Friend of the program Jay Zawaski had some thoughts on Tuesday. This is a subject we discussed a lot last year, what was the Hawks real intent on the season versus what they told everyone it was and why there was a difference. Jay’s not wrong about anything he says here, and it is a nice thought he wishes for where the Hawks were completely transparent about what their plans are going forward.
But the more I think about it, what do they have to gain?
Quite simply, the Hawks are not going to sell more tickets if they tell everyone that they’re in the process of turning over the team to their younger players. I don’t know that they’d sell less, but their position in the Chicago sports landscape isn’t so secure that they would feel they can risk it. While telling us exactly what “The Plan” is would make us all feel better, our mental state isn’t of real importance to them. The Hawks quite simply can’t take the risk of telling their only casual fans that this season might not matter. And that’s assuming there is “a plan.”
Secondly, the Hawks can’t really send that message to Keith, to Seabrook, to Kane, to Toews, and maybe even especially to Crawford. While the organization might be looking at the days already where they’re no longer the main contributors, considering they’re the guys who pulled this organization out of the seventh level of hell they’re owed a certain amount of promises from the front office. You can’t really tell these guys that they’re going to spend the next season or two or three playing games that aren’t going to matter. Maybe they know it already, maybe they don’t, but you certainly can’t give them that message in public. And considering whatever Crawford is working his way back from (and right now “working” is just a claim), it would be truly unfair to have him bust his ass to come back to backstop a team his bosses just told everyone isn’t really relevant.
These guys are made, and I think the only way the Hawks could even consider it would be to meet with them privately and say this is where we want to go, and you have the option of being a part of it or not. These guys all have full NMCs and I doubt any of them are interested in moving, but they also might not want to have another playoff-less season or two.
At the same time, the Hawks simply can’t move them, because of the aforementioned fragility of their place in the market. Toews, Kane, Keith, Seabrook, and Crawford are still the players most fans can identify only and buy the tickets to see. You and I might go to see Top Cat’s or Schmaltz’s (or hopefully Jokiharju’s) development (because we’re sick and our lives our empty), but the guy or girl you work with doesn’t. Even if we passed through some undiscovered wormhole into a world where the Hawks could and would do a full tear-down, McDonough and Rocky are not going to stomach a season or two of a half-empty building. Not after all the back-slapping they’ve done with each other by taking the Hawks out of that by simply standing there while the roster that was already in place took shape.
However, the Hawks “rebuild” plan is flawed. You “rebuild, ” whether fully or on the fly, if you have players to build the future around. The Hawks don’t. Nick Schmaltz maxes out as a great #2 center. Maybe DeBrincat is a genuine top line scorer, and maybe he’s something of a tweener from a #1 or #2 LW. He could be any iteration of Phil Kessel, really. There’s no top-pairing d-man anywhere near ready. If you’re building a team around #2 centers and maybe 1st-line wingers, congratulations you’re the St. Louis Blues or the Minnesota Wild. And you know where that road goes and it’s nowhere pretty.
Which brings me to Erik Karlsson. If you’re a team that’s called about Justin Faulk, then you’d obviously call about Erik Karlsson because Erik Karlsson is the absolute idealized version of Justin Faulk. Sure, the Hawks would have to clear out Hossa’s contract to fit him in for this season, and then need more salary cap rises to accommodate him for the next contract he’s going to sign. But based on what’s been rumored to be the return from the Stars or Lightning, the Hawks could probably match it.
So if they’re not rebuilding, and they say they aren’t, and they’re after Justin Faulk, why aren’t they calling? Why aren’t they at least saying they’re calling? Karlsson is the quickest route to maximizing whatever you have left in “the core.” If you’re stated aim of competing every season is your actual aim, and we don’t know that it is, you’d be in on this. You would have been in on Tavares too, but the Hawks didn’t even get in the room.
McClure has a theory that the Hawks would never take on any player that would have to be paid more than Toews and Kane (which is funny in itself, because Keith has been the most important player throughout this run but that’s another discussion). Karlsson doesn’t make that yet but obviously will. I wonder if that’s the case and whether that really matters to either if they’re staring at finishing out their careers playing on middling teams.
Given what’s already on the roster, the Hawks simply can’t be bad enough to draft high enough to get a true difference maker without a shit-ton of luck either in the lottery or by getting a player of that quality in the spots they don’t generally come from. So why are those picks so important? And if everyone’s job is on the line like they claim, wouldn’t you be after the one player that basically assures everyone keeps their job? Karlsson takes this dreck and at worst it’s a playoff team with a healthy Crawford (and maybe even not). That would at least see Quenneville finish the season and Stan get to see out whatever his plan is.
But again, there’s no impetus for them to tell us. The sweaty hand-clappers and their ugly fucking kids will still be at the Convention happily sopping up whatever tripe they’re fed. There won’t be much scrutiny from a press corps that has the Cubs and Bears training camp a mere two weeks away. Quite simply, the Hawks won’t tell us what they’re doing because they don’t have to.