • February 3, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Before going goo goo gaga over Stalberg. Having a career season doesn’t mean he’s Henrik Zetterberg all of a sudden. While he’s improved his game, lets see him do it again before claiming the trade a win.

    He’s playing with Toews. Put him with a guy like Umberger, & he wouldn’t even have 10 goals.

  • February 3, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    If you read these comments the consensus is that Bowman should have stood pat and just added Mayers and then developed the younger guys we have in the system to fill in and develop. Thats my criticism of Bowman.

  • February 3, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Well Brad and others have said the details well but I want to just look at this article itself. This post seems to be non sequitur and almost written by Stan’s assistant.

    I read “First of all, to address the perception that the Blackhawks can’t win, that’s not accurate.”

    Can’t win what, you don’t say? Can’t win the Cup. Yes I would say that right now we can’t. Where is the perception we can’t “win”?

    Ok, context.

    He makes a lot of little bad moves and that is better than a few real big bad moves?

    What post made you say “But it is always dangerous, and rarely responsible, to point a finger at one individual for the performance, good or bad, of a team”.

    Brad was all over everything, as was I. Did Jr. do a good job of not making major misses with his cap money, yeah. Could he have kept 51 and waited for, what did you call it, a “thin free agent class” to pass? Why dump 51 and then wade into small little moves with 1 year deals?

    So can we point at Jr. at all or not? You seem to say we can’t at all.

    Um, I think we said he drafted well for “finding Andrew Shaw in the fifth round of this year’s draft.”

    Stan is not blowing this up, doing a bad job, as much as not helping us add the fringe pieces we need. His 2 biggest mistakes, Niemi and 51, are much bigger misses than his best moves, trading for Leddy and drafting.

  • February 3, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Let me begin by saying I am not a Bowman fan, I think he has made poor decisions for 2+ years. I do agree with you Tab that the 2011 free agent market had few reasonably priced options. Most of the Hawk decisions were low risk 1 year contracts that enabled the young players time to develop.

    Everybody seems to agree Stan had a difficult situation after championship. There were many tough decisions to make. That doesn’t mean he had to make bad decisions. The only move close to being successful that summer was Versteeg for Stalhberg. He had a number of similiar power forwards, Ladd, Buff, Brouwer, Eager, Kopecky. Did he keep the right ones? Everybody brings up the Neimi, Hammer decisions, rightfully so, but keeping Brouwer & Kopecky? I like to have those decisions back.

    What trade options did he discuss last summer when he had cap flexibility? We will never know. Tab, you wrote about the center depth that Boston had, did Stan explore that? You ask what should he have done different? Its a fair question, but we don’t know what all the options were.

    Even now, the 3 headed 6th dman monster is not working. But still no changes to create roster spots for players like Hayes or Dylan Olsen. No they have Lopisto & Scott still eating up roster spots. There is no trade market for these guys & they don’t make much money, just release them.

    It does make you wonder what the relationship between Stan & Q is…..

    All that being said its not all Stans fault. The coaches & players need to be held accountable. There is still a third of the regular season left to play, so there is time to turn this around. But if they keep sending the same line-ups out night in & night out, with the same half hearted efforts they will all have a lot of time to work on their golf games. Maybe then we will see some changes!

  • February 3, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    I think its fair to say that we have been on a steady decline talent wise since winning the cup. Last night was a disaster and an exclamation point on that. Its triggering a lot of second guessing as it should. Bowman is in charge of the roster so he gets the blame. If the team turns it around and makes a playoff run then he will get the credit.

  • February 3, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    The only way the Hawks can win is if the top 2-3 players for the top 5-8 teams suddenly have Crosby like concussions… not gonna happen!!!

    1.) The Hawks are on the road most of the month
    2.) looking at March- it would appear the Hawks are playing their toughest schedule based on opponents winning % (just a guess- I am not actually running #’s)
    3.) Based on another poster’s comments (I have not calculated) – the Hawks have less than 10 victories against over .500% teams

    Conclusion- The Hawks really can’t win!!!!!!

    Therefore- please be sellers- and keep adding to the “farm”–
    Bowman’s 1 yr deals + Campbell/Brouwer trades- spell FUTURE not NOW mentallity!!! If he really becomes a buyer– he is really being inconsistent w/ past moves- IMO.

  • February 3, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    I’ll bite… if everyone wants us to go back in time 12 months, and wishes Bowman hadn’t traded Brouwer, Kopecky & Campbell, so be it. (fwiw, I appreciate the irony that we’re having this conversation, that in its foundation completely lacks context, in the comments of a piece about having context…)

    Let’s start our hypothetical scenario by saying Chris Campoli stayed, and took the same deal Bowman gave Montador this summer (even though all reports are that he wanted more). We’ll call them break-even, and I’ll even ignore the fact that Campoli was injured to start the year and hasn’t played in half of this season’s games.

