Stan Bowman has created excitment for this Blackhawks fan.

Stan Bowman has created excitment for this Blackhawks fan.

Really quick, before I get to the subject of the title for this post; Toews and Bolland are not playing Thursday night against the Wild. Bruno is probably out as well, and I do not want Hawks fans overlooking his recent contributions to the top line. I might be 1 of only a few who are happy to see Toews sit another game, but the Bolland thing does bring up some fears within my brain. The Hawks are without their top 2 centers 2 games before the playoffs and that creates a fair amount of anxiety.

However, the Wild were jerks the other day, I don't want to see further injury to key players at this point in the season, and I really don't want the Hawks to play the Preds in round 1. So, losing is alright in my book.

Thats not what I am here to talk about at the moment though. I want to suggest a few items that have been on my mind as of late, and that is how I might be starting to see Stan Bowman as a freaking genius. The pieces seem to be coming together, no thanks to the coaching staff, but still coming together in a very specific way. I mean, winning without Toews is a big deal, and it is how that has me anticipating a brilliant future for the Hawks organization.

As mentioned in an earlier post, Stalberg is coming into his own, which I knew was only a matter of time. I just don't think that there is a single player in the NHL who can match his speed. Yes, I am saying that he just might be the fastest thing on ice, well, ever. I expect unbelievable things from him next year as it seems his comfort and confidence are on the rise. The Hawks are also in a pretty good situation in terms of contract with him for next year. Lets see what he does in the post-season. We might get a bargain for the next few years.

What does that mean for next year's forward line-up?

  • Lets start with Kruger, who has grown in his abilities in many ways, enabling him to handle the 2nd line center role rather well. This is very promising, but I see him more as depth in the future and more of a back-up plan to other options. More on that in a sec.
  • One can not overlook Shaw's ability to cause problems and score goals, and while I wonder about injuries given his style and smallish frame, he somehow seems immune. It will be difficult for him to bulk up given the extended season and lack of off time, but I see him as a sign for good things.
  • And then there are the prospects. Brandon Pirri looks very promising in the center position. He plays that position the way it was meant to, has shown very well in his few bouts in the NHL and has much room for growth. Phillip Danault was just recently assigned to Rockford, and the verdict is still out, but he has made a good impression. Mark Mcneill will most likely get some looks next year, and he is also promising. Jimmy Hayes is without question a future presence in the administration. And then there is Saad whom we already know has much to offer. The list goes on as well. Olesz and Morin are still in the system, along with a few other names that have shown well in the past.
  • With the huge pick-up in the form of Johnny Oduya, the defensive end has started to look like a future strength, rather than achilles heel.

It is with the addition of Oduya that I really began to get giddy about the future of this team. This guy is good, and I soon realized that the Hawks were a cuncussion away from having Montador and Hjalmer making up their 5th and 6th spots on the D. The importance of that can not be overlooked, as it was SB who moved the pieces to make that happen. Unfortunately, it is not the case, but Hjalmer is still our 5th D-man and Olsen has shown a great deal of strength (however, I question his ability to handle the playoff minutes).

The Hawks are very close to having a dream team, and with the depth to back it up. Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp, Bolland, and believe me when I say that Stalberg will post big numbers next year. Plug in a prospect here and there, or Brunette, Kruger, Shaw, and Hayes. Brunette is a tested 20 goal scorer, Shaw would have posted 30 this year with a full season, and Hayes seems primed for something in that area as well. The options are becoming bountiful and really promising.

The topper is that this team is starting to figure out their game-plan. Call it the emergence of a system in the past month or so. The Hawks have realized that they can demand control of the neutral zone, and that when they have it other teams fall out of their system. For the first time since the Cup year, the Hawks have the power to control other team's play.

I honestly think that the Hawks represent a serious threat to go very deep this year, and they aren't even at their full potential yet. We have seen a team that can dominate with a roster full of talent. You might have noticed my ignorance of the goaltending situation, as I find it the only missing piece at the moment. Crow might find his groove again, but I have my doubts.

Pieces will be moved next year. Hayes seems like the likely candidate for Bickell's spot, and Fro is way too expensive for the 4th line. Hjalmer's salary is a bit high for his current place, but I also expect him to be better next year. With or without him, I anticipate a very strong Hawks line-up in a year's time, and Stan Bowman is the man behind that happening.

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  • HH, no offense here, but SB genius, no way.

