Hockey

Groundhog Stan – Six More Weeks Of Nothing

I guess I’ll give Stan some dap for appearing in public right before the deadline. Though at the intermission of the game in Calgary is an interesting choice, given the time restraints. But whatever, Stan took the time to talk, which he’s not good at, which means we have to dissect what he said, which we are. Let’s to it.

And I want to start with a question from Mark Lazerus:

Well, you were in pretty much the same situation last year, almost identical, where you’re on the outside but within striking distance. You wound up not really doing much of anything. Is that a strong possibility again this year, that you might just let these guys play it out?

And this is the crux of the whole thing, isn’t it? The Hawks didn’t do anything at the deadline last year, in one direction or the other. Now that’s not all of it, as they did pick up Drake Caggiula, who is at least useful, and Slater Koekkoek, who probably isn’t, well before the deadline. They also swapped Nick Schmaltz for Dylan Strome, which looked last year like a great move and this year looks no worse than break-even. But the Hawks didn’t pick a lane last year, they held on to Erik Gustafsson at the peak of his value. They didn’t add anything and mortgage any of their future in the process, which is good. But they didn’t fully commit to the following years either, which left them not doing anything all that effective in the summer, other than signing de Haan, and now he might have one arm forever.

Again, this year they have a choice, and while Gustafsson doesn’t have the value he did they have more pieces to play with in the form of Lehner and if they want to get really goofy, Strome. Maybe even Maatta. But it’s likely they’ll do nothing, and have less cap space next summer, which is pretty much going to leave them running in place again.

Of course. In the moment, that’s fun. But you pay the price down the road, and we’re kind of down that road now. It’s always that balance of the push and pull of the present and the future. Because you’d love to be able to go for it and not have it impact your team three or four years down the road. But that’s usually what happens, is the players or draft picks that you give away, you don’t feel it that next year or two years. It’s usually four years later when those players are in their early 20s and they should be helping you, but you don’t have them because they’re somewhere else.

It’s important to be fair to Stan here as well. Because this is right. The Hawks are paying the piper now for the picks they didn’t have and the prospects they had to give up. Phillip Danault would help. Teuvo Teravainen would help. Maybe one of the picks they surrendered in ’15 or ’16 would have been a contributor by now. This was the line Stan tried to walk back then, and it’s nearly impossible. He’s trying to get out of that now, which is also near impossible.

Probably not a couple games, no. I guess you look at from the trade deadline backwards to the All-Star break. That’s a pretty good chunk of games there. I think when we get to a week from now, next weekend, we’ll have a pretty good idea of how we’ve played. We haven’t been good the last few games, that’s true. But we’ve got a few more games before next weekend, four games. So I think we’ll add it up to the last five or six and we’ll see where we’re at. We certainly have to get some good fortune here over the next stretch. Otherwise, it’s going to be tough.

Now this is the big thing. We’ve dismissed the Hawks thought-train as they’ll use the efforts instead of the results this past week as a justification to do nothing. They’ll say they dominated Vancouver, which they did, and they got a couple bad calls in Edmonton, which they also did. They’ll point to the seemingly small-ish gap to the wildcard, even though it’s actually quite large. But every team that falls short has got a story. You still fell short. Admit what you are.

But I don’t know that they’ll do that. For an adventurous front office, or at least one with an actual vision, this past week would be the justification they would need. They’re not as good as the Jets. They’re not as good as the Predators. That right there is more than enough to prove they won’t make the playoffs. They might not be as good as the Flames. I think they’re as good as the Oilers or the Canucks, maybe even better, but the standings are the standings. They’re not making the playoffs, which means the aim has to be doing everything they can to make the playoffs next year. That process has to start now.

Maybe Stan feels the same way, but we’ve seen nothing to indicate that.

There’s no perfect answer for that, how do you make everybody happy. I don’t know if you can.

I’ve got to look at a broader spectrum, try to get ourselves to be in a position so that we are on top of the league. That’s where we want to get to because, like you said earlier, that’s when it’s most fun, when you’re on top and trying to add pieces to make you the best team in the league. We want to get back to that. We know what that’s like. We’ve got to get back to that.

This is where it starts to feel like Stan does get it, at least a bit. He knows he can’t keep the vets happy and build this team for the future at the same time. But he knows the latter is probably more important than the former, and both will meet up in the middle if he can accomplish it.

The part that’s hard to figure out is that last year, the Hawks made it clear they would keep the vets apprised and informed of what they were trying to do. Which they should. Kane, Toews, Seabrook, Keith, and Crawford have earned that. And they have earned the right to say if they’re on board or not.

The problem is the Hawks have also told us, “there’s no plan, there’s a process.” So what did they tell them, exactly? Was it they would go all out this season? Well, that didn’t work, so how do the vets feel now? It would mean there would have to be a new map, as it were. Why would they believe in a second map after the first didn’t work at all? Or did they tell them it was going to take multiple years after already missing the playoffs for multiple years? But it’s never sounded like that from anyone. So where do they go?

I think Jeremy’s done a fantastic job. I really do. I know the results aren’t where we want them to be, and he would say the same thing. We get frustrated when we don’t win games. But I look at the way our team’s playing, in particular the last couple months. I think the beginning of the year, the hardest part was trying to instill some new habits in our players. We spent a lot of time trying to ingrain habits and they don’t form overnight. So I think early on in the season, you saw guys that were trying to do the right thing, but there was a little bit too much thinking going on.

And then we get some Stan horeshit, and a primo version of it. First off, you can’t say your coach is doing a remarkable job and then in the next sentence say the results aren’t there. They don’t square up.They’re almost in direct opposition to each other, in fact. That only works for a truly rebuilding team rife with youngsters and you’re just trying to develop them. The Hawks have aggressively told us they are not that.

And we’re still going with “instilling new habits.” It’s fucking February of the second year. First it was hard to do in the regular season last year. Then it was all-we-need-in-magic-training camp. Now it’s still going on. How much longer do you think we’re going to believe this? Maybe the players suck, or the players know the coach’s system sucks and they won’t play it. Maybe it’s both. But Colliton has been in charge more than long enough to “instill” whatever it is they’re looking for. Fuck, it was enough last February. You can’t keep moving the goalposts to justify what looks increasingly like a bad hire.

And the Hawks still play like shit, in that they give up far too many shots and chances and lose guys in their zone all the damn time. If this is what makes Stan happy, then everyone has to go. Perhaps the most sobering paragraph actually comes from Scott Powers today, in an article looking at the Hawks’ cap problems to come:

The next question is obviously whether the Blackhawks would be better with this roster than they are this season. That’s hard to say. They’re probably banking on the young players taking that next step, Seabrook coming back improved, de Haan finding that same level again, Shaw contributing and the veterans at least maintaining their performance.

We already did that once. And it led to this. I don’t mean to over-binge on Anton Chigurh memes but they seem to fit…

 

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