Will Stan Bowman be fired as Chicago Blackhawks general manager in the coming days?
That’s the $64,000 question everyone wants an answer to as another unsuccessful season winds down.
So, let me answer it for you: It’s exteremly unlikely.
But why, you ask.
• Didn’t Bowman decimate a team that was the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference two years ago by trading Artemi Panarin and Niklas Hjalmarsson?
• Didn’t he give Brent Seabrook an eight-year contract just before the 2015-16 season?
• Weren’t some of the veterans infuriated with the standpat mentality at February’s trade deadline?
• Aren’t some still wondering why a hard-nosed forward like Ryan Hartman was traded?
If you are screaming about these things — and others — you are not alone.
But know this: President and CEO John McDonough has Bowman’s back for now.
He’s not going to let his general manager go until — at the minimum — he sees what Jeremy Colliton can accomplish in his first full season as an NHL coach.
“This was the first head coach that he hired,” McDonough told me in early February when I asked if Bowman’s leash is fairly long. “It’s not about the leash. We’re cognizant of the fact that not every trade works. Body of work has been exceptional. We’ve won three Stanley Cups, almost four.
“And a lot of people get the credit for that. There were people who predated us. But I think Stan has played a primary role in the reason that we’ve won.”
Fair enough. Bowman certainly has made his fair share of good and bad moves over the past few years.
But if you want to zero in on the biggest mistake made over the past year, it’s the timing of when Quenneville was fired.
If Quenneville had been let go last April, Colliton would have had an entire training camp to install his system. There’s no way defensemen and forwards would have been gashed over and over again in their own zone as often as they were early in Colliton’s tenure.
If Colliton is coach in September, it’s probably worth 8-12 standings points.
In other words, we’re talking playoffs right now instead of wondering about potential free agents or where the Hawks will draft.
While true that it’s highly unlikely we’d be talking Stanley Cup, making the playoffs gives everyone invaluable experience for what it takes to succeed at the most important time of year. And it gives veterans such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Seabrook hope that things are headed in the right direction.
And, most important, it shows unrestricted free agents that the Hawks have a plan and that the arrow is indeed pointed up.
Right now, it’s fair to wonder where that arrow is pointed.
I’ve said this for two years now: It’s an ugly combination to hope your aging, high-priced veterans can continue to perform while young, not-ready-for-the-NHL defensemen develop in college or other pro leagues.
Kane, Toews, Keith and Seabrook don’t have many seasons left to compete for another Cup, and wasting any more of them would be a crime.
The clock’s ticking. Take one more swing for the fences or just blow everything up.
Back to Rockford:
The Blackhawks reassigned defenseman Dennis Gilbert to Rockford on Thursday, one day after he made his NHL debut in a 4-3 shootout victory over St. Louis at the United Center. Gilbert was credited with a team-high 6 hits in 12 minutes, 43 seconds of ice time and also was called for holding the stick 3:37 into the first period.
Coach Jeremy Colliton said he was pleased with Gilbert’s physicality and that it was a “good performance (and a good) experience for him to be here and get a game in.”
He said it:
“Definitely understood and respected this decision to roll with him as long as we’re fighting for our lives.”
Goalie Cam Ward on watching Corey Crawford start in net for 13 straight games. Ward made 37 saves against St. Louis on Wednesday.