Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman made perhaps his biggest gamble yet by trading supposed center of the future Nick Schmaltz. The move looks good on paper, but is also the riskiest he’s made yet.
Cleary, the Chicago Blackhawks desperately needed a change. It’s been apparent for some time that the team’s problems stemmed from the personnel on their roster. However, it’s a heck of a lot easier to replace one guy than it is to replace 18 of them. As a result, coach Joel Quenneville saw himself fired in favor of new coach Jeremy Colliton.
The team, though showing signs of improvement under Colliton, still found themselves bogged down by their familiar holes: a lack of depth and poor defense.
The good news is: Bowman finally decided to do something about it. Not only did Stan make a move, but he made a damn good one at that.
The bad news (for Bowman) is: if it doesn’t work out, it will cost him his job.
In case you missed the exact details of the deal, the Chicago Blackhawks traded 2014 1st round draft pick (20th overall) Nick Schmaltz to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Dylan Strome, the 3rd overall pick in 2015, and Brendan Perlini, the 12th overall pick in the 2014 draft.
Nick Schmaltz, the supposed center of the future, struggled with the Hawks this season. Worse, though, he demonstrated minimal effort at times and would often pull up going to make plays on pucks in order to avoid getting hit.
Pulling up when you’re Patrick Kane is one thing.
Pulling up as Nick Schmaltz is another.
So, Bowman made what appears to be a good move as he secured two players with a ton of potential in exchange for one. Strome was drafted in an incredibly anticipated draft two picks after Connor McDavid and following Jack Eichel. Additionally, Perlini was drafted 8 picks ahead of Schmaltz in the same draft.
All three players involved were struggling.
All three could benefit from a change of scenery.
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While I could sit here and deconstruct the impact of Strome and Perlini’s presence on the team, my fellow writer John Aubert has already done a fine job of that in his article, here: Erie Otters Reunion Can Benefit Chicago Blackhawks’ Second Line.
Rather, what I will do is explain why this trade, seemingly one of the smartest on Stan’s resume in recent memory, is the biggest gamble he’s made yet.
Hockey, and sports in general, is a winning business. More than that, it’s unforgiving. If you’re looking for proof, look no further than three-time Stanley Cup winning coach Joel Quenneville.
In his day, Stan Bowman has done some truly incredible things. The 2010 Stanley Cup win (probably?) could’ve happened without him, however the work Bowman did to retool his roster and squeeze two more Stanley Cups out of them was and is amazing.
What hasn’t been amazing, however, is Bowman’s work as of late.
After the Chicago Blackhawks worst season in a decade, in which glaring holes appeared in goaltending, depth scoring and defense, Bowman’s solution was to sign a skeleton (Chris Kunitz), a beer league defensemen (Brandon Manning) and a rock-solid backup goaltender in Cam Ward (everyone gets lucky once in a while).
That’s not great for the track record.
Another one that looks less-than-good on the record is his statement on April 9th of 2018. Bowman said:
"“Our No. 1 priority as we move forward is to make sure we can keep these young players — DeBrincat and Schmaltz and Hinostroza and some other young players … That’s the direction that we’re headed, and we want those guys to be Blackhawks.”"
Of that trio, only Alex DeBrincat remains.
The Chicago Blackhawks are aging rapidly and, although they have promising young players taken in the last two years of the draft, Bowman hasn’t hesitated to deal some of the young talent in the system.
No one from that list remains as Schmaltz was the last to go.
While I like the trade for Strome and Perlini, if Bowman wants to stick around it needs to pan out.
Time and time again, Stan Bowman has traded struggling yet promising young players and not gotten enough in return. But worse than not getting a solid return, the players traded away have gone on to excel after leaving the Chicago Blackhawks (take Teuvo for example).
This brings us to exactly why this trade is the biggest gamble yet. This isn’t a gamble on whether or not Saad will be more affective with Toews than Panarin was with Kane. Bowman isn’t putting just one season on the line.
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Rather, he’s putting his job on the line and going all in.
Should Strome and Perlini fail to pan out, Bowman has nowhere to run. This team continues to struggle and there are only so many people in the organization who can take the fall for Stan’s mistakes. The axe has already fallen on Q.
Bowman better hope he’s not next.