If you’re somewhat new to our blog, you probably have seen a reference to an at-best odd working relationship between GM Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville. You may wonder why we think that, so it may be best to go through the years and see how we got to this point.
Stan Bowman became GM of the Hawks in July of 2010, not long after Dale Tallon was strangely allowed to run the draft and free agency but then saddled with the whole Qualifying Offer Fiasco, even though it certainly wouldn’t have been Tallon’s duty to actually stick these things in the mail. Whatever. Tallon took responsibility, the axe came down, blah blah blah.
The ’09-’10 season obviously couldn’t have been much smoother. Bowman only made the one deal, which was Cam Barker–a player Q never cared for–out for Nick Leddy and Kim Johnsson (God rest him). We make that joke about Johnsson being dead because he only played eight games with the Hawks before suffering a “concussion” that ruled him out for the rest of the season. The rumors of what actually happened have flown, and someone will fill you in in the comments if you don’t know I’m sure.
I don’t know that any bitterness was started between Q and Stan after Stan provided his coach with a player he couldn’t use, for whatever reason. That’s a real stretch. So let’s not say that.
The following summer came Cap-acolypse, where half the roster had to be jettisoned. This really shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone, we all knew it was coming. Because of those cap problems, Stan really couldn’t bring in NHL-ready talent in return for what went out. Viktor Stalberg was about the only one, Jeremy Morin into the system.
Whatever vets Stan did bring in certainly didn’t work out. Fernando Pisani, anyone? Nick Boynton… well, you may remember the #ShouldveBeenBoynton hashtag we started. Jake Dowell played 79 games for this team. Jassen Cullimore… well the name is enough, isn’t it? So yeah, Stan saddled Q with a lot of trash, but there wasn’t much choice. His two mid-season deals netted Chris Campoli and Michael Frolik, who both played significant roles in that year, though the former kind of had a big hand in ending it (no matter, Hawks should have never been in a Game 7 anyway).
It’s the summer of 2011 where the trouble seems to start. I’m not sure anyone knows why. That summer saw perhaps Stan’s most active, as Andrew Brunette, Jamal Mayers, Steve Montador, Sami Lepisto, Sean O’Donnell, Dan Carcillo, were all brought in, Brian Campbell (a player Q was lukewarm on at best but had been the Hawks’ best blue-liner the previous season) was traded to Florida to open up room for Nick Leddy and cap space, along with a few other measures.
It’s the signing of Lepisto and Montador where we really started to notice something was awry. The year before, the Hawks’ bottom pairing was a total mess, and Hjalmarsson took a huge step back after the Cup year, which made Campbell’s play that year all the more impressive. In fact, it was Campbell and Seabrook who took a lot of the shifts late in games with a lead that year, such were Keith’s and Hammer’s struggles. It was obvious that Stan was trying to provide Q with a solid 1-6, even without 51 Phantom.
Montador’s first game saw him play forward. That was repeated. And for the middle of the season, both Lepisto and Montador sat behind John Scott. Needless to say this was… beyond fathomable. Montador and Lepisto were hardly stars but had been useful NHL d-man for a long time, and both were discarded almost immediately upon arrival. It’s what forced Stan to then go out and get Johnny Oduya.
Brunette was an odd fit, and actually never fit because he couldn’t move. Carcillo became a toy that Q loved to bounce all over the lineup until he blew out his knee trying to maim Tom Gilbert. Stan launched John Scott to avoid having to watch him play, but then provided his coach Brandon Bollig it what I can only assume was a ploy to placate him.
Bollig ended up playing more those last 10 games than Michael Frolik, who Q completely soured on that year. Fro only played 63 games that year, and I don’t really recall him having any significant injury. He was just scratched that much. He came back to save himself in the playoffs, of course, because that was his thing.
Stan’s attempt to solve the 2C hole with Brendan Morrison or Ryan Johnson didn’t work at all, and the Hawks bit it to a Phoenix team with four centers and a pretty nuclear power play that series. Boy that sounds familiar.
And this is where the Q-to-Montreal rumors started. They weren’t around all that long, but it was definitely known in league circles that Marc Bergevin wanted to ask to bring Q to the Habs after being installed as GM, and Q wasn’t exactly hesitant to go.
While I don’t have moles in the organization, what I was told then (and take this with heavy grains of salt) by people with some knowledge of the inner workings is that after the exit to the Coyotes, a lot of players wanted Mike Kitchen launched. Understandable, as he’s a moron. Stan was all ready to pull that trigger, but McD stepped in to make for a clear line of responsibility. President hires the GM, GM hires the coach, coach gets to hire his assistants. So Q fired the players’ guy in Mike Haviland and installed another one of his cronies in Jamie Kompon. If this is all true, and I don’t know that it is, I don’t exactly know how it affects the relationship, I just know it couldn’t have helped it.
The extended summer of 2012 (thanks to the lockout) saw Stan not panic. With the acquisition of Oduya and the growth of Leddy the defense was pretty much settled. He added Sheldon Brookbank, probably for more of that toughness that Q loves, and Michal Rozsival. The only forward additions was basically Brandon Saad, and Carcillo had to get hurt in the opener to even get Saad into the lineup. Andrew Shaw started the year with the Hawks after coming up for the second half of the previous season and winning Q’s heart.
The only midseason acquisition last season was Michal Handzus, and at the time we thought it was only to shore up the 4th line and give the Hawks someone else who could win a draw (at the time they only had Toews). Q plugged him into the top six, and it came up trumps when the whiff of a Cup put a few more miles in the legs of Zus.
I can only assume that continually pulling an Ace in 2013 emboldened Q to think he could get away with anything, and that he had solidified his place with the higher-ups and couldn’t be challenged. Because it’s this summer and season where things have gone slightly haywire between coach and GM. We’ve covered that at length this season, so there’s no need to go through it again now.
It’s strange, because both tend to see the game and how the Hawks should play in the same way. Both want to play a fast possession game, and Stan’s drafts (though maybe not his signings) have reflected that. But Q has opted for the slower and less skilled options all year here. And the only kid that has consistently played this year was a Dale Tallon pick.
But both are entrenched. Stan was groomed for this post by his Dad, who was something of an oracle for McDonough and Wirtz when they took over. But so is Q. And Scotty Bowman isn’t as heavily involved these days, partially due to health concerns. So when McD and Wirtz are to decide on their own, they’ll look at a coach who brought them two Cups and a GM who’s done it still with mostly a core he inherited. That doesn’t look too good for Stan.
But it’s something that has got to be smoothed out, or at the very least Stan has to assert himself and shape this roster how he wants it exactly. But then there’s no guarantee that Q won’t break it to prove he’s smarter.