Mailbag - Blackhawks Postmortem Edition
What a great time to have a dedicated mailbag article. Well, that's at least what I thought and you all seemed to agree.
Apologies for the delay in getting this live, but there were so many great questions that it took me longer to get through.
Let's not waste any time… here we go!
StLBravesFan - Ok - T - we all have our ideas of what the Hawks need to do in the offseason - and I think we probably mostly converge on 3 or 4 areas - but how much movement do you think there will realistically be 'this offseason (both the Hawks and all other teams) given the financial issues now affecting the league?
I'm actually thinking that adding some young currently signed players will be about it - Mitchell, Suter, maybe one or two others. I don't expect the Wirtz family to spend money on buyouts of Smith, Maatta, whomever, while HRR is declining rapidly. In short, I'm seeing much of the same personnel going forward, hoping for improvement rather than change.
Somewhere in there is a question - hope you can find it...
TC: Hey StL, great start to this blog; I feel like when I go into offseasons like this where I say, "I don't think much will happen"… SO MUCH HAPPENS.
I am of two thoughts here in terms of what could happen:
A) Stan Bowman can retain his key UFA (Crawford) and RFAs (Strome, Kubalik, Koekkoek) and we see a very similar team next year. The Hawks do this by getting their free agents to take a bit less than market value, as well as, buying out (or trading) Olli Maatta and buying out (for sure) Zack Smith.
I know this isn't a thing that the Hawks have done much of in the past, but these are unprecedented circumstances and the Bowman does really have his hands tied.
Hawks can prance out the likes of Mitchell, Suter, etc. and praise the growth of guys like Dach, Boqvist, and Kubalik highlighting them as the future of this team, however, in reality, going younger might be their only option.
B) Big(ger) changes are made when one or two free agents don't like what the Hawks offer. I see Crawford and Strome as the two key guys that may not be on the team next year. And if that's the case, the Hawks will have a new goalie in the mix maybe through trade or UFA.
Chunk: Hey TC. Thanks for the wrap-up blog. I've been trying to wrap my head around what Stan is trying to do. He signed a bunch of guys to ELC's. Some are close to the NHL, and others are likely to be bound for the Rock.
Players like Kalnyuk, Morrison, Barratt, Chalupa (even though he was just loaned out), Altybarmakyan, and Teply are all likely slated for the AHL.
Suter, and Mitchell however are expected to challenge for a spot with the Hawks. Not to mention you have Hagel, Highmore, Kurashev, Carlsson, Beaudin, possibly Regula and maybe Entwistle are also there to challenge for spots.
Do you expect/think they will go full on youngsters, or try to keep winning with guys like Maatta, de Haan, Saad, etc)?
I don't see Strome coming back personally, but that's one spot and maybe Caggiula's. I just can't seem to get my head around what the direction will be (and maybe that's Stan's plan).
TC: You and my both, friend. There have been many conflicting statements on the "direction" of this team.
My feeling is that after the strong performances from some younger players in the playoffs, the Hawks have their narrative right there.
"We are ahead of schedule, but still have work to do" type speech from Stan should be coming during the 2020-21 training camp.
I spoke a little bit about identity the last blog, and would still like that to be the starting point before the roster is tweaked/overhauled. Who is this team? How do they play? How do they realistically win with what they have on their roster next year?
This is a long-winded way of saying, I have no idea what Stan's plan is. However, my feeling is it will be a lot of youngsters touted as the next wave as they compliment the aging core. I would expect Maatta to be moved or bought-out and Smith is as good as gone.
roenick: If Alex Debrincat's game continues to struggle in 20/21 would you leave him unprotected in the Seattle expansion draft? Frees up $6.4M in cap space.
TC: 100%, I would not. Am I the only one that is still high on DeBrincat?
I thought his last few games in the Vegas series were phenomenal. He played like he was a 6'2 maniac and tried his face off.
Do I love 18 goals last year? No.
Do I think the Cat is a perennial 30+ goal scorer? Yes.
I think he will be fine and continue to improve. I would like to see him get better away from the puck and on the defensive side. I think he will because what I love the most about him is how dedicated this dude is. He is of high character and my prediction is that the Hawks will be fine with that contract during the 3 years.
I see what you're saying but I would suspect the Hawks would rather trade DeBrincat for assets vs. losing him for nothing. A lot of teams would be lining up for him, struggles or not. The guy has proven he can score in this league.
HawkintheD: Hey Ty! Sure Strome's name has come up in mailbag, but what to do with him.
I do think Dach has made him somewhat expendable by coming in and playing his way into the 2C role during the year.
Given that he's slow and not a great 2 way player, not sure he makes a good 3C. I don't know if any of the other guys are ready or project as 3C (Kurashev, Barratt, Suter), but would you consider trading Strome and what would his return be?
Or do you sign him to a deal somewhere between $2M and $3M for maybe 2 years and see if he can develop a bit more in that role?
Maybe we could transplant Strome's brain into Nylander's body.
TC: Ha. Nice, I like that transplant idea.
I'm torn on Strome but here's where I stand with him; if the Hawks can get him for 1 or 2 years on a deal around $2M AAV, you do it. I don't think you're going to find a better replacement for a guy like that with Strome's skill, not to mention that chemistry with the team (and DeBrincat).
However, if you have the opportunity to get your hands on a more prototypical 3C like a Lowry or Sam Bennett (and no I'm not suggesting for 1-for-1 trade) or a deal that has a future high-end asset then you consider it.