    So we’re left with Campbell, Kopecky & Brouwer vs Brunette, Mayers, Carcillo, O’Donnell & Lepisto.

    The cap hit for the five current Blackhawks is $4.925M this year… or a little more than $2.2M less than Campbell by himself. But if we then project the contracts of Kopecky & Brouwer, we’re looking at $12.493M for three players.

    And how quickly well all forget how quickly the fan base wanted Brouwer & Kopecky driven out of town throughout most of last season! I would take Jamal Mayers over Tomas Kopecky all day, any/every day, so that’s an improvement from last year on face value. The expectation was that 17-goal scoring Bryan Bickell made 20-goal Brouwer expendable; you can’t predict that 29 was going to crap the sheets this year if you’re a GM trying to free up cap space (oh, and we got the pick that became Phillip Danault in that trade btw).

    So I ask of you: if the Hawks have approx. $5.5M in cap space today, and we’re looking at roughly $7.5M in additional cap hit for the three former Hawks, where are we amazingly coming up with the $2M shortfall? Furthermore, we’re trading five players for three. While you could (and I wouldn’t fight it) say that Carcillo & Lepisto are ghosts and the proposition is essentially break even 3-for-3, there is still no financial room for movement or bench depth.

    We’re looking at, realistically, being $2M over the cap, without a bench or the ability to bring kids up from Rockford (like Shaw and Pirri and Hayes) and no ability to make a move like dumping a nice defenseman (who was never going to see the NHL in Chicago and wasn’t even one of the top 5 d-man prospects in the organization) on Calgary for a veteran center like Morrison. Everyone complains every time John Scott dresses, yet if the Hawks had kept Campbell, Brouwer & Kopecky, Scott probably would have been the 6th defenseman or on the fourth line in 82 games this season.

    Could the Blackhawks have received more for Campbell? We don’t know that. One would have to hope that Bowman shopped to more teams than Florida to get something in return for Campbell, but having five more years at over $7.1M w/ a no-trade clause is a hard piece of paper to move. So while we can agree on an emotional level that it would be nice to have Campbell back, or one of the other familiar faces… it isn’t realistic, and the “improvement” we would have realized by humping the cap for another year is questionable.

  • February 3, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Kopecky had to go with an increased contract demand, Bowman thought Bickell would fill Brouwer’s role, but what he was thinking with Campbell is beyond me…we all were happy that day that he moved that large, difficult contract, but only because we all thought he had a legitimate plan to replace him…he didn’t…

    In the end Tab, it is what it is…Bowman just needs to keep the focus on next year, a year in which our much talked about farm system will finally produce big time.

  • February 3, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Tab, not sure what part (if any) of your last reply is directed to any of my comment…

    but if it is directed to me…

    I am not arguing against Bowman and Campbell/Brouwer trades (Never liked Kopecky)…. I am simply stating that it appears Bowman has made tough decisions with the future in mind… AND he needs to stay consistent toward building the future, not try for the HomeRun this year (we ain’t good enough)-

    We are not in complete re-build mode (like Chi-Sox and Cubs)… but we are in re-tool mode… Bowman is a smart guy and hopefully will stick to the plan of setting the table for strong runs in the next 2 years- that is why we should sell a little this year to be even stronger going forward-

  • February 3, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Hayes proved he belongs( why was he send down, only provided energy and scoring)——Bickell is being shopped(only logical reason he laces up those concrete shoes, er skates). Olsen also did well in his limited call up. We know what we don’t have with our current 3rd defensive pairing(or choices), doesn’t it make sense to groom him this year ( see Leddy as an example)? Monitor is fine in a 3rd pairing, O’Donnell is done or at least use him like Lepesto( a last resort). Those are my little issues with Bowman, I think the Mayers deal was great, Ok with a 1 year gamble with Carcillo and Brunette(even if it isn’t working). Campbell had to happen at some point–we miss him but got it done sooner rather than later. Bowman’s best attribute is his patience and will serve us well in the future– just is really painful this year.

  • February 3, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    I’m not barking aboot Bowman, trading Kane, or what we signed last year. I am saying only this.

    The team isn’t gonna go deep this year with the present roster. It just won’t. Now we know Bowman is trying to swing a deal but if he can’t he can’t. He’s not gonna make a trade that will hurt the club down the road. I wouldn’t either. If managers are asking an arm and a leg for say, Hal Gill…then you don’t trade. Yes, it may suck and team gets bounced early but giving up more than necessary in a deal is not good business. Let the other managers be the fools. If its not our year then so be it….just keep trading when the deal is right and hopefully the cards will go our way with that and our drafting of players. There’s 29 other teams. We are not winning the Cup every year.

