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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.

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  • Solid , cogent analysis, Vegas, well done.

    I think SB has done a great job to date with all things Blackhawk. In fact, having nowhere to go but down after the cup win, we really did need to give him some time to stamp this team with his personal watermark. Let's face it, last year he had fourth line forwards (being paid as such) playing in top nine roles and reserve dmen taking regular shifts for at least the first half of the season. It was a patchwork job trying to fill the roster with 500k players because of capocalypse. Yes, they made the dance by a hangnail and could have advanced with a break here and there, but all-in-all we all knew that changes were coming. To that end as you point out, he has done extremely well at addressing the the teams needs moving forward. The short-term contracts handed out certainly have one-eye towards the future and will allow the prospects to season in the minors until they are ready. (This was/is the Detroit way and you can bet the SB sr. is having an influence with player development).

    The move to let Campoli walk was another shrewd move that netted them—in the end—1.75M in cap savings and a player of equal caliber with more upside, IMO. It is clear that there is a fiscal plan in place and Campoli was not slated as a top 4 d-man and was not going to be paid accordingly. I like that line of thinking.

    I differ with you on the end of "the puck carrying d thing" though. I think you'll see Leddy assume more and more of that role now that he doesn't have to do the Rockford shuffle and will be able to practice with the team on a regular basis. He does, after all, posses great skating ability and good vision. At the very least, he'll be given a shot.

    Since prospects/draft picks are just that, and, in all honesty, I don't follow that stuff too seriously, I'll pass on commenting here. Suffice to say by all accounts I have read the cupboard certainly isn't bare down on the farm.

    In sum, I think we'll see a team that is much tougher to play against at both ends of the ice. Less goals against and more goals for bodes well for the coming season.

    SB has done a fine job so far.

  • Well, I didn't want to invoke Detroit, but we haven't heard from oneteam for awhile anyway and I agree with your point. I think we have a solid prospect pipeline, but only if they can actually be developed.

    On the D thing, that's kind of my gut feeling for now. SB picked up experience, but not speed. I believe Leddy is Campbell light and basically has the same kind of strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, I think he should start in Campbell's spot, though I don't think he should stay if he can't win it. My hesitation stems largely from seeing less skilled teams succeed with frequency against the Hawks by basically playing a trap system or pushing a hard forecheck. If they learn how to use the forwards to bust that up, I think the puck carrying D thing can come back.

  • Thanks for posting Vegas, it was a delight to read as always.

    I think I could go on and on about the things you touched upon. Mainly, I suppose the article should be addressed to SB himself. And, also looking around at other blogs I think this one seems to back him a bit more than the others. So, I am inclined to say yes, SB has addressed what this organization needed.

    The only issue I have is his inability to keep Chris C. around. Whether or not it was a good move, the system has drastically changed. Leddy is good, and I think he will be much better than what we saw last year, especially playing alongside Hjalmer, but the team is no longer an exceptionally great puck moving team. Although, I am waiting to see what Sami Lepisto has up his sleeve (he just might be better than he looked in the past years).

    Maybe SB payed a bit too much for Montador and should have payed Campoli a tad more to keep him solidifying a nearly perfect D-squad in my opinion that would have overwhelmed in all accounts, but no one is perfect and I have to hand it to SB for getting rid of the Campbell-noose.

    SB is obviously pulling away from having a specific system and trading it for a more balanced team, one that is really tough to play against. He seems to want a team that builds off of a strong defensive game and that still has the potential to overwhelm offensively. I think FF's last statement says it best, "less goals against, more goals for."

    Brunette alone adds a few goals for, and I am expecting much better production out of Frolik and Stalberg. The question is as it has been for some time, what will the line combos look like? I like what I saw in Saad, and the Hayes borthers. Is SB expecting Kruger to be that 4th, or maybe even 3rd line center? Once a center is found or simply placed, who do we see playing with Hossa?
    I personally see these combos together at the moment:
    Sharp-Kane
    Toews-Hossa
    Bolland-Frolik-Bickell
    Mayers-Carcillo
    Is Sharp a center? Does Brunette fit well with him and Kane? Or is Stalberg's speed a better fit?
    Maybe it is Toews-Sharp-Kane again. Hossa will get whomever the Hawks decide to be that other center along with Brunette.

