After defeating Edmonton in a best-of-five qualifying series, Chicago is officially in the playoffs. The Chicago Blackhawks are back in the mix!
It’s been a couple of years since the Chicago Blackhawks made it to the postseason, but they’ve finally done it. Now, what about Stan Bowman?
Keep him, or fire him?
Win, lose, or overtime skills competition the team that takes to the ice is Bowman’s. Whatever you want to make out of the not-so-distant past, previous GM Dale Tallon has nothing to do with this team anymore.
The Tallon vs. Bowman debate is over. This is Bowman’s team, and that brings us to the present.
Ever since Chicago defeated Tampa Bay in 2014-2015 to win the Stanley Cup, the Blackhawks have dropped off in terms of quality.
Stop and ask yourself, when was the last time the Blackhawks won a postseason series?
You need to go back to that last Stanley Cup-winning season. Since then they’ve lost in the first round to the St. Louis Blues (2016) and were swept by the Nashville Predators (2017).
Then nothing for two years.
Now Chicago will compete in the playoffs again, and fans are rightfully thrilled, as well as relieved.
The lack of playoff hockey for such a successful team was generally placed squarely at the feet of the team’s GM, and fans have been loudly calling for Bowman to be replaced for a couple of years.
However, Chicago has stood by their GM. Has this been the right call?
Even though Chicago has finally made it into the playoffs after two years of not qualifying, it would still be justified to part ways with Bowman, right?
It’s hard to justify four years of so-so teams.
Additionally, if Chicago hadn’t beaten Edmonton then it would be hard to defend sticking with Bowman any further, but there’s the rub.
Chicago did beat Edmonton.
Most importantly for Bowman, who has almost certainly been on the hottest of seats this year, players he is directly responsible for bringing into the organization were key to defeating the Oilers.
Kirby Dach, who was selected at 3rd overall is on his way to being an excellent player. Bowman could have picked from a lot of talented young players, but he chose Dach. It’s hard to argue that this was a bad choice.
Then again, there have been missteps.
There’s also Brent Seabrook’s contract which is a talking point on almost any given day. When Bowman made that deal it was like he attached an anchor to the team.
It wouldn’t be hard to point to a variety of moves that could be used to justify keeping him, or sending him packing. There’s too much evidence to make either case.
Coming into the qualifying round, Chicago was an underdog. Most people thought they had no business participating in the postseason at all for the NHL’s plan to return to play.
Despite how unorthodox this season has been, Chicago showed up and won.
No, Chicago won’t be drafting Alexis Lafreniere, but it would have been more disappointing to see the Blackhawks bounced out in the qualifying round.
Had Chicago lost in Edmonton, all of the assumptions about the team being mediocre would have been affirmed, and the Blackhawks would be relegated to competing for the draft lottery, rather than the Cup. Again.
It would have been the third time in three years that hype would have been focused on a Chicago draft pick.
Bowman knew that the team’s depth needed shoring up, and on paper, he did just that. Early on in the season, Maatta, in particular, looked off, but he’s been a very reliable third-pairing defenseman alongside Slater Koekkoek, another of Bowman’s acquisitions.
Does this mean Chicago is going to go the distance and make a deep playoff run?
Who knows, but they beat Edmonton and stopped two of the most potent offensive players in the league.
Love it, or loathe it, now that Chicago is truly in the playoffs again, Bowman will probably be around a little bit longer.