Long before the Blackhawks recent slide of 4 losses out of their last 5, the media around town has been questioning the jobs being done by general manager Stan Bowman and head coach Joel Quenneville, not to mention the Hawks ability to make the playoffs this year. The media succeeded two weeks ago, in convincing Bowman to run forward Richard Panik out of town to Arizona, for inconsistent and underachieving left wing Anthony Duclair.
Granted, Panik was off to a slow start, he wasn’t being the physical force he was a year ago. By acquiring Duclair, a finesse player, the Hawks got a little younger and hope that Duclair can live up to scouts projections of being a 40+ scorer. But Panik was at the front end of his prime years and his numbers were just starting to come back to career averages. I hope that Stan knows what he is doing with Duclair, who will have to start scoring soon before he gets demoted from the top line with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad.
It is better to trust Bowman and the moves that he makes than accept a general manager who would stand pat. Because of previous deals, the Hawks are already short on the number of draft picks they hold this upcoming off-season. So they may as well go all in to make the playoffs this year, knowing the championship window is already starting to close with every birthday Toews and Kane celebrate. Bowman’s aggressiveness is a big reason the Hawks are considered one of the top teams of the decade.
The current state of consternation around the Hawks has more to do with the helplessness of goalie Corey Crawford’s health. Depending on the source, he either has his 2nd bout of vertigo in the last two years or he’s dealing with post-concussion syndrome. Either way, he’s going to be out for a while and Bowman, rest assured, will turn over every stone to find the best solution to the Hawks goal tending needs.
Sun-Times writer Mark Lazerus, believes that solution is Petr Mrazek, the Detroit Red Wings backup goalie who recently shutout the Hawks on January 14th. He would be a great acquisition, but I don’t think that Detroit would give up their goalie of the future to the Hawks, no matter what Bowman gave up. Besides, Detroit is trying to make the playoffs in the Eastern conference and would be more likely to give up veteran goalie Jimmy Howard, but not until Detroit was out of the playoff race. By then it would be too late to matter for the Hawks.
That’s why I believe the Hawks will aim a little lower to find a veteran net-minder. I happen to think that Ottawa Senator’s goalie Craig Anderson, a native of Park Ridge and a former Hawks prospect, fit’s the bill for what Bowman would be looking for.
First, if the Hawks put Crawford on long term injured reserve, they will not be able to recall him this season. Now if they did, they would be able to use Crawford’s cap space slot to acquire another goalie. This would allow the Hawks to aim higher in terms of a quality goalie. Then in the off season the Hawks would have to trade Crawford or the new goalie to fit back under the cap.
Or Bowman acquires a cheaper alternative, like Anderson, who only has a cap hit of $3 million a year. But Ottawa’s roster is filled with other possibilities that would allow for the two teams to swap packages of players to fit each other’s cap space. The Hawks would then be able to move the $4.6 million salary of defenseman Connor Murphy, and winger Lance Bouma and his $1 million salary.
This plan would allow the Hawks to keep Crawford on the roster until he feels better. In the meantime the Hawks acquire a veteran goalie who will be highly motivated to come home to Chicago, and will provide a spark to a team that Quenneville has been trying to wake up all season.
The trade deadline is February 26th, and for the Blackhawks, getting second line center Artem Anisimov back from injury is a welcome shot in the arm. Right now the Hawks are under-performing on the power play and on offense overall. They are only 8 goals behind the average for the current playoff teams. That is a razor thin margin and deficit also shared by playoff rivals from years past, the Minnesota Wild and Los Angeles Kings.
It seems like the Hawks have been waiting forever to get the Russian back to good health. His presence and passing on the second line, should provide an immediate boost to Patrick Kane and raise the team scoring stats to normal levels, as Nick Schmaltz will now center the 3rd line. His arrival also coincides with the most critical part of the schedule right on the horizon.
From now until mid-February the Hawks face either teams they will have to climb over in the standings, like Calgary and Dallas ( 3 times), or teams that are, like the Hawks, currently outside the playoff’s like Los Angeles, Vancouver, Anaheim, Minnesota and Arizona. The next 13 games will let us and Stan Bowman know, whether the Hawks are in, or out, this year. That will still leave Stan another week to decide to buy toward the playoffs or be seller’s for the first time in a decade.
I’m all in!