  • Your fourth para says it to me, SB seems to be pulling away from a specific system in order to create a balanced team that is tough to play against. Too often last year, I thought the Hawks got beat by teams they shouldn't have lost to. And, I thought they typically lost the same way nearly every time. At some point, I think an abundance of skill can overwhelm even the best trap and grind teams and the Preds series before the cup run is a pretty good example of that. But they didn't have that abundance last year.

    At times I thought some snarl was missing last year and at times I thought it was a lack of willingness to win battles. But something that I thought was constant was a lack of willingness to play the game that was being presented to them. To compare to the wings again, that is a team that will play whatever game is presented to them. They don't get too frustrated, they work as a team and they don't try to fight and push what isn't working. If they lose, they lose and move on and stick together as a team.

    Early in the season, I liked what I was seeing from guys like Pisani and speculated that this was exactly what the team needed, grinder guys who would go out every shift and do what needed to be done. But, instead of his attitude rubbing off on others, I think he kind of became just a low line guy doing his thing while cup veteran guys did their own thing. What they lost in skill this year I think they gained in maturity and experience. For where the Hawks are coming out of last season, this was a trade off I think they needed to make.

  • I dunno guys. I don't think that SB has anything to do with the system. That's all on Q. If what you're saying is that the team may have to alter its style because of the new personnel then that may be so, but, I don't imagine they'll suddenly stop skating and peel back when the opposition counter-attacks. (Do we really want to see another Tampa?) Yes, they have always had trouble with trapping teams but mostly, I think, because they couldn't be bothered to try and break it down—last year particularly so. The hawk game is skating and puck possession and while they may be slower than last year they now have the ability to counter any physical intimidation and apply physical play at both ends of the ice which is something they couldn't do last year. In both instances this should create more puck possession.

    You were bang on Vegas, when you said that so far all we know about the new players is that they can sign autographs. There's much to be revealed in how the chemistry evolves and how the new players fit into the "system" (used advisedly). I don't expect Q to alter his game plan to suit the newcomers. I'm sure considerable deliberation went into who they were signing and what their contributions would be.

    Indeed, teamwork is a key as many a talented team has been taken down by a hardworking team. Not being a Q apologist, btw.

  • In reply to fourfeather:

    My assumption is that Q is now just a symbol and not the person in the drivers seat anymore, if he ever was. Much like the President in many ways. I see other people calling the shots now with Q just being the guy who verbalizes it to the team and tries to make it work.
    I had been knocking around writing a post about it.

  • In reply to Hostile Hawk:

    There's no doubt that SB sr. has a very influential voice in the management of the on-ice product. He was the one who suggested Q for the job. I think Q has more to offer than being a parrot to SB sr though. Much as I have my quiblles with him, he is one of the winningest coaches in the NHL.

  • I also do not want to overlook the Crawford element:
    Niemi was the kind of goaltender who could make spectacular saves when he was down and out, while CC's strength comes from a strong position game where he can anticipate the shot. This hypothetical new style of playing might put Crawford in a position to post the best goals against average in the league next season and keep him from getting worn out.

  • In reply to Hostile Hawk:

    HH, are you feeling comfortable with the unknown quantity that is Salak as our back-up tender. How many games can we count on CC to play?
    I've thought about this and perhaps one area we may see them shore up on is getting a veteran to back-up the two goalies. No, not another Turco …

  • In reply to fourfeather:

    Osgood?

    Just kidding.

  • I have heard good things about Salak. For the moment, my guess is that he will be a fine back-up. I also see CC playing an above average amount of games.

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