Time to Walk the Talk

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Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) I wasn’t able to watch the game against the Red Wings yesterday, so I don’t have any post-game comments for you. But what I do have is some thoughts regarding the Hawks’ inaction in the trade market (and just lack of trade activity in general)

Over the past few weeks, Stan Bowman has made comments informing the fanbase that he is contacting teams about the possibilties of trades. Predictably its quite hostile out there. This is likely due to the fact that this is a sellers market and all the teams with expendable assets that are willing to deal are asking a king’s randsome in return. And this is where I empathize with Bowman. There’s no question that navigating a seller’s market is difficult and dangerous.

So Bowman is pretty much being forced to wait until teams either become more willing to deal, or more importantly, the costs of players decreases.

But the problem is that its unlikely that players will get any cheaper.

Imagine you’re selling your car. You don’t want it anymore, you want cash to buy a new one. But there are several people who really want your old car. Now are you just going to give away your car for a low price if you have multiple parties interested? No, you’re going to let them wage a bidding war, with the car going to the one willing to put out the most cash.

Well, this year’s trade market is kind of like that. Most teams, including the Hawks, are looking for two things: a shutdown defenseman and a big forward. So there’s no reason to believe that the cost of players will get any cheaper. If anything prices will get driven up as more and more teams look to upgrade, with the number of sellers remaining relatively static. Its simple supply and demand.

Bowman has been complaining that teams aren’t willing to cooperate just yet. Well, to quote the Godfather, you have “to make them an offer they can’t refuse.” If you don’t, another team will.

With the standings being as tight as they are, we can assume that really only Anaheim, Columbus, Edmonton, NY Islanders, Carolina, Tampa Bay and probably Montreal, are or are close to waving the white flag and would be receptive to trading marquee players. Their prices might be too high, but we’ve already established that they’re probably not changing.

Now as far as personnel goes, from my perspective I can idenfity three major needs for the Hawks right now:

1. A physical, shutdown defenseman who can kill penalties

2. A top six forward, preferably one with some size, who can consistently produce offense

3. A bottom six forward who’s tough to play against, can bring some energy and chip in some offense

The Hawks have one of the deepest systems in the NHL, but it lacks blue chip talent. Instead it has about a dozen forwards who project to be second or third line NHLers at best. Losing several of them and/or severa picks in this year’s draft won’t hurt this team as much as not acquring the pieces this team needs to make a deep playoff run this season.

My point is, most teams can’t afford to overpay for players. The Hawks can. They can lose several key prospects and/or picks and it won’t hurt them a ton in the long-term, not as much as it would for teams like San Jose, Vancouver or Philadelphia. They can afford to get the players at the top of their list now and give them extra time to mesh with the team, rather than be forced to acquire their second or third choices later in the year.

To conclude my rant, waiting simply doesn’t make sense. Sure the price of a player may drop if teams lose interest, but thats unlikely with so few available marquee players out there. Teams may be unwilling to deal, but Bowman can afford to overpay if he has to to change their minds and bring in the personnel this team needs to be successful.

Its time for Bowman to walk the talk. He has to realize that his team’s success is on the line here. The defensive deficiencies are blatantly obvious; the penalty kill is still a mess, largely due to the personnel (i.e. Leddy) scoring is inconsistent, particularly from the bottom six and the team is far too soft at both ends of the ice. He needs to take action before the really desperate teams snag all the best available players and the Hawks are left with Campoli-like upgrades.

Anyways, here are three players I think the Hawks should go after. All of them are on teams whose seasons are probably over, none of them should cost the Hawks the proverbial farm, all have expiring contracts and all three would fill the holes in the Hawks lineup I described.

Francois Beauchemin (D) Anaheim Ducks

Bob Murray has stated that he’s cleaning house in Anaheim and everyone (with the exception of Selanne and Koivu) is up for grabs. With most teams’ attention focused on grabbing one of Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan or Corey Perry, the Hawks should take this opportunity to swoop in and snag the reliable, smooth-skating defenseman. Beauchemin would help in a lot of areas, particularly special teams, where he would kill penalties and possibly help on the point on the powerplay.

Plus, Beauchemin won a Stanley Cup in 2007 with the Ducks, so he’s familiar with playoff hockey and could bring additional experience to an already experienced group.

Tuomo Ruutu (F) Carolina Hurricanes

While most of us (including myself) are probably still holding out for Shane Doan, former Hawk Tuomo Ruutu is the next best player available in terms of power forwards. At 6’0″ 205 lbs, Ruutu would bring additional size and scoring power to the top six. He has 15 goals in 46 games with the Hurricanes this season and is third on the Hurricanes with 83 hits.

Matt Martin  (F) NY Islanders

Martin is the prototypical fourth liner: he hits, he fights, he brings energy and he can score a goal here and there. He has 5 goals and 10 points in 42 games with the Islanders and currently leads the league with 182 hits. And at 6’3″ 210 lbs, Martin is a tough, fourth line grinder that would provide the “hard to play against” element the Hawks have been missing this season.

The Hawks take on the Sharks tonight at 6:00 CT. Enjoy the game everyone and thanks for reading.

Go Hawks!

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