Blackhawks Confidential

2010 offseason Archives

McDonough explains "impulsive, reactionary" Tallon firing--and need for "calm" GM/VP

Finally, a subject I know something about. Acting smug. I return to a topic I've inflicted upon you previously, but am smug enough to do again.

I have not won the Stanley Cup, but chances are if I did, I would be smug about it. So I have no problem with a tolerable amount of smugness.

Good for a slack body, an enlarged heart and an frolicsome mind, much like one solid slug of Red Bull and Guinness. Like cholesterol, not all smugness is bad.

There are different strains of smugness. Mine is sorta crazy, run-amok smugness that really harms the smuggee more than the victimized smugger. Are you with me here? Pretty complex stuff, smugness. Sorry for the technical terms.

That brings us to Blackhawks president John McDonough, who hails more from the cookie-cutter smugness school. One smug fits all. One being his favorite number and I'll let you decide which one he loves best of all.

Having been acquainted with The Genius when he was working toward one goal with the Cubs, and finding himself skating in countless circles at Wrigley Field and finding one season much like the last 100 there, it does not surprise me he had one more swipe to take at former GM Dale Tallon.

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Blackhawks should be strengthened by not being picked to win again

I expect a large number of publications in the next few weeks will predict that the Blackhawks won't be a repeat winner of the Stanley Cup.

The forced reassembling of the roster to accommodate the salary cap will be widely viewed as a sign of weakness.

How should the team react to that preseason downgrade? With quiet defiance. With renewed determination.

We will learn much more about this team in how the players accept being undervalued as champions rather than applauded as champions.

The Blackhawks character, or lack thereof, is going to be the first thing to watch for as many people doubt their ability to win it all again.

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Quenneville to win 2011 Jack Adams Award as Best NHL Coach--I bet

Considering that it's outlandish, irresponsible and crazy to make any predictions about what will happen almost a year from now, I'm happy to oblige. Nuts R Us.

Joel Quenneville starts the 2010-11 NHL season as the favorite to claim the Jack Adams Award as the best coach in the league. In fact, I say he wins it.

Get me Las Vegas on the phone. I'll take 10-1.

Winning the Adams, though, is often a double-edged sword, because that guy often doesn't win the Cup. So winning the Adams can be viewed as a curse, too, when it simply confirms you're not the best coach that season when the skating stops.

Only three coaches have won the Adams and the Cup, beginning with the first year the award was issued to Philadelphia's Fred Shero in 1974.

By definition, to win the Adams you have to be "adjudged to have contributed the most to (your) team's success."

The archaic definition of adjudge is to condemn or sentence. The NHL is extremely familiar with archaic languages and rules. Many coaches have thus been condemned to win the Adams, and lose the war.

Hell of an award, ain't it, since losers usually win it. At least his bonus won't count against next year's salary cap when Q wins it, for which Brent Seabrook is eternally grateful.

I'm optimistically expecting Quenneville to return the Adams to its proper place as an honor and not a consolation prize.

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Blackhawks president McDonough has blood on his hands with Sosa--me, too

Here's some Chicago Tribune breaking news for you, just lost and loitering on ice in the frosty hinterlands of our far-flung Tribune world.

Chances are, you don't care about it. But I'm cleaning out my closet and thought I would throw a few musty things away and twist it toward the Blackhawks so I have a moral to my story.

Sammy Sosa lies. I know, I know, I hate to be so shocking, taking my detour away from all things skates and any GPS update on the Stanley Cup--which should be on the 9th hole with Dale Tallon--for a big-picture snapshot this summer day of how pro sports works.

And I say that still liking the guy. I'm no Sosa basher. He IS misunderstood. By that I mean, he doesn't even understand himself. How can the people who hate him ever hope to understand him if that's the case?

But I know he lies, because he lied to me. At least once. Quite significantly in light of what happened to him. Maybe a lot more, because you don't need snooping federal investigators to trace a pattern of his lies.

Sosa also lied (just a little white lie) in March, 2007, long after a real big red-lettered lie pushed the Cubs over the edge years before and convinced them to throw Sosa off Mt. Olympus, converting him from a god to a ghoul that played fast and loose with the facts.

