Like clockwork, yesterday, one month ahead of the regular season trading deadline, Blackhawk GM Stan Bowman made his annual "expect nothing big" speech to reporters.
Literally, this is the same thing Bowman says every year at this time—and going back at least the last two years, we all know how it's turned out.
Please understand: the above by no means proves, alternately, that the Hawks will chump up and make a big move this month.
Bowman has also said similar in years (like 2010), where the team didn't make any big moves before the trade deadline.
What it is is standard Bowman Family-Speak Strategy leading up to any trade or free agent deadline: keep expectations low. It's good politics and it's good negotiating.
Imagine you're an opposing GM (and it's kind of stunning that some fans out there still require this explanation) and you read that Bowman is talking in the media about his desire (need) to make a big deal for a top 6 left wing. Don't you think that amplifies your bargaining position (as an opposing GM) with him—as he is now automatically a bit more desperate to make a deal because he has promised his fan base as much?
I dunno. Maybe I'm the one taking crazy pills here.
All that said, I am hearing that the trade market looks tougher for the Hawks this year because they don't have as much organizational depth to deal from, and their salary cap situation is so tight.
And I have heard, for example, the team has also talked to Colorado about one Jarome Iginla—aged, depleted and plays the side where the Hawks don't need help. But maybe all the Hawks can pull off is a longshot rental move like that—so they can say they at least did something—but it seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face in terms of a commitment to youth, and cap sensibility. And not a move with a high likelihood of success on the ice.
But all that said, the more people I talk to and trust regarding NHL playoff hockey, the more I hear back what I have consistently felt about this year's club: without at least one quality left winger withthe ability to skate on Jonathan Toews' flank, the Hawks are essentially a one-line team and an easy out in the playoffs.
They might make the second round as constructed, with a bit of luck and a better draw in the first round. But it is hard to see them going further with the quality of teams and defenses they would see from there on out. Look no further than their last game versus San Jose.
As I have always said, the playoffs are about depth and the matchups your depth gives you. The Hawks have great players at the top of their roster, and they have improved their defensive depth since last year. But the forwards are weaker overall—after the top 5, it's pretty much a wasteland of averageness and inexperience—at best.
Some argue that parity has created a league full of teams like that. No, parity has created about 26-27 teams like that.
One of the few teams that have managed their salary cap and retained depth on 3-4 lines is best situated to win it all this year. Like, say, Washington.
Hey, I can prognosticate all I want, right? The teams still have to play.
But the law of averages and the eye test says, the Blackhawks would benefit their Cup chances greatly by not standing pat or falling back on a new "dynamic" this year. That "new dynamic," propped up by insanely good and not sustainable goaltending earlier in the year, has resulted overall in the team now falling 6 points behind the Minnesota Wild, who have games in hand.
While I have nothing new to report on the Hawks' pursuit of a forward—and I don't expect any possible deal to happen for another three weeks or so regardless—I did hear some things about the Hawks' goaltending situation.
My information is, the Hawks have reached out to Scott Darling's agent to discuss an extension.
What's more telling is I was also told to look at the deal of the Islanders' Tomas Greiss (3 years/$3.33 million per) as a potential comparable. I think if that's true and the Hawks do go down that road or something similar in terms of the dollars necessary to extend Darling, then it sends a pretty clear message about where they are going this summer and going forward with the goalie position overall—especially as part of their overall cap structure. It's hard to see the Hawks being able to afford committing $10 million to the goalie position in light of their other cap commitments.
I will have more on the summer in a subsequent blog. And a Phoenix recap tomorrow.
One last thing: a shout out to Gate, Patrick, his other brother Patrick and the ice vapor known as the Atomic Froster over at Puckin Hostile for another late night of good hockey discussion. Go give it a listen.