There are many misconceptions surrounding almost any professional sports organization, and the Blackhawks are certainly not immune to this sickness. These narratives sometimes drive a message out to the fan base that magically becomes known as fact with little or no actual supporting evidence.
One of such narratives is that the Blackhawks, more specifically General Manager Stan Bowman, are great at drafting and developing talent. For years I have disputed this claim, yet several times a year stories emerge about how Bowman and the Blackhawks are so wonderful in this area, and is not entirely true. They have been pretty good at drafting and developing forwards, but hockey teams are not just made up of just forwards.
Enough is enough, and it is time to sort through this murky swamp to separate fact from fiction.
Stan Bowman took over this Blackhawks team “officially” in July of 2009. Previous to that promotion, Bowman served as assistant General Manager, from 2007 until 2009, under the infamous Dale Tallon. He was also partially involved with drafting and development of players throughout the organization during those years, as well. For the sake of argument, lets include the drafts of 2007 through 2017 for Bowman’s resume since a decade is a nice round number.
The argument can be made that Stan Bowman is not the only individual responsible for drafting players, and you would be one hundred percent correct. Vice President of Amateur Scouting Mark Kelley is also on the hook for the results, and has been involved in this Blackhawks legacy since 2005. Where that argument falls apart is that if a boss finds his employee’s job results unsatisfactory, it is said bosses responsibility to correct the problem.
In part one of this series, I focus solely on the “good news.” This good (or better) news is regarding the forwards that the Blackhawks have drafted.
In the follow-up, I will focus on the goalies and defensemen. Brace yourself now, fans, because the news will only get darker from here.
Success is certainly relative, but gauging a career by NHL games played is a safe, objective criteria. That said, let us examine the drafted forwards in the Bowman era, beginning with the ’07-’09 drafts before Bowman was officially in charge but involved:
|Year||Round-Pos||Name||NHL Games (as of 2/2/18)||Position|
As you can see, The Blackhawks organization drafted 13 forwards in these three seasons, and seven of these forwards have ever seen the NHL ice. Of the forwards that have seen the NHL, two of them (Bill Sweatt, Akim Aliu) have seen less than ten NHL games but, for the sake of argument, I left them in. Forward Byron Froese was basically discarded by the organization early in his career but, for the sake of argument, I left him in, as well.
Once you tally up the numbers, the Blackhawks organization has seven players that we can consider as drafted and developed into the NHL, or 54% of the drafted forwards. Their production aside, they have all played NHL games and all of them are still playing professional hockey somewhere, whether it be AHL, KHL or NHL or some pro league in Europe.
Now, the final three players certainly may have you scratching your heads and asking, “WHO?” They participated in NHL games, but their careers were mostly flashes in the pan. Pirri, Smith and Kruger are debatable, but I think we can all agree that those three players were bottom six depth forwards at their career heights. Pirri was a thing for five minutes in Florida, on a bad team, and it quickly faded.
What these numbers tell me is that unless the Blackhawks have a top 5 pick, which is virtually a slam dunk (Patrick Kane), the likelihood that they could pick a player who would develop through the organization and be a player that contributes to their team’s success is pretty low. Not only did they not develop many forwards for their own organizational success, but they did not develop many players to trade away for assets, either.
We cannot pile all of that onto Bowman’s shoulders, though. He was serving under Dale Tallon and Mark Kelley. There is a reason Tallon was let go, and this may have very well been one of them.
Lets move on to the seasons that our sweet boy Stanley Glenn was at the wheel of the bus, starting with 2010:
|Year||Round-Pos||Name||NHL Games (as of 2/2/18)||Position|
To say this list is anything resembling a disaster would be incorrect. Bowman and Kelley have drafted 38 forwards in eight drafts. Of those 38 forwards, 13 have played enough amount of NHL games to be considered, at minimum, moderate successes. Even though Mark McNeill has played only two NHL mercy games, I chose to leave him in the equation, as well.
If you crunch the numbers, 34% of the forwards Stan Bowman has drafted and developed made it all the way to the NHL. There are certainly still young players in the Blackhawks system like Dylan Sikura, Maxim Shalunov, and others that could blossom into something useful in the NHL. If Bomwan’s Blackhawks career ended tomorrow and three more players developed into NHL pieces, he could be flirting with the 40% threshold. We are talking about the current state, though.
I am sure that certain arguments will be made, the first being that, “Dat Bowmans iz alwaze draftin late in da roundz, doh.” I cannot dispute that. When compared to his peers, Stan Bowman’s average draft position has been 19th, while Minnesota, Nashville, Dallas and St, Louis were 15th, 15th, 12th and 18th respectively. What is left out of that argument is that once the first round is over, the draft position is irrelevant. Every team is fighting and clawing for the hidden gem.
Another set of numbers that should be taken into consideration is the success rates of the previously mentioned peers. From 2010 until 2017 the success percentages of his divisional peers were as follows:
Minnesota (Fletcher): 35%
Nashville (Poile): 34%
Dallas (Nieuwendyk/Nill): 35%
St. Louis (Pleau/Armstrong): 25%
So, in conclusion, Stan Bowman’s ability to draft and develop forwards can probably be judged as “average” to “slightly above average“. This is certainly better than his predecessor, though, which is a low bar.
Proclaiming Bowman as some kind of drafting and developing savant, though, is a stretch of the imagination.
Let me remind you again, though, that this is ONLY forwards.