By Mark Lazerus
RALEIGH, N.C. — Niklas Hjalmarsson is signed through the summer of 2019. Joel Quenneville and Corey Crawford are locked up until 2020. Marian Hossa and Artem Anisimov are signed through 2021. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith — the core of the core — are on board through 2023. And Brent Seabrook is signed through 2024.
The only thing left to do was to sign the guy that signed them all — Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman.
So two weeks after Quenneville received a three-year contract extension, Bowman got one of his own. Bowman is now signed through 2020-21, one year longer than Quenneville.
“We talk a lot about wanting continuity,” Bowman said. “You can’t have the same group just to have the same group. But when you have a group that’s done a lot together, there’s certainly incentive to try and keep things going.”
Less than four years ago, both Bowman and Quenneville were on the hot seat after consecutive first-round losses. Now, they’re both locked up for the foreseeable future, the two most central off-ice figures in the NHL’s most successful organization.
The Hawks don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.
“It’s impressive what he’s done,” said Patrick Kane, who signed an eight-year, $84-million extension with Bowman two summers ago. “Not only with the salary cap, but with as many changes as we’ve had over the course of five, six, seven years. He’s done a great job putting teams together that are able to win consistently.”
The old-school Quenneville and the new-school Bowman don’t always see eye to eye, and there was well-known animosity between the two during the 2011-12 season, when Bowman assigned director of player development Barry Smith to Quenneville’s practices. And the two have clashed at times over player usage, particularly younger players whom Bowman has been partial to. But the two have developed a highly successful partnership since bottoming out in 2012. Winning two Stanley Cups and 10 playoff rounds in the past three years certainly helps.
“We’re both respectful of each other’s position,” Quenneville said, when asked why the partnership has worked for so long. “He has to do what he has to do, and he has respect knowing what we have to do. We’re in the now business of trying to win today, whereas he has a longer perspective of the goals of the organization. Winning has helped a lot of it. But mutual respect for each other is what you have to [have] to be successful.”
Said Bowman: “Joel and I have a very good relationship. We’ve worked together long enough now that we understand how each one sees the game. … Differences of opinion here or there are not a bad thing, as long as there’s a mutual respect.”
Bowman was promoted to GM on July 14, 2009, replacing Dale Tallon, after spending the previous eight years in the hockey operations department. The Hawks have won three Stanley Cups in his six-plus seasons at the helm, as Bowman took the core that Tallon built and expertly managed both those players and the pieces around them, as the Hawks became the first team to win two Cups — then three Cups — in the salary-cap era.
“He’s as smart as anyone in hockey,” said Hawks Swedish scout Mats Hallin, who helped Bowman uncover Erik Gustafsson and Dennis Rasmussen, among others: ”He takes in all the information and it comes out something good every time. He has patience and he’s a very smart hockey man.”
With their core, their coach and their GM in place for years, the Hawks expect to continue contending for Cups year after year.
“It’s not easy, and there will be challenges as we go forward,” Bowman said. “But I have a lot of confidence in the group here, both the players and the staff. They can help us do great things.”