"They are all my friends," Sosa said about being outwardly welcomed by some Cubs officials when he revisited his old spring training home in Mesa, Az., as a Texas Rangers' player. "I don't have no enemies over there. I was nice with everybody."

Sosa summarized in a nutshell what all his enemies past and present disliked most about him. He didn't believe a word of what he said there and those Cubs officials knew it, too. He regularly hid behind a false facade, retreated to protect himself from scorn and name-calling because he felt enemies were all around him and he had to be vigilant in rebuffing their hurtful jabs and criticisms.

And he wasn't wrong, either. He had enemies aplenty in the Cubs locker room. Being the smart cookie he is, Sammy spent many hours building his defenses and finding a way to make those enemies grudgingly respect him, even if it meant resorting to an illegal means of body-building that he suspected others of using effectively and a lie that even major-league baseball commissioner Bud Selig silently sanctioned the way Sosa obviously viewed it.

Remember, Selig was going out of his way to fly to Sosa's annual birthday bash in the Dominican Republic at a time when many baseball officials now are admitting a strong suspicion existed throughout baseball that steroid use was prevalent, just not publically acknowledged as a lie that needed exposing and examination.

Ask Selig about that and his reply wouldn't be much different from what Sosa's was in the current Chicago Magazine profile when confronted about his failures to pass a steroids test in his playing days.

I don't want to talk about that, Sammy said. Well, no shit. There's the problem in another nutshell. They never had to talk about it. For years, Sammy and Bud didn't have to speak about it openly, either. Assuming and prevaricating was good enough for both. Direct questions were considered unfounded attacks without proof.

What was Sosa to infer from Selig bowing at the altar with all the rest, as well as Cubs president Andy MacPhail? Yep. He inferred everyone was in on the charade and it was business as usual. MacPhail quietly believed Sosa was lying all along about his age, but a certain amount of artful lying is permitted in pro sports.

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New Blackhawks fan favorite arrives anonymously from Edmonton wilderness

August in Chicago is not conducive to Stanley Cup dreams. Those thoughts are microwaved into ambiguity by endless streams of humidity that are more oppressive than sneers from Chris Pronger and certain Detroit Red Wings bloggers we know and abhor 12 months a year, 24 hours a day, 60 seconds a minute.

So in fear that you might miss an important addition to the Blackhawks from whatever air-conditioned igloo you happen to inhabit, I am here to alert you proactively that successfully defending that title just became a little more certain for me.

A brand new crowd favorite has arrived in Chicago, even if you couldn't find Fernando Pisani on Thursday morning on the Blackhawks' official website. The defensive-oriented forward, a positive force at 33, will reportedly be paid $500,000 in a one-way deal.

That momentary, monetary sigh you just heard was from Antti Niemi. But let's definitely move on. As I believe Niemi grumbled and mumbled in Finlandese in remorse: Piss on it.

So we shall. Pisani will be a paisan to one and all, Italians and itinerants everywhere in Hawks world. He has a history as a blue-collar worker, the type beloved by Chicago fans whenever those kind of athletes grace our hard-working city.

Pisani rhymes with Capone if you pronounce Big Al's last name with a finishing flourish and accent it with the screams of EEEE, as they did that famous St. Valentine's Day when the muckers let loose with machine-gun fire.

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Vote now for ex-Blackhawks you will miss most during next season

Since Jonathan Toews and Miley Cyrus are wedded on You Tube by her stammering performance at a dumb music awards show after the season, where she lost track of her prompts of what to recite--and left Toews at loose ends with those deft hands playing pocket pool with his mouth on mute while Miley muttered--we might as well refer to my dogeared Hannah Montana songbook for today's theme music.

"I miss you/I miss your smile/And I still shed a tear/Every once in a while/And even though we're different now/You're still here somehow/My heart won't let you go/And I need you to know/I miss you, sha la la/I miss you."

But who will we miss the most? Sha la la.

Since it's almost time to go back to school, where I'm pretty confident this time I will be able to pass 6th grade, we better brush up on our pop quizzes and be in shape to explain the whys, wherefores, and what-the-hells of another season where we are told that less will be more, just wait-and-see.

