With the NHL lockout now on its twelfth day, details continue to support this being a lengthy dispute. The NHL and NHLPA will resume negotiations Friday, but without a focus on the economic issues that remain at the forefront of the dispute. Whispers of the entire season eventually being cancelled persist, and while many of us begin preparing for the pain of no Blackhawks action any time soon, there is one person in Chicago who should be rejoicing the longer this lockout lasts. That man is Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman.
Since the exhilarating ride to winning the Stanley Cup during the 2009-10 season, the team has been bounced in the first round of the playoffs in two consecutive years. Certainly, the 2010-11 campaign was the most alarming, as the team struggled to find any consistency throughout the entire season before backing into the playoffs on the last day of regular play. They lost in OT to the Detroit Red Wings, but claimed the eighth seed as the Dallas Stars defeated the Minnesota Wild.
While the 2011-12 season was slightly better, with the team cracking the 100-point mark and claiming the sixth seed in the Western Conference, the playoffs may have been even worse than the previous year. Last season, the Hawks fell in only six games, and got shut-out during the final bout, in the series against the Phoenix Coyotes.
The intensity of the two playoff series in back-to-back years cannot be disputed; the Hawks were down 3-0 in the series against the Canucks in 2011 before winning three in a row to force game seven. Toews tied the game with under two minutes left in regulation, before losing shortly into overtime. Although last year the Hawks only lasted six games against the Phoenix Coyotes, the five overtime matches set an NHL record for OTs in a playoff series.
Great. Being entertained by playoff hockey is one thing, but after winning the Stanley Cup two seasons earlier, Hawks fans deserved more than two consecutive playoff births with immediate exits. Last year's off-season offered Hawks fans some hope in the form of free agents and predicted further development of their prospects. However, 2012 did not come through in those areas as fans had hoped. Steve Montador and Sean O'Donnell showed glimpses of productivity, but overall did little to push the Hawks past where they had been a year before. The story was similar for the Hawks' yougsters. While the likes of Leddy, Kruger, Shaw and Hayes again showed flashes of great play, none seemed ready to take the next step and begin filling in the voids left by the roster from the dismantling of the 2009-10 Championship team.
Unless fans are to count on these young players stepping-up in a way that remains yet to be evident, there is not much reason to assume things will be any better this year.
Stan Bowman's "big" addition to the team for this, supposed, upcoming season was defenseman Sheldon Brookbank. While this was not a bad signing, Bowman fell short on acquiring any substantial free agents that he had targeted, such as forwards Shane Doan and Zach Parise. Other additions by Bowman for the 2012-13 campaign include defenseman Michal Rozsival and AHL forward Martin St. Pierre. That doesn't get your juices flowing, Hawk fans?
Bowman did little, if anything, to bolster his roster for this upcoming season. Not to mention that the Blackhawks' leading scorer, Marian Hossa, is still on the long road back from the vicious concussion he suffered at the hands of Raffi Torres during last year's playoff series. The latest status on Hossa was positive, as he had been working out and was happy with where he was at, but he had not been back on the ice yet. Who knows when Hossa will be back, and at what level of play he will be able to compete? Fans had to endure the ongoing issues from Toews' concussion last year, and one must wonder what Hossa will be able to bring to the table whenever he does return.
The longer this lockout continues, the better it is for Stan Bowman. Chicago fans are happily distracted with the Bears right now, as well as the White Sox and their efforts to win their division. However, as October approaches, and fans have nothing to watch in-between Bears games except for a Derrick Rose-less Bulls squad, additional fans turning their attention to the Hawks will begin to realize how little they have to root for... unless the lockout continues.
If the season does eventually begin, the Blackhawks should be a competitive team, but there is no reason to feel good about them being competitive enough to do more than disappoint, once again, in the first round of the playoffs. Bowman needs to be held responsible for the shortcomings of the team since winning the Stanley Cup. That Championship roster was overpaid and had to be dismantled, but making no significant improvements to the team after two straight first round exits from the playoffs is inexcusable at this point.
Every day that the NHL lockout prevails is another day that Stan Bowman can breathe easy, knowing his poor performance can continue to fly under the radar.
Tags: 2012 NHL Lockout, Andrew Shaw, Chicago Bears, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Bulls, Chicago White Sox, Dallas Stars, Derrick Rose, Free Agent Signings, Free Agents, Hockey, Jimmy Hayes, Jonathan Toews, Labor Disputes, Marcus Kruger, Marian Hossa, Martin St. Pierre, Minnesota Wild, NHL, Nick Leddy, Phoenix Coyotes, Raffi Torres, Roster, Sean O'Donnell, Shane Doan, Sheldon Brookbank, Stan Bowman, Steve Montador, Vancouver Canucks, Western Conference Playoffs 2011, Western Conference Playoffs 2012, Zach Parise