Maybe the Blackhawks Do Have a Plan
There has been some recent chatter about the Hawks actually having a plan that they just aren't divulging to the public – a REBUILD.
The dreaded "R" word.
JJ has aptly coined this theory a "silent rebuild" while the thought of this came to Jay Zawaski late night a couple days ago.
I subscribe a little bit to this but would like to also play devil's advocate, while offering a different theory.
On one hand, a rebuild on the fly move is what appears to be happening.
I agree that the Hawks need to plan accordingly for Schmaltz, Debrincat, Sikura and the rest of the "baby core" that emerges in the next couple of years.
Maybe it's due to that thinking that Stan Bowman wouldn't bite on any free agents if they were asking for 3+ years (which a lot of the good ones were negotiating).
This obviously hurt Stan and maybe threw a wrench in his plans. But, hey, what did he expect?
So, we sit here on July 4th (btw Happy 4th of July, fam!) with Cam Ward, Chris Kunitz and Brandon Manning as "the big haul" from the free agency frenzy.
Listen, I know a lot of big signings on July 1st end up being extremely regrettable by GMs down the line, and I wasn't realistically thinking a James Neal and JVR would be moving to Chicago. All I was asking for was a couple of smart, efficient signings.
Give me Calvin de Haan (4 years @ $4.55M isn't crazy), a depth centre that can win draws and a backup goalie. This could have come $7-8.5M which is still manageable under the Hawks cap. Chicago's July 1st trio of signings came in at $6.25M.
Yes, there is the factor that maybe Calvin de Haan, Ian Cole and Jay Beagle didn't even return Stan's call because they don't want to come to Chicago. We won't know that part. However, I am hesitant to think that Stan was aggressive on any dollar/term and more or less settled for the guys he ended up with.
Did he do this because he knows internally that the Blackhawks are in a rebuild?
This is where I will shift to play devil's advocate. Why would Rocky and John McDonough keep Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville around for a rebuild? Wouldn't this team benefit from a fresh set of eyes? A new voice? Some new thinking?
Also, why would Rocky come out and threaten that big moves will be made if the team falters by Christmas? If this is truly a rebuild, they surely will falter… no?
The way the roster is currently constructed, the writing looks to be on the wall and this team is going to battle ups-and-downs through the entire year.
Now, this is where I shift into a new theory and where the Hawks could put themselves in a position to succeed this season, have funds to sign their baby core and continue to have success for years.
I personally believe that the Hawks are banking on a combination of bounceback/more consistent seasons from Toews, Saad, Keith, Seabrook + the next step from Schmaltz, Debrincat, Hayden, Sikura, Gustafsson, Rutta + copycatting a strategy from an expansion team – the Vegas Golden Knights.
The word "relentless" came out of Joel Quenneville's mouth a couple times and Stan Bowman referenced the success of the Golden Knights.
What I loved the most about that Vegas team was that they banded together over being not wanted by their former team – the "forgotten ones."
* Cam Ward – was not being resigned by Carolina after 13 years
* Chris Kunitz – too old to play and thrown to the curb after 1-year and 13 goals last year in Tampa Bay
* Brandon Manning – Hextall told Manning at the end of last year that he wasn't resigning him after posting a career year and earning his place on a young Flyers team.
This could be a stretch, but I think some rumoured players tied to the Hawks could fit the bill as well:
* Oscar Lindberg (reported by JJ yesterday) – was left unprotected by NYR and then fell out of favour by playoff time in Vegas.
* Justin Faulk – new management in Carolina has gone out and purposely pushed Faulk down to the bottom pair with acquisitions of D. Hamilton and de Haan. He has 2-years left on his current deal and a lot to prove if he moves on.
Then again, maybe these players are not being re-signed and forgotten about because they are past their prime or just not productive anymore. You may be right there and we'll have to see come October if that is the case. I would argue that these players would be motivated to succeed after not feeling the love. Those guys would be neat to keep vs. dumping for a rental.
The Hawks may be in a rebuild on the fly and just not telling anyone. There is some reason for excitement with some younger players like Schmaltz, Debrincat and Sikura who will be in the lineup this season. Also, guys like Jokiharju, Mitchell, Boqvist and Soderlund that could be the next great Blackhawks of the future.
In my opinion, though, I think the Hawks are too competitive and proud as an organization to slide any further. I think Stan and Co. do have a plan and we will see that come to life after 2-3 upcoming trades.
Sure, Bowman might not part with a top prospect for a guy like Justin Faulk, but he does have some pieces that are expendable now that could land the top 4 RHD.
We might not be talking about this at all once the Hawks announce they have unloaded Hossa's contract to Ottawa, acquired Faulk and landed a speedy depth centre that can win draws.
That also may be a stretch, but I will reserve judgment until I see the final product. Something has to give. You don't have to trust Stan Bowman, but I would trust that this Blackhawks team is doing all they can to get back to greatness as soon as possible.
See ya out there!