You have heard the one about the loaves and the fishes and how Jesus found a way for fish-and-chips for all. Well, Scotty Bowman can match that. The Holy Trinity lives on West Madison with John, Stan and Scotty.

We all might not be as important as Tribune columnist David Haugh, who got to see Stan Bowman's very own blackboard at United Center, as the Hawks reindoctrinated their chief apologist with new talking points to brainwash the masses. Intrepid reporters will go to any lengths these days to suck a Tom, Dick or Harry, and here's a David who couldn't slingshot a Goliath if he was holding an Uzi.

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Niemi, Huet face tragic balcony scene Friday at Blackhawks convention

I'm flipping through my Emily Post etiquette book and I can't find it anywhere.

What exactly is the proper response for Antti Niemi to take if he has one foot inside this Blackhawks' house and one foot out the door? Techincally, he might still be a Blackhawk. Realistically, if speculation holds true, he may not be Blackhawks' property by week's end.

When the time comes Friday at 5 p. m. to introduce him to the adoring hordes of Stanley Cup carousers at the Blackhawks convention in the Hilton Chicago, along with the rest of the 2010-11 team, is Niemi a no-show or a gambler who may need his goalie mask if the fans decide to pepper him with boos more than cheers?

Some might consider his money-grab attempt greedy. Others will consider it just business, as usual, where Chicago fans mean everything to players, as long as a lucrative pay-to-play deal goes with it.

Who can blame Niemi for getting the most he can get? Well, somebody will. Blame never rests.

Many seem to consider Niemi beside the point. Be nice to have him, but if he is expendable, so be it. So would these people laud Niemi's Stanley Cup efforts or simply be indifferent to his presence and react quietly when he is introduced?

The Niemi salary arbitration hearing is Thursday in Toronto and the arbiter can make a determination within 48 hours afterward. So the outcome could trickle on until Saturday, perhaps as late as Sunday, before that official announcement on Niemi's salary is unveiled.

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Blackhawks need less celebrating, more reassembling of what's left behind

We could use a Black Jack offspring for the Blackhawks convention this weekend.

Black Jack was the most famous riderless horse for military funerals, poignantly representing the valiantly fallen and the missing. There should be hockey sticks instead of boots turned backwards in the stirrups and a bottle of Jagermeister's finest emptily hanging from the saddle horn as a reminder of past glory and past celebrations for the upcoming festivities.

And if there is a son of Black Jack named Blackhawk out there, which seems like perfect genealogical thinking to me, who better to be paraded down Michigan Ave. as we bury the Stanley Cup in its own vault and raise a cup or two of iced teas for the fallen and the breathing.

On second thought, I suspect there will be plenty of horseshit to go around once Blackhawks management takes the podium this weekend in downtown Chicago. No need for a platoon of Black Jacks to remember our departed comrades, although there's bound to be some seperation anxiety with Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Andrew Ladd, Adam Burish, Ben Eager, John Madden and Brent Sopel so recently capped and convicted of being expendable excess--and ridden off into the sunset, where Ladd perhaps still sits with the Cup as his faithful companion atop the mountain.

This week should also determine the fate of Antti Niemi. His arbitration hearing is scheduled for Thursday. If the two sides want to avoid it, as they claim they would prefer, that means we can expect a deal to be announced by Thursday.

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Niemi's agent prefers "negotiated settlement" to arbitration--and talks "trade"

Bill Zito, Antti Niemi's agent, said on The Score (AM-670) Wednesday morning that he preferred not going to an arbitration hearing July 29 with the Blackhawks.

"I always think a negotiated settlement is best," Zito told morning hosts Mike Mulligan and Brian Hanley. "We have a pretty good case, but there is always a risk. Did O. J. really not do it?"

I like this guy. Not afraid to resurrect the moldy image of Simpson sitting in prison serving penalty box time for the wrong infraction rather than spend every moment shamelessly promoting Niemi as a prisoner to Chicago's handcuffed salary cap.

Simpson would fit right in with the Hawks, who like sending the wrong guy to the box when they can get away with it. But as far as I know Zito is not his agent, nor was he lobbying the Hawks to pick up The Juice on waivers to make a much bigger free agent splash than Ilya Kovalchuk will.

