If our beloved Chicago Blackhawks’ 2015-16 regular season can be summoned up in two words, those would be “new” and “faces.” In addition to this past offseason’s transactions, there have also been several regular-season trades, not to mention a steady rotation of prospects hitting the ice for the ‘Hawks in their NHL debuts/second tours.
All said and done, along with the 24 players currently on the roster per the Blackhawks’ website (counting Marcus Kruger on injured reserve), by my count (and it has been hard to keep track), a total of 14 additional players — who are presently playing for the Rockford Icehogs or elsewhere in the NHL or Europe — have donned the Indian head sweater at some point this season.
While the impacts these new players have made for the Blackhawks has varied, the sheer amount of player personnel that have laced up their skates for the ‘Hawks this season is quite noteworthy, and has certainly made it an outlier in terms of the sheer amount of wheeling and dealing by Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman.
Now, with the trade deadline less than a month away, ‘Hawks fans have to wonder what moves Bowman has left up his sleeve.
Historically, Bowman has been very active around this time of year, bringing both temporary fixes (Antoine Vermette) as well as long-term investments (Johnny Oduya) to Chicago. In equally historic fashion, at this point in the season the ‘Hawks still have a few holes that need to be plugged before they embark on another push for the Stanley Cup.
This season, the Blackhawks are noticeably thin in the defensive ranks and, to a lesser extent, on the left wing. First and foremost, I believe the Hawks’ have the ability to fix these two issues in-house. Erik Gustafsson has stood and delivered beautifully on D, and Viktor Svedberg has certainly shown flashes of potential in shouldering more blue-line duties. And while the Blackhawks’ bottom two forward lines are made up of pretty darn green players who don’t boast too many impressive stats, by the eye test alone you have to admit these lines consist of pure grinders who are constantly mounting impressive offensive drives.
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Should the ‘Hawks stick with the status quo, they could certainly mount an impressive playoff run, but that being said, it would entail far more rolling of the dice than I’m sure Bowman would care to accept.
While Bowman’s moves have been met with varying degrees of scrutiny over the years, his motivations when it comes to the trading block have remained consistent: 1.) protecting the Blackhawks’ long-term competitiveness/interests and 2.) keeping them potential Cup contenders each year. In other words, with perhaps the exception of Bryan Bickell, Bowman hasn’t sacrificed critical assets for flashes in the pan.
That being said, Bowman certainly has a very interesting trade deadline landscape before him this year, given that such a high amount of his farm system players have been able to cut their teeth at the Madhouse on Madison this season, and for once the ‘Hawks are not in need of a second-line center.
Furthermore, the ‘Hawks are in a bit more precarious position this time around, considering their need on defense (the larger of their two holes) is by nature far more difficult to fill.
Bowman has been able to create more cap space to work with through multiple transactions thus far this season, so one has to wonder if he’s been laying the bedrock for a more prolific trade. Furthermore, given so many of the Blackhawks’ prospects now have at least some NHL experience under their belts, Bowman’s trading pool potentially got much bigger.
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Me personally, I’d like to see Bowman grab a defenseman like Keith Yandle who could fix the Blackhawks’ current defensive deficiencies and potentially prove to be a long-term solution. It seems the ‘Hawks have the cap space and trade bait (a handful of up-and-coming forwards, or maybe even Teuvo Teravainen) to pull off such a transaction, but obviously I’m not Stan Bowman.
In the end, as Blackhawks fans, we need to keep the faith in Bowman’s decisions at this juncture. We may not always agree with his moves at the time, but once again, Bowman’s devotion to the Blackhawks’ long term interests has been proven time and again.
FOR THE DAGGER!