As the hours, then the minutes before the NHL Trade Deadline ticked away, Hawks fans everywhere were getting more and more uneasy. “Would General Manager Stan Bowman make a move?” “The Hawks have so many holes…they need at least a defenseman and a center.”
Well, with about an hour to go in the deadline, reports of a trade finally surfaced. The Hawks had acquired Winnipeg defenseman Johnny Oduya. “OK. There’s the D-man. Now time for the center.”
The center never came.
Initially, I found myself satisfied with Bowman’s day. The biggest need (defense) was filled, and while it would have been nice to have a center, no REAL #2 centers really moved at all. Antoine Vermette went to Phoenix last week. He’s a decent enough #2 I suppose. Paul Gaustad is a nice player, but not worth the 1st round pick Nashville gave up to get him. If Derek Roy, a REAL #2 center, had been moved, then I would have been angry.
But after sleeping on yesterday’s inaction, I got more upset. The Blackhawks have needed a 2nd line center since the Stanley Cup year. Sure, they had the depth to overcome that hole, and Patrick Sharp was able to fill in admirably, but it was still a need. It was a need before last season, but there was no cap space. So this had to be the year, right?
As free agency approached this summer, the Hawks found themselves with spending money for the first time in a while. The Hawks had roughly $13 million to spend. They signed Steve Montador ($2.5 million cap hit), Daniel Carcillo ($775,000 cap hit), Sean O’Donnell ($850,000 cap hit), Sami Lepisto ($750,000 cap hit) and Jamal Mayers ($550,000 cap hit).
That left more than enough money in the bank to upgrade the center position, and there were plenty of good free agent options to fill the role. There was Jason Arnott who signed with St. Louis (29 pts, $2.875 cap hit). How about Max Talbot? He signed with Philly (28 pts, $1.75 cap hit). Michal Handzus is a Shark (23 pts, $2.5 cap hit). There’s also Vinnie Prospal, who signed with the mighty Columbus Blue Jackets (39 points, $2.5 cap hit).
Options were there at reasonable prices for Bowman to address the need for a centerman. When he didn’t, he said he wanted the cap flexibility for the trade deadline. Hmm. Yet nothing was done. Interesting.
Yesterday at his post trade deadline press conference, Bowman said he was willing to deal a 1st round draft pick to get a player that made sense. Yet he didn’t.
It’s difficult to see what Bowman’s plan is here. The team is full of holes, not to mention a concussed captain in Jonathan Toews who is “not progressing” in his injury. Looking at the roster, the word “redundant” comes to mind. All skill and speed. No physicality. No toughness. No attitude. He can’t just be oblivious to the Hawks needs, can he? If he is, Scotty Bowman sure isn’t.
Maybe the Bowman’s know the team doesn’t have a shot this year. If that’s the case, it’d be a shame to see Rocky Wirtz and John McDonough make a coaching change at the end of this season. It’s hard to blame a coach for a team that’s as incomplete and unbalanced as the Blackhawks. You have to wonder if there is some sort of power play happening between Quenneville and the Bowman’s. The trade of John Scott might be evidence of that. Quenneville loved to play him…I’m not sure he’s really a Bowman type of guy.
Quenneville is not without blame, but his job would be much easier if he could fill out a roster without player after player out of their natural positions and natural skill sets. You have to wonder if the Hawks miss the playoffs or are one and done if he will be back next season. It’s easier to justify firing one Quenneville instead of two Bowman’s, right?
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