Chicago Blackhawks general manager considerations
By Kevin Braeunle
With the recent loss in Winnipeg, it appears as though the Chicago Blackhawks playoff chances are dissipating.
Many fans continue to express their frustration with both head coach Jeremy Colliton and general manager Stan Bowman as reasons for the Chicago Blackhawks under-performing season.
After missing the playoffs back-to-back years for the first time since the 2006/07 and 2007/08 seasons, Bowman is on the hot seat. Spurred by his poor trades and inability to construct another playoff roster, Bowman will have to do something significant and beneficial if he hopes to keep his job in Chicago. Unfortunately for Bowman, he cannot use the same strategy he did in 2017 by firing the coach to protect himself. Given the Blackhawks fail to make the playoffs again this year, what options do John McDonough and company have at the general manager position? Let’s take a look:
Option One: Ray Shero
Recently let go by the New Jersey Devils earlier this year, Shero could be a nice fit in Chicago. While the situation in New Jersey has been anything but great this year; in Shero’s defense, it was fueled by underwhelming production and inconsistency from stars and the rest of the roster. Shero has had a decent trade history highlighted by two of his most recent trades as well as one during his tenure with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
While in New Jersey, Shero was able to stockpile the organization with promising prospects and draft picks. When I first heard about the big Coyotes-Devils trade, I wasn’t initially sure what to think in terms of winner and loser. However, given Taylor Hall’s play this year, coupled with the Devils’ current situation it is starting to look like a good trade for the Devils. The Devils prospects are doing well in Binghamton and the Devils get another first-round pick to add in their deep prospect pool.
In his first season in the NHL, Nikita Gusev is putting up some decent numbers especially given the Devils’ success this year. Gusev is still fairly young and has room to grow and become more of a leader on a young Devils team.
Shero is also a big reason for the current success of the Penguins and where they are in the standings today. Back during his time as general manager for the Penguins, he traded two draft picks in order to move up six spots. This would prove to be very wise as the penguins drafted Tristan Jarry with the newly acquired 44th overall pick. With his experience, solid drafting, and ability to trade I think Shero could help get the Hawks back on track.
Option Two: Mike Gillis
I know some Blackhawk fans will not like this choice because of the Vancouver-Chicago rivalry from earlier in the 2010 era, but Gillis constructed a Stanley Cup Final roster in Vancouver and has made some good trades during his tenure there. Gillis spent roughly six seasons in Vancouver and saw the club make the playoffs during five of those seasons. Let’s take a look at some of his more notable trades during his time in British Columbia.
This trade is one of, if not the best trade made by Gillis as the Vancouver Canucks drafted Bo Horvat with their ninth overall pick. While the first few years in New Jersey were good for Cory Schneider, things eventually went downhill. Schneider has failed to be a consistent NHLer in the past few years while Bo Horvat blossomed into the Canucks captain and is well on his way to his fourth consecutive 20+ goal season.
This deal seems to be getting better as time goes on. Roberto Luongo, who has had a great career is now retired while Jacob Markström is having a career year and made his All-Star weekend debut this year in St. Louis. If Markström proves to be a number one goalie for the Canucks this would go down as a big win for Gillis and the Canucks. Overall, Gillis turned a Canucks team with the potential to a cup final bound team with many playoff appearances along the way. He also has a good track record when it comes to trades which will be something refreshing in Chicago.
Option Three: Bill Zito
Zito, once a heavy favorite for the Seattle job is still on the market. Zito has been an assistant general manager for the Columbus Blue Jackets for over 5 years now. After law school, Zito became a player agent up until taking his current position in Columbus. Due to his background as an agent, Zito should be a skillful negotiator and good with numbers.
After years of working under Jarmo Kekäläinen, I think Zito is primed to jump to the general manager position. Zito is also in charge of Columbus’s AHL affiliate the Cleveland Monsters who won the Calder Cup in 2015-16 under Zito. Although he doesn’t have any previous NHL trade history his experience working alongside Kekäläinen should have him prepared come his time as a general manager.
Lastly, I believe Ron Francis would have been another solid candidate; however, he was named general manager of the NHL’s newest edition in Seattle. Whether or not you think any of these general managers would fit in Chicago, I think many of us will agree Bowman’s time here should be coming to end.