Well actually, this is more of a what DID Stan Bow do discussion then anything else but like most things I type, it will probably veer off track several times. (disclaimer, there aren't actually any bracelets available at this time) Certainly, this topic has been hit multiple times on different blogs and I'm probably not going to hit anything entirely original. That said we've all kind of hit on some repeating themes here and now seems as good a time as any to discuss whether or not we think SB has actually addressed what we are looking for.
In a couple of posts, my laundry list of important things included seeing SB solidify the organ-I-zation. Not only with players, but with cohesion from Rockford to Chicago and with players on the ice following a gameplan. But, something I also felt was important was to not rush players up into the bigs just because they showed some flashes. Not many buy into the premise that burning off a year of a entry contract with on the job training is a big deal, but considering the Hawks have not always handled development very well, this was an area that I hoped Bowman would address. I'm not sure he's hit all of that, yet, but I like a lot of what I've seen so far.
Watching what was happening on the ice, it seems hard to picture that everyone in that locker room showed up ready to go and stayed ready to go as the season wore on. I have no complaints with the housecleaning Stan did in terms of set of skills and roster spots, but I also feel like a clear statement was made that what happened last year won't be tolerated this year. Moreover, now that capocalypse is done and Campbell's contract has been dealt, this is now Bowman's team and he expects the guys coming in to be vocal, to be hardworking and to be guys that will hold others accountable. I've read things and heard rumors that there was tension last year, but who really knows? With the trades, SB has both confirmed who His core is and has also created a situation of competitiveness wherein one year guys will need to make themselves valuable or be replaced. Additionally, he has also created breathing room to develop younger players.
On that note, I am very pleased with what he is doing, although I have to admit I am speculating about how the season roster is going to look. To me, if player is projected to be a top six forward or top four D man, I would rather see him play that position in the AHL rather then play lower lines where the role of that line is significantly different. As it stands now, there's not a ton of room for AHL guys to crack the roster, but more importantly, there's not a deficit of talent up top that requires the team to push guys too soon. In reality, we have not seen this new group do anything but sign autographs. Still, conceptually, I like the sense of freedom and control Stan has given himself on paper.
In various ways, I complained endlessly last season that I felt the team needed to stop trying to recreate the style of the cup run and drop into a simpler, grittier, hard working gameplan. We saw it sometimes, and they looked very solid. But it was never consistent. With the dismissal of Campbell, I think the puck carrying D thing is done and I honestly think this might open the D up to be more involved in the offense. Additionally, something we all griped about was a need for some snarl and again, on paper, I don't think anyone can say SB didn't take a stab at correcting this.
In two years, I think Stan has thus far done a pretty solid job of blowing up a cup winning team, staying competitive following winning the cup (though barely) and then finishing the job of dealing bad contracts while bringing in a lot of experienced players at very reasonable deals to begin what is arguably the real "start" of his tenure as a GM. From a top down perspective, I think this is a very good beginning. However, I still think this is kind of a crucial year that might set the tone for years to come and only time will tell how that plays out. Like I said above, I think SB has bought himself some freedom to really establish a predictable path of development/progression for prospects to make it to the NHL. I didn't see the prospects camp, but from what I read, the focus on skills rather then just scrimmaging seems like a very interesting change. But how does it all fit? That's still my big question.
Though we saw some things we liked at times, I still think it's hard to say the Hawks ended the season with a "system" and with the player changes, it seems like they will be starting over again. But, if SB is going to keep some of the kids down and really focus on certain skills and playing the game a certain way, the next couple of years could really be what lays the foundation for what I hope they can become. After decades of mismanagment followed by Tallon's stellar build and cup win, it seems like they are so close to again being right back at the top and in a position to seriously challenge for the cup every year. With the new realities of the cap world, I think that at the least, this team is in very good shape.
Filed under: Uncategorized