Chicago Blackhawks fans have confidence in the team’s front office — to an extent
Earlier this week, The Hockey News came out with a very interesting poll, of sorts. A writer over there polled fans from all 30 NHL teams to see what they thought of their respective team’s front office management. That included roster building, cap management, draft/development, trading, free agency and vision.
While some of these areas can be fairly broad and/or vague (roster building and vision, for example), this is a pretty good test to see how fans fell about the direction their team is heading. Of course, the results of such a poll could be very interesting depending on the diversity of fans polled.
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Regardless, the Blackhawks had a decent ranking, slotting 12th of 30 teams. While that put the team behind most of the Central Division (St. Louis was 11th, Winnipeg 10th, Dallas sixth and Nashville third), it showed a certain level of confidence from a segment of fans in Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman and company.
Let’s break each area down, starting with roster building. The Blackhawks ranked sixth in this area, which I think is one of the more interesting pieces of this poll. The Blackhawks of late have been criticized for not giving more youngsters a shot on the big team and also carrying one or two relatively useless players and letting them skate night in and night out.
But when you have a core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Corey Crawford and Marcus Kruger, many fans will tend to be happy with your roster building. This poll was also conducted after Michal Kempny and Brian Campbell were brought aboard to fortify a struggling defense, so that probably helped the rating.
Moving on to cap management, the Blackhawks were a lowly 21st among fans polled. This was easily the Blackhawks’ weakest result among the six categories, and it’s easy to see why. A salary cap purge after each of the team’s three Stanley Cups in the last seven seasons makes it easy for fans to be frustrated with the team’s cap management.
Of course, at some point, you have to decide whether you want to keep more role players or guarantee your superstars stick around long term. The Blackhawks have committed to the latter more often than not under Bowman.
Drafting and developing (a single category here) saw the Blackhawks rank 16th of all 30 teams. I feel like this is mostly related to the “developing” part, as the Blackhawks have drafted pretty well in the last 15 or so years. Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson, Toews, Kane, Crawford and Kruger are all past Blackhawks draft picks, not trade acquisitions.
On the developing end, we’ve seen the Blackhawks give up on young players rather quickly because they either need to move them in order to bulk up for a playoff run or have lost confidence in them (AKA coach Joel Quenneville isn’t a fan) — or both. This has consistently been a frustrating part of being a Blackhawks fan while Q has been in charge, but it’s one of those things you live with since the team still wins consistently enough.
The Blackhawks also ranked 16th in trading. This result was probably soured by last season’s moves to acquire Andrew Ladd, Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise, none of which provided a ton of help down the stretch. Bowman isn’t a huge trader at heart, preferring to play the free agent market and pluck college kids out of school early, so middle of the pack seems fair here.
Speaking of free agency, it garnered the Blackhawks’ front office its best fan ranking at third in the NHL. This is an area Bowman has frequently succeeded in while leading the Blackhawks, as the hits have outweighed the misses. We’ll likely see the team scratch out a free agent forward prior to next season starting, since they have a little cap space to do so.
Lastly comes vision, which is a really interesting category to me. The Blackhawks ranked 10th in the fan voting, which is better than I would’ve expected. Coming off a short postseason run that saw the Blackhawks go all in and lose, and sitting in an offseason that has seen the team lose Teuvo Teravainen and Andrew Shaw, I thought fans polled would be a little more disappointed with this team’s apparent vision.
But recent draft successes may have fans feeling better about the team’s future direction. Guys like Nick Schmaltz and Tyler Motte, along with some of the more recent draftees, are projecting as guys who can make an impact sooner rather than later, and sustain that impact over a longer term.
So, overall, I think the Blackhawks’ front office ranking is fair. Some of the category grades were a little surprising to me, but I think the Blackhawks fans who were polled have a pretty good idea of where the organization is now and where’s it going.