I must take exception with my Chicago Now colleague Jay Zawaski, the producer of Mulligan and Hanley's show. He posted the headline on his blog that claimed Zito said in the interview: Hawks Would Be "Crazy" To Let Goaltender Go.

Context is everything here. Zito was reacting to a Hanley question in which he was asked if the Hawks may be free to walk away from an arbiter's decision if it went against them financially or if it's binding.

"The team can walk away," Zito responded. "In this instance is a team going to walk away from a 27-year-old goaltender who won the Stanley Cup? You're crazy...You'll make a trade first."

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Niemi gets little love as Blackhawks debate his net worth to a championship

I'm bored. Aren't you?

I guess there ain't no cure for the summertime blues.

I see where GM Stan Bowman is still supposedly ferociously wheeling-and-dealing in the Blackhawks front office and I can't stop myself from stifling a yawn. He is no Patrick Kane when it comes to holding a guy's attention.

He reminds me of Forrest Gump, so I suspect Tom Hanks can easily be bought off for the role to play Bowman in the upcoming Blackhawks' project: Twilight, Blackhawks Bloodlust.

In fact, from what I read, Bowman should be directed to summer school by president John McDonough and forced into media training. Talking to a bunch of dim-wits is a special art form and Bowman has failed the test repeatedly, ending up looking like the Charlie McCarthy dummy who will say the darndest things when someone pulls the strings and chokes his vocal cords.

Such as: we are just fine now, no problems moving forward. C'mon, we all know what happens when they say that on All My Children and General Hospital. Key in all the ominous music as we go to commercial break. Doomsday after this announcement for a chocolate chip cookie mix from Ed Olczyk's wife.

When Bowman ends up sounding dumber than the media and a major part of your job is communicating with the media, you need some serious help. When you end up sounding dumber than a blogger, well, it could be a terminal case of the yips and there may be no known cure other than forcing Jay Blunk, who functions as the Sarah Palin of hockey, to explain everything.

After being subjected to major splashes the past two summers, we are now forced to settle for skinny dipping. We make a plunge when forced by famous hammerhead Shark Doug Wilson to ante up for Nik Hjalmarrson, but otherwise appear content to wiggle our toes in the shallow end of the pool and hope we have sufficient wiggle room to stay afloat with this championship cruise.

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Hjalmarsson offer sheet jeopardizes Bowman's word

Niklas Hjalmarsson.jpg


Doug Wilson fired a high, hard one at the upper left corner.  Stan Bowman has seven days to take one off the mask or duck for cover.

The former Blackhawks defenseman took a shot at his former team as Wilson's San Jose Sharks signed Niklas Hjalmarsson to a 4-year, $14 million offer sheet.  The puck is now in Bowman's corner as the Hawks general manager has seven days to match the offer or take the Sharks first and third round selections in the 2011 NHL entry draft as compensation for losing Hjalmarsson.

There is more at stake for the salary-cap strapped Hawks than losing Brian Campbell's defensive mate.  The Stanley Cup champs may now be forced to choose between Hjalmarsson and goaltender Antti Niemi.  Plus, with Hjamarsson locked in at $3.5 million per season, Bowman may find it difficult to re-sign Brent Seabrook next summer when the blueliner is scheduled to become a retsricted free agent.

Maybe even more importantly for the inexperienced Blackhawks general manager, Bowman's word is at stake.  This is the guy who stated that no more moves were necessary after he dealt Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager to the Thrashers to only then send Kris Versteeg, Colin Fraser and Andrew Ladd packing for other NHL addresses.  Add in Adam Burish and John Madden and the Hawks have already dropped eight players from last season's roster.

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Survey says--Niemi should settle for 4 years, $12 million with Blackhawks

In 2005, Nikolai Khabibulin signed with the Blackhawks for four years, $27 million.

That was after he played in 55 regular-season games for Tampa Bay and went 28-19-7 with three shutouts, a .233 GAA and a .910 save percentage.

He followed that with a 16-7 playoff record, including five shutouts, a 1.71 GAA and a championship. He was 32 years old coming to Chicago and would play a total of 15 postseason games here (all from '08-'09) at 8-6 with a 2.93, .917.

In 2008, Cristobal Huet signed with Chicago for four years, $22.4 million.

