Sometimes every one needs to take a step back and look, in the simplest of terms, at what's really going on.
Blogs, Twitter and message boards have been loaded the last few days with various opinions on the infighting going on within the Hawk organization, the relative merits of Joel Quennevile and Mike Kitchen, who's really in charge, what have you.
Here's how I see it in—as I say—the simplest of terms.
I don't have an opinion on whether Joel Quenneville is a good guy or a bad guy. I do know that over time, he has been and is a top NHL coach. And those guys don't grow on trees. Even if you view Quenneville through a lens where Mike Kitchen is joined to him at the hip, that's a combination that's as good or better than most NHL head coaches and top assistants. Clearly, there are different schools of thought on Kitchen. And different stories out there about just how responsible he was personally for the Hawks' special team dysfunction.
Regardless, Quenneville is here and we know that with a strong roster, Quennevile can win. He's done it here. He did it in Colorado. I am not a huge Joel Quennevile fan (nor a huge detractor). But the devil I know, in this case, is likely far better than the one I don't. All else being equal, he's a coach you can win with.
So you have a winning head coach and a roster that holds some very talented players, arguably some of the league's best at their positions.
What you don't have is a complete roster. You have holes.
Quenneville himself alluded to this in his postseason press conferences. And I have it on good information that as a condition of his staying with the Hawks, significant roster changes must be made.
Need proof of that? Look not just at the number of different line combinations Quenneville tried in specific games, but also throughout the season. Look where, at the end of games, GM Stan Bowman's prized prospects always were: on the bench, putting even more pressure on the Hawk veterans.
Which leads us to Bowman.
Looking at what Bowman has done over the last couple of seasons and offseasons, we see a pattern: higher paid veterans traded for younger, cheaper players, draft picks, prospects or in the case of Rostislav Olesz, a bad contract. We see bargain bin signings of character veterans like Dan Carcillo, Jamal Mayers and Sean O'Donnell. We see a lot of hype put out over prospects, and prospects being put into NHL action whether they're ready (Andrew Shaw, maybe Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith) or not (Brandon Pirri, Dylan Olsen and probably Jimmy Hayes and even Nick Leddy, who was clearly given way more responsibility than he could handle last year).
At the last two trade deadlines, Bowman has waited . . . and waited . . . and waited . . . before in each instance shipping off a draft pick or two for Chris Campoli or Johnny Oduya.
While this is a recipe for austerity and, it can be argued, prospect development, it is not indicative of a GM or an organization that is committed to going all in to win in either year.
In fact, the approach seems to be: roll the core out there and throw a bunch of this and that out and see how it goes. But take no big risks.
That, Hawk fans, could be why Quewnneville has demanded bigger moves. Because without demanding it, as a condition of his staying, it would never happen.
Now, before we burn Bowman in effigy, let's ask: are we expecting too much of him? Although his father is a hockey legend, he, himself, is a first time GM, who came into the job from the numbers side. His boss, who fired his predecessor allegedly for being too independent, is rumored to be a huge control freak and egomaniac.
If any of us were Bowman, we might be a bit overly cautious as well.
But I'm not here to make excuses. The truth is, whether it's Rocky Wirtz or John McDonough, someone needs to tell Stan Bowman his job now depends on making some moves to improve the club, as opposed to slowly trimming and dumping talent for the sake of austerity.
Can he do it? We'll see. Hawk fans might need to be prepared to wait, something that is hard to take in light of the relative inaction of the last couple of years. But, there is a new CBA to hash out and the possibility of longer term injury or retirement with Marian Hossa.
And Bowman's postseason comments were not terribly encouraging, where he seemed to make the tired argument that the team has enough talent, there are great prospects on the way, and that Corey Crawford will likely remain the team's number one goaltender.
By now, we all well know the definition of insanity. And without a change in attitude, we can all pretty much expect something like a bubble team or a first round exit next Spring.
Anyone thinking, as I suspect Bowman and some others might like you to think, that more minutes for Dylan Olsen or plopping Brandon Saad in the top 6 is going to elevate this team really needs to wake up.
Let's assume for a minute that Quenneville's demand for a stronger roster— even if that means trading some of the sacred cows in the core—did in fact happen.
If I'm him, I asked for another legitimate, experienced top 4 defenseman, preferably someone who can engage and clear the front of the net. A 2nd line center. A legitimate top 10 goalie. and more toughness and experience up and down the lineup.
Sounds like a lot. But the Hawks have a plethora of intriguing, speedy, finesse forwards and a boatload of endlessly hyped prospects to deal, and a lot of cap room this summer.
It remains to be seen if they have a front office with the clarity of thought and intestinal fortitude to break the inertia of a two year slide toward mediocrity.
All I have for now.