So, it looks like Kruger is signed and at what looks like a pretty good number to me. 1.325 for each of the next two years which leaves a cap space of 1.18 going into the season. Now that the Kruger contract is out of the way, I can't imagine there is anything left to do but wait and see which of the kids makes it up from Rockford to start the season. There may be a chance for more Bowman slobbering down the road, but I"m going to put some out there now. Much has been written about how little power Stan has, about how everything allegedly must go through a McD/Bowman Sr. vortex and how the dysfunction is so thick in the Madison front office that it's a miracle the lights are even on for games. I wonder how many teams wish they had the Hawks dysfunction this summer.
Admittedly, I don't have any connections and I don't have any idea what goes on behind the scenes in the Hawks front office. What I do know is that for the two seasons between the cups, there has been a lot of bitching and prognosticating by fans and bloggers who claim to have connections deep in the organization. Even as the past season unfolded, there was bitching that Stan was in fantasy land and was way overvaluing the talent he had on hand when he said, "These guys have earned the right to see it out". Not surprisingly to me, the prognosticators got it wrong. Luck, as always, plays a part and several moons lined up that may not have stayed lined up if we had a full season. Regardless, the Hawks were ready to play this past season and were the dominant team of the league. I still don't have any connections in the organization, but I'm going to assume that Stan gets to wear big boy pants and is allowed to be a GM like other GM's. With that in mind, I think he deserves enormous credit.
After the first cup, he was stuck with blowing up that team and dealing with bonuses earned by Toews and Kane, which totaled 5 million. All in all, I thought he did extremely well. I give Tallon all the credit in the world for building that team and for making Chicago a destination market after years of brutal futility wherein the Hawks were a pathetic organization. Tallon made a lot of good moves and it's undeniable that some of his moves are still paying dividends. Still, while some claim that Bowman has had the team "gift wrapped" for him, I think it's worth remembering how badly the Hawks sucked and how sucking so badly, and getting some enormous luck, allowed them to snag both Kane and Toews. On that score, Tallon was no less lucky then Bowman was subsequently. Still, while Tallon undeniably built the team that won, he also left behind a huge cap mess and here is where I start to give Bowman a lot of credit.
No one is happy, of course, with two first round exits and I will give some credence to Al Cimaglia's claim that the west was there for the taking in 11/12 and the Hawks may have had a chance to go deep if they went after a big name in free agency. I can't say I believe Bowman was visionary enough there to predict the team would be where it is today, but I do believe Bowman did have a plan and over two seasons and off seasons, he got rid of bad contracts, drafted well, developed some players and ultimately put his team in a position where they could win a cup and not be in a virtual cap hell that they were before. I think it is also worth noting that he is able to keep together the valuable pieces WHILE losing cap space. I can understand why people have bitched about him not getting big name free agents, but in light of the saga unfolding in NJ, I'm quite happy with what he's done. Cap management aside, I think it is also worth talking about chemistry. The players on this team fit well together and keep finding ways to win when everyone is convinced the opposing team has their number.
Not every decision is applauded and only time will tell If keeping Handzus and Kruger at the expense of letting Frolik go was a worthwhile call. Another decision that will definitely draw ire, if it happens, will be extending Q who is every bit as enigmatic and maddening as the Q of Star Trek. Still, rather then dissect Stan on a move by move basis, I'll wait to see the end result. Two cups in four years and first team to repeat in a cap world. Stan deserves a lot of credit.
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