That was after he played in 13 games down the stretch for the Washington Capitals and went 11-2 in '07-'08 with a 1.63 GAA and .936 save percentage.

He followed that with a 3-4 record in seven playoff games and a 2.90 GAA and .909 save percentage. He turned 33 in September of 2008 and would play four more postseason games for Chicago with a 1-2 record.

Let's reassess. Almost $50 million combined committed to Khabibulin and Huet for the last six years and all for a combined postseason record in Chicago of 9-8. Doesn't add up, does it?

In July/August this year, Antti Niemi, 27 next month, signed for....

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Sunny Beach should be in Blackhawks picture, but forecast is fuzzy with chance of rain

Sounds to me as if Kyle Beach needs some love. Just two years ago, the Blackhawks selected him 11th overall in the NHL draft.

And the love showered down upon him--after the usual caveats, of course.

"There are questions about his skating and Beach did see his production drop off in  the second half of this past season after a concussion and sports hernia," ESPN's Scott Burnside wrote in June, 2008.

OK, wait for it. The love is here.

"But scouts also say he might be the most talented player in the draft and the Blackhawks are certainly hoping he is able to join an impressive cast of youngsters helping revive hockey in Chicago."

Well, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are in the market for a strong left wing, such as Beach is suppose to be. A guy that can be rugged and yet possess some scoring touch, a guy like Dustin Byfuglien.

And if you would rather see Troy Brouwer remain with Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa on the second line and would prefer the physicality of Andrew Ladd on the third line with Dave Bolland and Kris Versteeg (provided nothing changes), Beach would appear to be in line for a promotion.

Maybe a big promotion to play alongside his fellow first rounders. It could be a true first line in all respects.

But there appear to be some holdups with plugging Beach into the pipeline.

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Byfuglien fan says Blackhawks got it all wrong, that he was part of unbreakable core

As noted by Emily Dickinson, aka the Massachusetts Mauler, who teams on the dead poet's society with Don Cherry for the keenest, plaidest crew of hockey analysts extant in perpetuity:

"Parting is all we know of heaven and all we need to know of hell."

Dustin Byfuglien fans are suffering the sting of seperation, and while most will recover and return once the Blackhawks reassert their dominance, they now have a cudgel to hammer at the organization if the defending champions run into trouble next season and can't rely when cornered on their own Paul Bunyan from Minnesota to drop the ax, cut through the underbrush and get them back on track.

"I guess I'm a Thrashers' fan now," my friend, Paul Czerwien of Brookfield, said Thursday morning with a downcast look.

Becoming a Thrashers fan can made you shudder. This day, however, Gone With The Wind came to Chicago and Paul smelled nothing but garbarge in the stiff wind of change. The Hawks ripped his Byfuglien jersey off his back and Paul didn't like that strip search one bit, feeling betrayed by the team he just cheered on to a championship and cheered hardest at the parade as during the season for the one player he felt deserved a better fate.

There has not been a repeat champion in the NHL since 1998, when Scotty Bowman figured out how to do it with Detroit. Paul argues the Blackhawks and Bowman Jr. just made not defending the crown more likely to be the case by cutting away one huge chunk of their heart, their soul, their reason for being.

For now, I will refrain from bringing Jean-Paul Sartre into it. Let's just say if your essense is created by your existence, the Hawks creased to exist on as lofty a plane as they did for Paul when Byfuglien showed you could lift the matter over the mind and win a loyal following as a mass marauder.

No Dustin, no destiny. No Dustin, no dancing. No Dustin, no destroyer.

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Byfuglien is first casualty of Blackhawks cap crunch

Big Buff.jpg


It will take the Chicago Blackhawks about 10 months to determine if they'll miss Dustin Byfuglien.

Say what you will about the big lug (and I've said plenty), but the impact of Byfuglien's removal from the Stanley Cup champions won't be felt until the Blackhawks meet the Vancouver Canucks in the second round of the NHL playoffs next year for the third consecutive season.  If the two Western Conference foes do meet again and Byfuglien is still the story, it will only mean the Hawks have failed in their efforts to replace him.