I don't hate Strome, but I don't love Strome. I really don't love playoff Strome. I'm not talking just about this performance this year, but the way his skillset line up is more of a "regular season dude" than a "playoff warrior dude".
powerenforcer: Hi Tyler - Do you think that Bettman will be pressured to at least have a discussion with Rocky about the team name if sponsors start to back away from the NHL? Especially since the TV contract is still being worked on?
TC: That's a great question. Bettman is a very thorough guy and Rocky and the Wirtz family carry a long history in the NHL, so I'm sure they've been in touch to some degree about this. I would suspect around the time the Washington Football Team was happening.
I've been in advertising for 15 years and I've seen the power that money can hold. It's more evident than ever now with the likes of Google, Facebook, and Amazon having a monopoly on the digital space (and now creeping towards traditional dominance), so there could be some serious pushback from Bettman if this were the case.
I like that the Blackhawks have been active in their responses around the team name and their involvement with the Indigenous community. They will continue to make strides in that area and looks like their strategy as an organization is to double down in investment and awareness.
-Doh-: Who will be the most interesting (active) teams after the Cup is decided?
Ottawa - 3 1st's, 4 2nd's, only 11 players signed for next year and a boatload of cap room - Crazy owner
NJ - 3 1st's - only 14 players signed for next year and a boat load of cap room - New GM
NYR - #1 overall pick plus Carolina's 1st.
Detroit - a 1st, 3 2nd's, and 2 3rd's. only 11 players signed for next year.
Toronto - Well... they are Toronto (messed up roster and no cap space)
TC: Great non-Blackhawks question… I always route for chaos in Toronto because it makes for amazing radio content as I'm in the market. They have some big decisions to make for sure.
OTT is going to be so good for many, many years but I think they stay the course and foster that young talent.
NJ is a bit of a mess after a swing and miss last offseason. I expect movement there.
NYR are in a good spot and don't think they have to do much other than figure out the 3-headed monster in net. Maybe Georgiev to Chicago?
DET is terrible and I'm convinced Stevie Y continues the tank next year.
A couple teams I would add onto this list who are primed for a wild offseason are:
BUF – This team needs to figure it out and with Kevyn Adams now at the helm, I suspect some big moves.
PIT – GM JR already said they are going to be some changes and he is a guy who thrives on chaos as well within his own team. So looking forward to that.
Overall, I am very interested to see the type of movement given the cap constraints. Will there be more 1-for-1 trades? Teams walking away from good players whom they can't afford? Three-way trades?
It might all be chaos… or very boring.
Chunk: I just thought of another one (inspired by a Wiz post). The Hawks seem to be loaded up with the same "type" of defenseman prospect:
Outside of Gilbert, maybe Carlsson, (I don't know much about Regula) they don't have many/any stay at home types that concentrate on defense.
Q: What is the Hawks blueline supposed to look like in 3 years? Are they all puck movers and good positionally, but no notable muscle? Do they expect that Murphy will be that (1) guy going forward?
TC: Too much chagrin of old school hockey guys like Brian Burke, the smaller, puck-moving defencemen are the way of the future. Actually, they are here now.
The reality is though that the bigger, more physical, stay-at-home defender will always be needed. Teams will still need to keep the puck out of the net while keeping teams honest.
You're right, the Hawks are looking like they are on pace for 6 tiny puck-movers, however, I think the theory is that draft for higher-end skill (you can't teach those offensive instincts and skills) and then you can always acquire in some way guys like Justin Braun, Anton Stralman, or even Connor Murphy.
That's my theory anyway. So, to predict 3-years down the road is very tricky.
Keep in mind the Hawks did go out of character with their Alex Vlasic (6'5, 198 lbs) pick last year in the 2nd round and drafted Cole Moberg (6'3, 198 lbs) in the 7th round. The also acquired Stanislav Demin (6'2, 190 lbs) and Alec Regula (6'4, 203 lbs) so maybe they are starting to see the need to round out the type of defencemen they have in the system.
DarthKane: What do you think the Blackhawks strategy will be for draft day? Move up? Move down to acquire more picks. Stay the course?
TC: I think it's hard to tell without knowing if the Hawks really, really like a guy that may go higher then the 16th or 17th overall spot. If they do, I wouldn't be shocked if the Hawks include their pick and an asset (like an Evan Barratt, Nic Beaudin, etc.) to make it happen.
Personally, I think they will stay the course, and if anything maybe try to acquire more picks in this draft or upcoming years. Maybe Olli Maatta gets you a 5th or 6th rounder now vs. having to buy him out.
300LevelAnon: "Long time listener, first time caller"
Mailbag Question(s): What is the Hawks' best case draft scenario now? Are 9 games of 'swagger' worth a drop of at least 6 slots in the upcoming draft and the chance to pick Yaroslav Askarov?
TC: Thanks for the question 300LA. I think the best-case scenario for the Hawks is someone with high-end skill slips to that 16th/17th pick. Even if this kid comes with a little risk, they love their skilled players.
There are guys like Hendrix Lapierre and/or Noel Gunler who carry some question marks but may slip to the Hawks. Depending on how the background checks look and the interviews go with these guys, I wouldn't be shocked to see Stan and Mark Kelley go this route.
And yes, I think the experience over those 9-games was worth it. Originally, I would have said that's a crazy thought but not only was it life-changing for the rookies, but I believe it will reenergize the core with that momentum carrying into next season.
Wow. Thanks for all of the great questions. You guys kept me on my toes.
There were a couple of questions on what the team could look like next year. I would like to carve out a separate blog to go into more detail on that. So for those who asked, you can expect that next week.
Stay safe and see ya out there!