For the first time in his time as general manager of the Blackhawks, Stan Bowman has the financial freedom to build the team the way he sees fit. Interestingly enough however the additions he made on July 1st are all of a different breed of player than Bowman had acquired in the past. In adding Andrew Brunette, Dan Carcillo, Jamal Mayers, Steve Montador, and Sean O’Donnell; the Blackhawks will be both tougher and older.
Up to this point, Bowman has favored skilled players and rarely targeted anyone old enough to be a UFA. Of course part of that history could be due to the fact that he had to make his adjustments to the roster through trades. Cam Barker was the first to go from the roster under Bowman and returned Kim Johnsson and Nick Leddy. Both skilled puck moving defensmen, which Barker was not. Then in last season’s salary cap purge Bowman moved several players and received Viktor Stalberg, Jeremy Morin, Ivan Vishnevskiy, and several other prospects and draft picks. Then last season his two big moves were trading Jack Skille for Michael Frolik and Alexander Salak; along with a second round pick for Chris Campoli. Until July 1st it looked like Bowman’s plan was to out skate and out skill opponents every night.
To his credit those moves worked fairly well last season. Despite a disappointing 8th seed finish for the Blackhawks they faired well against skill teams last season. They were 21-14-7 against playoff teams nabbing 58.3% of the possible points in those games. Where they had trouble was against the teams in the bottom of the standings, such as the Avalanche (1-2-1), Oilers (2-2-0), and Panthers (1-1-0).
The 5 signings will add a new dimension to the roster that was present in the Cup winning season but missing last year. The bottom of the roster two seasons ago featured Adam Burish, Ben Eager, John Madden, and Colin Fraser; all guys who not only could be physical and annoying to the other team but who could actually play the game a little too. This season they were replaced with Stalberg, John Scott, Fernando Pisani, and Jake Dowell. Next season the fourth line should feature Carcillo and Mayers who both bring the snarl that was missing from this team last season while also having the potential to score 5 to 10 goals each as well.
While there was little question that the Blackhawks needed to add some grit to their roster the other quality that Bowman and others have praised about the signings is the addition of veteran leadership to the roster. The question no one has asked however is did Bowman feel that there was a lack of leadership on this team?
Jonathan Toews is known for his leadership by example style but as last season’s team frequently played up or down to its opponent more vocal leadership can’t be a bad thing. Toews, did speak up on occasion most notably during the first intermission of the February 21st game in St. Louis where the Hawks fell behind 2-0 after 20 minutes. The Hawks responded with a 3 goal outburst in the first 6:29 of the second and won the game 5-3. But the captain can only go to the well so many times, if there was a attitude problem on the team the addition of veteran players who know how to be professional should help with that.
Regardless of which qualities the new players bring to the Blackhawks one thing is for sure, Bowman finally has a team he can call his own.