A former assistant to Dale Tallon, Atlanta Thrashers GM Rick Dudley has reportedly agreed in principle with the Blackhawks on a deal for Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager and Akim Aliu.  In exchange the Blackhawks will acquire veteran forward Marty Reasoner, prospect Jeremy Morin and both the 24th and 54th selections in Friday's NHL entry draft.

While the moves don't alter the solid foundation of the team, all three players played important roles for the Blackhawks.  Byfuglien became a serious contender to Jonathan Toews for the Conn Smythe after a playoff performance that included 11 goals and 5 assists.  Big Buff tied with Toews for the team lead in playoff powerplay goals with five.  Sopel didn't provide much offense, but his body probably still has the bruises to prove what an asset the defenseman was for a highly ranked shorthanded unit.  Eager should always be remembered for his late second period goal in Game 2 of the Finals which proved to be the game winner.  It was Eager's only goal of the playoffs, but that just makes it more memorable.

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Just an impatient waiting game for Blackhawks fans seeking answers

I'm waiting to hear if goaltender Antti Niemi has signed a 12-year, $63 million  contract with the Blackhawks.

I'm waiting to hear if Cristobal Huet has been exiled to Siberia, or at least to  some faraway land anywhere his contract can be transferred, frozen and taken off  Chicago's almost cooked books.

I'm waiting to hear if Patrick Sharp would be happy to return as the second-line  center or if he'd prefer knowing he's viewed as a valuable scoring winger in the club's plans.

I'm waiting to hear if Sharp would rather be traded to a team where he knows his job is to be a valuable scoring wingman, or come back to the Hawks and just take  his chances as a center/winger.

I'm waiting to hear if Dave Bolland is the only NHL third-line center capable of  earning $3.375 million a year.

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Blackhawks seek to avoid drafting NHL blockhead at ill-fated "30 Rock" spot

The Blackhawks are being asked to beat their National Hockey League brethren for

the second time in June as they congregate again to divide the spoils.

And this time the odds are against them. Eliminating the Philadelphia Flyers to

end our heartfelt deprivation after 49 years without a Stanley Cup championship

might be the easier task in comparison to the blind taste test challenge we are

about to conduct.

Fried chicken. Ribeye steak. Spam. Peas. Peanut butter. Cheez Whiz. Hot dogs.

Pommes Frites. Broccoli. Snails in garlic. Flounder. Cherries Jubilee.

They all will be on the menu.

Just don't know exactly what you're swallowing whole. But the game is on again,

mind games that will result in delighting or disgusting fans for years to come who

have witnessed the flotsam and jetsam of the NHL draft, as well as the ebb and

flows between stardom and surrender.

Now, Stan Bowman crouches over the dot, facing off against reams of resumes for

young men seeking a rewarding NHL education. The Blackhawks GM stands, however,

last in his class as he tries to scoop a winner out of this pile of pimples and

promise and pulchritude available starting next Friday at Staples Center in Los


Bowman selects 30th in the NHL draft, dead last in the first round, shuffled to

the end of the line. How difficult will it be for him to choose a player worthy

and effective, someone who can help insure the health of a booming franchise so

Chicago continues to parade their superiority for years to come?

Maybe he'll just trade away the 30th pick, because NHL history proves it's been

barren and bereft of meaningful talent for many years.

The Iceman Cometh. But in the NHL draft he often cometh in disguise. Bowman is

caught between a 30 rock and a hard place. What to do?

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Stanley Cup celebration is over for Blackhawks GM

Stan Bowman.jpg


I believe a week of celebration is about to end for Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman.  The young NHL executive did guide his club to their first Stanley Cup championship in 49 years in his first season at the helm.  But, rightly or wrongly, few people outside of the organization give the 37-year old much credit for his contributions to the Blackhawks success this year.  However, Bowman wasn't given the job to win now.  Blackhawks team president John McDonough named Bowman the team's ninth general manager in franchise history last July to ensure this team isn't one and done.

It's no secret that the Hawks face a daunting off-season of navigating the NHL salary cap while still skating into training camp with a core group of players who will be marketed as threats to repeat next spring.  Bowman was touted as the "numbers guy."  Well, may the crunching begin.

