Blackhawks Q&A: Is it time for Stan Bowman to be fired? Should the Hawks trade for Taylor Hall?

Chicago Tribune Sports 0 month ago
Blackhawks center Kirby Dach battles the Capitals' Jonas Siegenthler for position during the third period. (Paul Beaty / AP)
Blackhawks center Kirby Dach battles the Capitals' Dmitry Orlovfor control of the puck during the first period. (Paul Beaty / AP)
Referees attempt to break up a fight between the Blackhawks and Capitals during the third period. (Paul Beaty / AP)
Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the third period against the Capitals. (Paul Beaty / AP)
Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford fails to stop a shot by the Capitals' T.J. Oshie during the first period. (Paul Beaty / AP)
Blackhawks forward Dominik Kubalik celebrates with fans after scoring during the second period against the Capitals. (Paul Beaty / AP)
Capitals goalie Braden Holtby makes a save during the second period against the Blackhawks. (Paul Beaty / AP)
Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) makes a save on the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin during the first period. (Paul Beaty / AP)

Now that Kirby Dach has made his NHL debut, we can move on to other important things such as Adam Boqvist making his NHL debut.

Boqvist’s call-up is not on the horizon just yet, but answers to your mailbag questions await below.

Do you not think the Hawks are killing Dylan Strome’s confidence by not playing him with his buddy, Alex DeBrincat? — @dalekew

The way this question is phrased you must be a lawyer. No, I don't think Strome's confidence is in any way affected by not playing on a line with DeBrincat.

Yeah, they’re best friends, but that’s simply not a factor. For one thing, Strome and Patrick Kane have become very close over the last year, so if friendship matters, Strome is just fine. In addition, Colliton changes lines so often Strome and DeBrincat likely will be back together before too long.

But, again, Strome’s confidence is fine and he loves being in the Hawks organization after feeling like his career was going nowhere with the Coyotes. Strome has only a goal and two assists in six games, but nobody on the team has had any kind of offensive hot streak yet.

I’m curious why I don’t hear more people calling for Stan Bowman’s job? I understand that everyone is frustrated and a lot of things aren’t working. I’ve said for a while that I think he is way overrated. I realize it’s very early, but other than signing Robin Lehner it looks like he had yet another bad summer. — Jonathan S.

Do a Twitter search for "Fire Stan Bowman" and tell me again that there aren't a lot of people calling for his job. The one consistent thing I've seen from Hawks fans over the last year is most want him gone.

The deals for Dylan Strome and Drake Caggiula, and the second-half surge helped calm things down for a little while, but it wasn’t enough to forget Brent Seabrook’s contract and deals that sent players including Artemi Panarin, Teuvo Teravainen and Phillip Danault out of town.

As far as this offseason, it’s not fair to judge after just six games, but it seems as if Bowman had a pretty good one. He stole Calvin de Haan from the Hurricanes for Gustav Forsling and Anton Forsberg. Getting Andrew Shaw back without giving up anything more than draft picks has given the Hawks some sorely needed toughness.

The other players he dealt for or signed as free agents — Olli Maatta, Ryan Carpenter, Zack Smith and Lehner — are a net positive early in the season.

Bowman’s biggest risk was trading defenseman Henri Jokiharju to the Sabres for forward Alex Nylander. It will take a while to know if this was a wise move, but Jokiharju was not going to be among the top six defensemen this season. So far, Nylander has arguably been the better player of the two. He certainly has the higher ceiling.

Jokiharju has been fine as a third-pairing defenseman for the Sabres. He doesn’t contribute much offensively and he doesn’t make many mistakes. Nylander had one really poor game, but his four points are tied for second on the Hawks despite him playing only 11 minutes, 12 seconds per game.

Nylander still has a ways to go to shed his reputation as somebody who doesn’t care, but that has not been the player the Hawks have seen so far. He has moved around the lineup without complaint, being among the first to practice and the last to leave. Ultimately, he’ll be judged by if he produces, but he’s laying the groundwork.

To be sure, Bowman has a lot riding on this season. It may be that missing the playoffs for a third straight season will result in his dismissal. My guess is he’s not going anywhere unless the team goes completely off the rails.

Power-play and penalty-kill woes are continuing into this season. What do you see as the root causes and possible solutions? — @noahkelly14

The root cause is personnel, plain and simple. If it was just a matter of installing the right system every team would just copy from the league leaders and that would be that.