    I think you're jaded by the spate of mediocrity that has surrounded this team for the last two years. Yup, they're playing alright. Yup, they're doing it without JT. Yup, Oduya has helped immensely. Yup, they have as good a shot as anyone to emerge victorious from the West. Doesn't mean it will happen though.

    The recent good play, IMO, is simply a result of the team's refusal to fail. I don't see how Q has affected this and I think that SB just lucked out with Oduya. Nobody trades with him except for his former 'hawk mentors and sidekicks. Sure he got Stalberg from Burke in TO but at the time he had to unload Versteeg. Unless Montador or Hammer goes Oduya is a goner this summer. Stalberg's has improved because he's been put into a position to succeed and that was predicated on the necessity to change the line-up without JT. He gets more minutes and the results are starting to show in his play.

    SB is the man who brought us O'Donnell, Brunette, Lepisto, and while they have been moderately useful this year, many will be gone next year. Let's not forget Olesz sitting down in the minors eating up 3m of Wirtz's money and he also extended Frolik and Crawford with unmovable contracts. Don't forget too, that Carcillo has been extended, so that means that Hayes will likely be back in Rockford next year.

    My take is, we're pretty much in the same position as last year heading into the Free Agent period. More money to spend, but unless he has a better eye for the talent he is signing, things will not improve much next year. Shaw will be back but it remains to be seen whether he can produce over the 82 game grind. He's just a pup still.

    Let's face it. The 'hawks will need to score close to 4 goals a game to succeed in the playoffs this year. That's a tall order against the likes of Quick, Niemi, Smith, Rinne, Halak, Elliot or Howard. Unless CC catches fire it is not going to happen and I'll be the first to eat my words if it does.

  • Ultimately, it wont matter what happens. SB will likely always be seen as Sr's kid and credited for nothing. Life experience tells me truth tends to fall between two extremes. I'm generally happy with what SB has done IN CONTEXT. Out of context, the Hawks won't win the cup this year so that will really be all he is judged on.

  • Maybe a bit overstated, but I am with you HH. The team SB assembled made sense each step of the way and the acquisition of Oduya removes Stan from any post playoff frying pan irregardless of the result.

    Q, Hossa and the power play are my playoff keys. The Hawks are playing hard so they're ready to grind. But Q's moves will determine whether they jell or scatter. We have seen both this year. Consistent lines have produced better results than juggling but, as everyone has stated forever, Q addresses adversity by jumping all over the place instead of staying the course. A consistent, relentless attack will take the hawks deeper in the playoffs than attempts to catch lightning in a bottle will.

    The power play, well it's been bad and encouraged intimidation tactics because the hawks couldn't make the aggressors pay.
    There will be no Brandon bollig remedy to maintain balance come playoff time. The hawks will be pounded and scoring on the power play is the way to offset it. In my opinion this is the hawks' biggest problem but represents their biggest opportunity to go deep.

    As far as Hossa, he has to be a force and I think he will if he can start off well. First two games are huge. He just has to forget his playoff past and do the job.

    Toews would be gravy but it will nearly impossible to ramp up to playoff intensity after being out so long. Just his presence would be a lift to the team, though mucking up the lines could be a problem too. Hawks have played a solid team game without him. So it falls back on Q how to best use him.

    Can't wait to get started. Beating Detroit gives us Nashville. Losing gives us Quick. Either way we find out fast how smart the hawks will be in finding a way to win. Go hawks!

  • I think the reason Stalberg is not a 30 goal scorer this year is because of how Q used him. Stan noticed his talent and Q used it wrong. I find this to be the case in more than one area. When I say that I have believed in what Stan has done, I am not sharing that belief in Q. And yes, I think Q has the most control over what happens in the immediate future, as the players have shown their resiliency and skills to make things happen. We shall see if Q allows them to do so.

    It might be possible to keep Hjalmer, Montador, and Oduya next year, but I doubt it happens. Montador will be a huge question mark with his injury, and I think the Hawks are not done with Hjalmer yet. Leddy is actually my question. Fro is most likely moved, and I think he is moveable, which will free up some cash.

    Yes, yes, yes. Signing Carbomb was an epic failure. He brought something valuable to the team, but his antics are simply not welcome back IMO. We shall see, but I doubt Stan wants some of his prospects kept in Rockford for another year.

    Crow's contract was a bit stiff, but nothing horrible. He is the biggest question mark moving forward. I guess what makes me so excited is the emergence of Stalberg as large force. Like I said, it means that the Hawks have enough fire power to have 2 30-goal scorers on the top 3 lines. Insert other pieces as you like, it is still very promising.

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