Fairly or not, the Hawks faithful will always credit Bowman's predecessor as the architect of 2010 Stanley Cup champion club.  Even McDonough has guided much of the praise toward former Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon for constructing a group that includes Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brian Campbell and Marian Hossa through a combination of the draft, trades and free agency.  But Bowman has been a part of the Hawks organization since 2001 when he was hired as a special assistant to the general manager.  The current GM's fingerprints are most certainly on some of the deals and contracts from the past couple of seasons - we'll just never know which ones.

How involved was Bowman in constructing Cristobal Huet's inflated deal in the summer of '08?  Did McDonough allow Tallon to operate without supervision last summer when he signed Hossa to a lifetime contract?  How deep was Bowman involved in last summer's RFA snafu that led to Tallon's dismissal?

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Sharp, Byfuglien won't be traded as Blackhawks start to play money ball

Patrick Sharp is too valuable to trade. There, I said it. Sharp will be back with the Blackhawks for 2010-11.

My son, Mark, may give me a lively argument. He has traded Sharp before. Maybe I did, too. Can't remember all my past landmark deals that fell through.

I know Sharp is back as the trade du jour. Sharp is so versatile, not only can he play wing and center, but he can play the fall guy better than anyone and ends up on the menu repeatedly as the catch of the day for some lucky team out there.

Take the hook out of Sharp's mouth. He should not be trade bait. And I don't feel he will be.

The brand new 2 million Blackhawks general managers could prefer to shave Sharp's $3.9 million from next year's budget to fit snugly into that salary cap predicted around $58.8 million, which is roughly my yearly budget, too. Because I have some expertise in these matters, I am pleased strictly as a public service to provide Kiley's Guide To Scrimping Through Life On A Mere $58.8 Million (before tips).

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Niemi says "no" to Chicago? His agent raises that question while seeking long-term deal

The celebration continues. From what I read, the Blackhawks victory tour rolls on with glad tidings still in full roar to The Tonight Show Monday night, which will be their second appearance of the season with Jay Leno.

Showboats R Us. The more they bathe in the glory, the more opponents steel their plans to bring the Blackhawks crashing back to earth just a few months from now with the relish that retribution brings to every hot dog.

No reason to stop enjoying the moment. They earned it. But they will pay a piper eventually for the dance. Just the facts of life. The party always ends and the people on the outside looking in often storm the castle and beat the satisfied holders of the throne.

Alas, champions always face a guillotine as their first order of business. The champagne bubbles always fade.

With the Los Angeles Lakers on the ropes in the NBA finals, talking hockey on a national stage in California is just another reason the NHL is happy to have the Blackhawks serve as their best goodwill ambassadors in terms of securing maximum exposure for the game.

I keep reading Helene Elliott writing repeatedly that the L. A. Kings have the Blackhawks' blueprint. They also have Terry Murray, whose coaching record leaves quite a bit to be desired and a lot of grease marks on the blueprint. Things like postseason success.

From blueprint to blue line is a huge gap, and if Leno went jaywalking and asking men and women on the street to name one Kings player, we would find out hockey is not just second to the Lakers, but secondary to life in Cal on any basis you care to name.

The Blackhawks, however, have some appealing characters that can make the virtual leap from being known on a limited basis in Chicago to celebrity status. There is an allure to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, first and foremost, that don't make them the Jonas Brothers, but pretty darn close.

You could imagine Disney actually creating two fictional characters such as Toews and Kane and bringing them to the screen. One a free spirit, one dependable. That script has sold over and over in Hollywood since they started making movies. Used to be Clark Cable and William Powell, guys like that. Now Toews, Kane.

Antti Niemi made the biggest news of the weekend, however. Not him exactly. His agent, Bill Zito, did the talking while Niemi told Chicago media he didn't want personally to say anything about a new contract. And since Zito said he has not bothered Niemi with contract talks right now, maybe it will be news to Niemi as well that he wants a long-term contract to re-sign with the club.

Zito said he wants the Hawks to sign Niemi to one of those Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa lifetime guarantees, lock him up for 13 years or so. Of course he does, but you can bet the Hawks are not going to do it with so much yet to be learned about Niemi.

Zito talked to the National Post in Canada. "He's going to get his money," Zito said about Niemi. "But the term is going to have something to do with it, too."

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