Hawks favoring youth over experience
In terms of roster turnover, the Blackhawks have been quiet this summer, and maybe that’s a good thing.
It could mean the Blackhawks’ young players are actually ready to take the next step. And considering the uninspiring group of veterans general manager Stan Bowman has added to augment his core group since the team won the Stanley Cup, the Hawks can’t do much worse.
Think about this list of names and what those players are doing now: Nick Boynton (out of hockey), Ryan Johnson (without a team/out of hockey), Fernando Pisani (out of hockey), Marty Turco (without a team/out of hockey), Sean O’Donnell (without a team), Andrew Brunette (without a team) and Sami Lepisto (in the KHL).
That’s a sampling and by no means the definitive word on every move Bowman has made. For example, Jamal Mayers turned out to be a solid addition, and he remains with the club.
Still juxtapose those additions with the players the Hawks were forced to trade or let walk away after winning the Stanley Cut in 2010. Andrew Ladd is a captain; Dustin Byfuglien an All-Star; Brian Campbell and Kris Versteeg have been studs in Florida; and Antti Niemi got rich and made the conference finals the next season. Losing those players wasn’t necessarily Bowman’s fault, but he was charged with replacing them.
If the plan was to squeeze something out of veterans before they hung their skates up, it failed miserably. None lived up to relatively low expectations. Johnson played OK in 2010-11, but he hasn't parlayed that into much since then. Turco was on Boston’s roster for a few miserable games last season, but that was the extent of his NHL action since leaving the Hawks.
Some players -- in hindsight or even foresight—simply didn’t fit the Hawks’ mold. Brunette and O’Donnell are solid leaders but their feet couldn’t keep up with their heads and it slowed the team down. Both are looking for work and could end up retiring.
The list goes on. If Pisani didn’t kill penalties, he wouldn’t have been noticed at all; Boynton had a moment in the Cup run but nothing after that. Turco, as good a guy as he is, might go down as Bowman’s worst signing. Everyone knew the league was going bigger in goal, considering the amount of traffic netminders are now seeing. Everyone knew Turco’s last year in Dallas was not very good – and it wasn’t all because of the defense in front of him. With all that obvious knowledge, the Hawks replaced a Stanley Cup winning goaltender with one who had failed often in the playoffs, was undersized and lacking athleticism. Yet the Hawks signed him, not as a seventh defensemen, but to defend the Stanley Cup and play the most important position in sports. It was a bad move, one that was only bailed out by the emergence of Corey Crawford. Somewhat ironically Crawford has now become the maligned goalie in Chicago.
Sheldon Brookbank’s signing was the only move the Hawks made this summer so far – and the relative lack of activity might turn out to be for the best. They tried their hand at the biggest of names like Zach Parise and Martin Brodeur, but save those guys, no one needs to see more 40-year-old types on the roster. Brookbank is 31 and not necessarily on his last legs.
Sometimes the moves a GM doesn’t make are the ones that help a franchise. Furthermore, the Hawks’ decision to stand pat gives opportunities. Could it mean Andrew Shaw, Jimmy Hayes, Brandon Saad and Dylan Olsen—among others—are really ready to contribute in a bigger way? We’ve already seen a few do just that.
With Bowman’s track record of aging veterans, youth might be the best way to go.