Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman

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Zawaski: All Eyes On Stan Bowman Now

After his signings and trades backfired, Bowman gave Joel Quenneville the ax.

Jay Zawaski
November 06, 2018 - 5:04 pm
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(670 The Score) On Tuesday morning, the Blackhawks fired coach Joel Quenneville, whose resume included three Stanley Cup championships, five Western Conference Final appearances, 890 wins (452 of which came in Chicago) and the best mustache in sports history.

The decision declared a winner in the power struggle between Quenneville and general manager Stan Bowman, who predictably denied such friction at an afternoon press conference. Replacing Quenneville is 33-year-old Jeremy Colliton, Bowman's man who was named the 38th head coach in franchise history after being promoted from his post as the AHL Rockford Icehogs' head coach. 

As Tuesday has gone on, I’ve felt myself more and more frustrated with this outcome. 

Those of you who follow my work on 670 The Score or the Madhouse Chicago Hockey Podcast know that I’ve been critical of Quenneville in the past. In fact, I welcome a coaching change at this point. Ten years is a long time for any coach, and I had felt for some time that a new voice in the locker room might be just what the doctor ordered for the Blackhawks. Even at his young age, Colliton is a highly respected coaching prospect and seemed destined for the Blackhawks' head coaching job whenever it opened up. I’m excited to see what his system will do for a Blackhawks roster that I’m not sure is any good.

And there’s my complaint...

Quenneville never had a chance with this roster. I’m not sure Scotty Bowman in his coaching prime could have done much with this roster.

As summer approached, Hawks observers and fans assumed that Bowman would be active in free agency, landing at least one key free agent with the cap space they had. Instead, Bowman signed Brandon Manning, who's a No. 5 defenseman on his best day. Bowman also signed 39-year-old forward Chris Kunitz, who has all of two assists this season. Goalie Cam Ward was a needed backup plan in case Corey Crawford wasn’t ready to go, but he came at a high price despite a limited market for his services. 

Couple those head-scratching offseason moves with Bowman’s recent trade and signing history, and it’s hard to understand why president John McDonough has so much faith in him.

"I believe in this roster," McDonough said Tuesday afternoon. "I believe in Stan. When you break down free agents and trades, some work, some don’t. But his body of work is excellent."

Is it? 

I was a big supporter of Bowman in the past. I felt his work in maneuvering at the fringes of the salary cap was exemplary. He managed difficult contracts and egos and kept the team competitive.

Then in September 2015, Bowman lost his mind. He signed a visibly declining Brent Seabrook to an eight-year extension -- with the obligatory no-movement clause, of course. Seabrook is a legend. He should have his No. 7 in the United Center rafters when he calls it a career, but anyone who has watched a period of hockey in their life could see that his natural decline was underway in 2013. By 2015, it looked like he had three or four solid years left in him. Instead, he received an eight-year deal.

There were plenty of other questionable moves by Bowman. Trading Teuvo Teravainen to rid the team of the bad contract that Bowman signed in Bryan Bickell will hurt the organization for years. Marcus Kruger's three-year, $9.25-million deal was so bad that it forced another salary dump, and then there was the Brandon Saad trade, which backfired. Given all that, it's hard to see how McDonough has absolute faith in Bowman at this point. 

Ultimately, Colliton’s success will dictate Bowman’s future. If he wins, Bowman is safe (much like Bears general manager Ryan Pace's future is riding on coach Matt Nagy). Bowman knows this. I do wonder if we’ll suddenly see some trades or offseason signings that will immediately improve the team, unlike what we saw this past summer. 

Bowman’s seat should be the hottest in Chicago right now. Let’s see how much time he’s bought himself with the firing of Quenneville and coaching change.

Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Bernstein & McKnight Show on 670 middays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m and a columnist for 670 The Score. He also is the co-host of the Madhouse Chicago Hockey Podcast, which is available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify or your preferred podcast app. Follow him on Twitter @JayZawaski670.​​​​