Musings

A Restless Fourth Estate

One day soon, I’d love to see Stan Bowman say he’s going to meet with the media and no one show up. I think both sides would probably be happier that way. He never says anything, so the media doesn’t get much to write about. And he clearly doesn’t enjoy talking to them. This is a loveless marriage where they just show up to see their talentless kid’s recital and spend the whole thing loudly exhaling, wondering how things turned out this way.

So after Day 2 of Prospects Camp, Bowman met the media yesterday and said nothing. Yes, the Hawks have more cap space, but he may or may not use it. He may be looking for another d-man, but he may not be. They may add to the team, but he might not as well. Maybe, maybe not, maybe fuck yourself. This is basically all you get from Stan ever.

And clearly some of the beats are getting a little agitated, though you can see the frustration. There’s only so many words you’re going to get out of Cam Ward, Brandon Manning, and Chris Kunitz, and all the people yelling at you on Twitter don’t know who those people are anyway. So you get this from Mark Lazerus. Or this from Scott Powers. Or maybe this from the irredeemably handsome Jay Zawaski.

And all of it seems to suggest that the Hawks don’t have a direction, or a plan, or if they do they’re not saying anything. And we’ll never know because they won’t say anything ever.

But here’s the thing, and we’ve been over this before, there’s really no reason for them to.

I know we live in a town where both baseball teams have now been as transparent as can be, and it would be awesome to be in a world where every team does that. But when you’re about to embark on a full blown tear-down and rebuild, it’s easy to be transparent. Both the Cubs and Sox had been utterly useless for years before they decided to blow it all up. It was obvious what they had to do. Everyone knew it. Once you trade one aging star with an expiring contract, even if you haven’t said anything the cat’s out of the bag and it’s clear the rest will go.

And you’re prepping your fanbase that way. You’re saying it’s going to be rough, please stick with us and keep buying tickets and we promise it’ll pay off. Chances are you’ve already stopped selling as many tickets, or any in the Sox case, and you’re basically just trying to cauterize that  wound.

The Hawks aren’t in the same place. They’re not doing a full rebuild, and we’ve been over why they can’t. It really wouldn’t do Stan any good to say to the assembled media, “Well I’m going home every night and lighting a candle in my Justin Faulk shrine and then doing a seance hoping to force  Don Waddell to fall down and hit his head on a fire hydrant on the way to work and gives me him and Skinner for Artem Anisimov and the Other Sikura.” (side note: Waddell might be this dumb anyway but we’ll find out) While those on the inside know what the Hawks are looking for, publicly declaring it only erodes leverage.

Secondly, at least not yet, the Hawks haven’t stopped selling tickets. The TV numbers might be down, but the tickets haven’t gone that way. Yet. While they may have done some padding to keep their beloved sellout streak alive, they’re still at or near capacity every night. But it’s a fragile hold. Declaring “we’re gonna be THE SUCK for a bit while we groom these kids” is going to erode that unstable foundation of fans in a hurry. The Hawks might get there anyway by New Year’s Day if they start at .500 again or worse, but they have to salvage what they can.

Thirdly, Stan can’t declare that he isn’t satisfied with his roster because what does that tell the players who show up at camp right now? What’s that motivational speech on the first day? “Well guys, here we are, I wanted to add to this misshapen dreck but couldn’t and I really don’t think you’re going to the playoffs unless God miracles your ass there, so now give us everything you got!”

Honestly, I don’t think the veterans on this team are stupid enough to not see what’s going on here, but they don’t want their GM shitting on it, too.

I don’t want to be seen to be a staunch Stan defender, though I am a defender. He’s made his mistakes, and lord knows we’ve cataloged all of them here repeatedly. But when it comes to this, even though he’s bad at talking, I don’t really know what he’s supposed to say. If he comes right out and says, “We’re looking for another d-man because our blue line currently resembles upchucked Fruit Loops, but for the right price,” and then doesn’t get one, he still gets pilloried. It looks like he’s afraid to pull the trigger.

The other problem for Stan is that when you’re a mediocre team, you have no strength to trade from. What’s the surplus on the Hawks right now? It’s not d-men. It’s not centers. It may have been shifty, fast forwards who might be middle six guys but they just traded the one they had to lose to also lose Hossa’s contract. They can’t lose Schmaltz. They can’t lose DeBrincat. They can’t really lose Saad unless it’s a knockout deal, because that would just be running in place. Now, that erosion of a reservoir of talent is on Stan, at least to a point. This again, is where losing Johns and Teuvo for literally nothing is so detrimental, Because now you don’t have anything to trade for what you need. I’d throw Danault on the list, but he was at least flogged for what the Hawks thought would be something. If you had those three players now and not enough spots to go around, you best believe you could put a package together for Faulk or even Karlsson.

That’s the problem for NHL GMs. While they’re overwhelmingly made up of morons, nincompoops, and ignoramuses (ignorami?), they have no margin for error. There’s only two trades in there that Stan had to make to lose a contract, and now he has no flexibility. So I don’t know what good talking about it would do.

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