    Once again, all I’m saying is this roster is not going deep….nothing more.

  • February 3, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    I think judging Bowman too harshly at this point is a little misguided. He is in his third season and has had two off seasons to work on the roster. Little by little he is weeding out expendable players that he inherited. Has he made bad moves? I think he has, but in the case of 51, for the long range plan it had to be done. I’ll take the odd bad decision on FA’s while the GM is drafting well and laying the foundation to develop the system from within and this thing self-sustaining. I don’t think we should complain about that, lets look at the big picture and understand that we will have to wait a couple of years to have a balanced team like the 2010 edition.
    Actually I scratch my head more trying to figure out what the hell Q is doing with this line-up, I think he should get more out of this lineup, from the D pairings, to giving Bickell ice time and horrible PK, there is much to question the coaches about.

  • February 3, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    I haven’t done the math but I think trading Brouwer and Kopecky was fine and I am ok with montador or campoli as the sixth defender. So given that wouldn’t we have had enough cap space to keep Campbell and just sign Mayers and still had room for the guys coming up from Rockford. We didn’t need the rest of the signings i.e Carcillo, O’Donnell etc.

  • February 4, 2012 at 12:23 am

    Sack the inept coach !!

  • February 4, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    As usual – I think Brad nailed it. Don’t waste assets to acquire a bandaid for this season. Focus on next season. If possible, use the TDL to sell off any players not in the long range plan and use their ice time to get players like Hayes, Pirri, Morin and Olsen some NHL experience.

  • February 5, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Its not like Bowman is totally innocent and the Virgin Mary. He does have some blame in all this. He dismantled the Stanley Cup team in the worse way possible. He lost out on the bluff and lost Niemi. He should have dealt Campbell last year and keep BIG BUFF. He is being PAID to do his job and not doing anyone a favor so if things go wrong he has to take responsibilities too.

  • February 5, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    ok, where acting like this season is a complete failure, they lost a few games (a lot), and are on a major cold streak right now, Bowman did what he could and the moves aren’t done yet, if this roadtrip is a complete disaster and they continue to play poorly then we can place the blame on him, all I know is that their is a lot of hockey left to be played, and when it comes to the playoffs expect the unexpected…

  • February 6, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Did anyone else notice that when Carcillo went down Kane’s scoring and presence changed. Like him or not, his presence freed up a lot of ice. John Scott scares the
    life out of most players. For what they pay him he should be re-signed for 5 years.

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  • February 7, 2012 at 10:42 am

    My biggest issue with Bowman is he cost us Niemi and Byfuglien ! As far as I’m concerned as we hoisted the Cup, aside from ,Toews, Kane and Sharp for the offense, Byfuglien was next he and Sharp led the team in goals with 11 in the playoffs. As for the Defense , we had a lot of it and yes due to the cap, sacrifices were needed. Niemi (16-6 910sv%+2.63GAA) should not have been sacrificed. No way, no how , he out played every other goalie we faced. This was his rookie year achievements and Bowman snuffed him like AHHH we don’t need no stinking Goalie. Unforgivable !

  • February 8, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    Come on guys, the Blackhawks continuing collapse is chiefly the fault os Stan{NOT THE MAN} Bowman.He only got the job because of his illustrious father. Too bad the genes didn’t carry over. Stan deeply resented Dale Tallon’s incredible 2010 Cup team, and couldn’t wait to dismantle it! Anybody remember Mike Mckaskey and the ’85 Bears? Trading Verstig and Buff as the first to go should have told us all what an arrogant egocentric guy he is ! At least 4 other veteran players who were not traded that year should have gone first.Buff and Verstig are going to be allstars and were absolutely essential to the Hawks’ continuing success.If that wasn’t bad enough after barely making the playoffs in 2011 he trades the 1 guy who made it possible, Brian Campbell. Without Campbell their powerplay is totally impotent.Yes he cost a lot of money, but you get what you pay for.Replacing these guys with a bunch of “has beens”, and “never will bees” says it all.In 2010 any coach would have won the cup with the immense talent the Hawks had.Now that good coaching is essential for success, we should all understand why “Q” was fired from winning teams in St. Louis and Colorado. He is way too passive and offers no ispiration for players too perform up to their capabilities.He is also a poor disciplinarian and doesen’t hold players accountable for their avoidable errors.Rocky and Mcdonnough are not blameless either as they let Bowman destroy this team.By the way I have been a rabid Blackhawk fan since Bobby Hull was a rookie so don’t expect another “Cup” for awhile.

  • February 8, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Cary: you hit the nail on the head about Q . He is a poor coach and should be fired .

  • February 8, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    “Q… is a poor coach and should be fired.” I actually laughing in cynical disbelief at the stupidity

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