Chicago, IL – It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword. You can also say that the pen may even be just as mighty as the hockey stick when it comes to building and sustaining championship hockey teams.
The moves made or not made off the ice may play just as significant a role as all the moves on the ice during the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Chicago Blackhawks and their General Manager Stan Bowman seem to understand this very well. Stan Bowman’s moves may rival Patrick Kane’s spin-o-rama only in the boardroom not on the ice.
Committing to excellence is one thing but it may actually be harder to sustain and maintain excellence. Stan Bowman seems to take this charge very seriously and so far has made all the right moves. To win two Stanley Cups in four years is no easy feat in the salary cap era. He also has this team positioned for future championships for quite some time.
Canadian radio is envious of the Blackhawks and the position that they are in. Since they are the best they have now become the measure other teams and their fans judge their teams by and their rosters. Recently on Canadian radio I heard Toronto lament how the Hawks have more cap space than the Maple Leafs and few holes to fill which the Leafs have cap issues and a lot of holes to fill. Envy is the most sincerest form of flattery so Stan should be flattered.
Stan Bowman not only seems to have endeared himself with his players, coaches, staff and media but also with the Chicago Blackhawk fans. He is winning fans himself with the moves he has made or not made with the roster. On twitter during the summer after a signing, it is not uncommon to see GO STAN GO!
He has won me over with how he treats his players with respect. In an era of corporate greed and company’s devaluation of their work force and off shoring it is truly refreshing to see someone who actually understands managing a work force, loyalty and plain old just doing the right thing by people.
This week Stan Bowman has stated the Hawks are committed to keeping Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane in a Blackhawks jersey forever. Now this may seem to not be a good negotiation strategy but I think it is a shrewd and wise move. It shows he recognizes and is committed to players who are irreplaceable to this team’s success.
Most corporations would have you believe there is no such thing as an employee that is not able to be replaced but as we have seen there are certain people with skills that are just not easily replaced if at all. Stan has identified his core, of which Toews and Kane are a part of. I doubt anyone who follows the Hawks think he is wrong in his assessment of these players value to this team. Bravo Stan for acknowledging it and committing to these extraordinary players and people.
When I first started to notice Stan Bowman’s skill with personnel was with Patrick Kane. First it was his maturity questions then there were unfounded trade rumor speculations mostly by the media and uneducated fans. Stan was always quick to stand by and for Patrick Kane maybe even taking criticism for keeping Kane on the Hawks, fortunately he doesn’t listen to the critics and had faith in his young phenom winger.
The Boston Bruins recently ran into the similar issues with their young star Tyler Seguin but chose to trade him rather than work through the issues with Tyler. Maybe they are right maybe they are wrong, but the Chicago Blackhawk fans are glad Patrick Kane remains a Hawk. To have given up on Kane would be very shortsighted. Patrick Kane himself recently got teary eyed when speaking of the Blackhawk organizations’ faith and belief in him. 1
Stan also recently resigned Corey Crawford, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Bryan Bickell all of whom gave Stan and the Blackhawks a reduction in salary for staying in Chicago. Why? Because they all know they are part of something special and good. The Hawks gave them all a chance to succeed and maybe believed in them when no other team would. Now they can return the favor and try and win more championships and remain part of a great team.
Bowman again identified and rewarded keys to the Blackhawks success. For all of the Corey Crawford doubters, Stan was right about him. In fact it probably should have been Crawford that walked away with the Conn Smyth instead of Kane. His consistency during the playoffs again made Stan Bowman look like a genius.
One of Stan Bowman’s strengths is his scouting staff headed up by Mark Kelley and the work they are doing with identifying Blackhawks’ prospects. Equally important is developing them headed up by Barry Smith. Bowman is intelligent enough to have quality people on his staff and let them do their jobs.
Having personally attended a prospect camp you can tell that Stan Bowman and the entire Hawks organization are very interested in their young prospects developing into Blackhawks. Just look at Bryan Bickell and Corey Crawford to name a few.
This team also is not afraid to give the young guns a shot with the big club. In fact that is why some of the current Hawks had to leave to make room for the prospects. Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks know the future is how well your prospects develop and the more experience they get the better they will be. Hockey is a young man’s game.
This past year look at the opportunities Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger, Nick Leddy and Brandon Saad got and what they gained. Their futures are very bright and to have an organization helping you develop your skills and give you world class training so you can be your best is something not all teams do.
The farm team the Rockford Icehogs have players ready to make the jump like Ben Smith, Brandon Pirri, Jeremy Morin ect.. which again Bowman had a hand in these players as well.
The Blackhawks now have a plethora of talent waiting in the wings like Mark McNeill, Phillip Danault, Adam Clendening, Teuvo Teravainen and Mac Carruth just to name a few. All of which Stan has locked up for some time ensuring the Blackhawks will have plenty of talent in the future.
Stan also understands by having these fledging stars in Rockford it garners interest in the Icehogs while they develop. Hell I’m listening to their rookie camp on Ottawa radio he’s got me committed to this team and their young prospects and I’m not alone
This willingness to give the young players a chance will also ensure that all young prospects will want to come to the Blackhawks. Plus who wouldn’t want to be on a line with Sharp, Kane or Toews or on the blue line next to a Keith, Seabrook or Oduya ect.. Stan has said if you show the team you belong with these players you can make the Hawks it’s up to the player – talk about motivation.
Stan also improved the Hawks when he brought in veterans Johnny Oduya, Michal Rozsival to improve the blue line before the season and then at the trade deadline he signed Michal Handzus to help improve the Hawks faceoffs and shore up the center position for the playoffs. Well he did something right they got another Cup.
Stan Bowman is managing this team with intelligence and foresight. Having waged battles himself with the greatest foe humanity has known cancer maybe has given Bowman an insight and a wisdom few have.
He seems to have a clear understanding of what one’s priorities should be. He has a calm to his demeanor and you never get the sense he makes decisions without much consideration and thought. It also doesn’t hurt that his dad is hockey legend Scotty Bowman who he can always turn to for advice.
What Stan Bowman is building in Chicago with the Blackhawks is a team of exciting, highly skilled hockey players. More importantly though it is being built with a group of young men with unparalleled work ethics, intelligence, character, remarkable leadership and a mental fortitude to overcome anything and their GM mirrors these attributes. Sounds like a formula for future championships to me.
1 CSN interview with Patrick Kane on 8/1/13 – http://www.csnchicago.com/sportsnetChicago/search/v/78925780/kane-emotional-for-blackhawks-giving-him-a-chance.htm