I’ll say this: I have more hope for the power play this season than I do the penalty kill. The Hawks made a pretty big deal in the offseason about fixing the PK, which was historically bad in 2018-19. They finished with an NHL-worst 72.7% kill rate, which was the worst in the league over the previous 30 seasons.

The two key additions are Ryan Carpenter and Olli Maatta, who were part of decent PKs last season for the Golden Knights and Penguins. They finished 14th and 19th in the league, respectively.

This season? The Golden Knights are fourth and the Penguins are 14th Their old teams haven’t really missed a beat without them, and their new team remains at the bottom with a 66.7% kill rate that’s the third-worst in the league.

What’s most disturbing about the Hawks’ PK problem is how quickly they’ve given up two of the goals. In the home opener, they allowed the Sharks to score in just nine seconds. On Sunday night, the Capitals had just one power-play chance the entire game and it took them all of eight seconds to convert.

The penalty kill is 22nd in the league with a 16.7% conversion rate after going 0-for-5 against the Capitals, but there shouldn’t be the same kind of concern. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson are a strong first unit. They’ve been playing together for nearly a full season and look comfortable together most of the time.

Jeremy Colliton doesn’t seem interested in making changes to the top unit, but he did replace Strome with Dominik Kubalik during a five-on-three situation last week against the Blue Jackets. Don’t be surprised if Kubalik works his way into that top unit if he continues to show off his cannon of a shot.

I understand the impulse to try to mix forward lines in the blender when there’s a need for a surprise or a change — but aren’t forwards like the rest of us, needing to know what their co-workers are up to and ready to do in certain situations? Shouldn’t there be at least one more line like Saad’s that is set so that they can get used to each other? — Margaret L.

Sure, it helps when players are on the same lines for long stretches and develop chemistry. But Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are in their 13th season together, know each other as well any teammates in the league, and have been terrible linemates this season.

Their Corsi percentage (shot attempts for versus shot attempts against) when they are on the same line is 27.14%. That’s abysmal, and it’s a big reason they’re now on separate lines.

The modern game just doesn’t lend itself to creating lines that last long enough to have fun names like the Hawks’ MPH line of Pit Martin, Jim Pappin and Dennis Hull had in the 1970s. Coaches now have advanced analytics to help them decide who should be playing with whom.

Once Kirby Dach's situation is sorted out, the lines may end up being more consistent. But Colliton has shown he has no problem making changes and going to the line blender when he doesn't like what he sees.

Given what Brent Seabrook has done for the Hawks over his career, it’s tough to see him struggle. Is he being paired with the right partner or is there a better combination that could improve his game? — Tim F.

When Jeremy Colliton paired Seabrook and Olli Maatta, my immediate thought was this pairing would be too slow to be anything but a disaster. And so far? It hasn’t been a disaster. But it hasn’t been particularly good.

Their Corsi percentage of 42.06 after six games isn’t good, but it’s not as bad as that of Duncan Keith and Erik Gustafsson, who are at 37.70 and are no longer a pairing. Keith and Connor Murphy are now together, and Gustafsson is paired with Calvin de Haan.

The question of who might be a better partner for Seabook can’t be answered in a vacuum. By that I mean, sure, he’d probably be better if he was paired with de Haan. But then Gustafsson needs a partner, and I don’t think Maatta is a good match to support his offensive chances.

Seabrook and Maatta are going to focus on playing defense. Neither will pinch much or take chances the other can’t support.

If Seabrook is going to be on the Hawks and remain in the lineup, keeping Maatta as his partner makes sense.

Now should Seabrook be out of the lineup completely? That's a question worth exploring once the Hawks decide Adam Boqvist is ready to play in the NHL.

To me, the Nico Hischier extension makes it less likely the Devils will re-sign Taylor Hall. Should the Hawks try to trade for him? — Joe K.

The Hawks would certainly be better with Taylor Hall in their lineup, but this isn’t really a “go for it” season. Assuming the Hawks are buyers in February, they might be willing to give up top prospects for the right to two months of Hall, but only if they believe it will make them Cup contenders.

Trading away big pieces of the future just for a first-round ouster would be a disaster.

As far as viewing Hall as a long-term acquisition, even with Brandon Saad’s $6 million cap hit coming off the books in two years, I’m not sure the Hawks want to take on another $10 million player.

Thanks for all the questions. If you have a question for a future mailbag email me at jgreenfield@chicagotribune.com


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