Stan Bowman: ‘I really like the way this team looks right now’
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Not quite out of time, but almost out of cap space, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said he “most likely” is done fortifying the Hawks’ roster. Now it’s up to “the genius of Joel” to finish the job.
“We’re in a much better position today than we were two or three days ago,” Bowman said Saturday, following a flurry of trade-deadline activity in which the Hawks acquired forward Andrew Ladd from the Winnipeg Jets, forwards Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann from the Montreal Canadiens and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff from the Los Angeles Kings. “That’s what it’s about — getting our team a chance and a better opportunity.
“We try to give our coaches as many tools as we can and I think Joel [Quenneville] and the coaching staff have done a great job of figuring it out in terms of where guys will slot in. Everyone has their ideas of where the players are going to play … and I think that’s the genius of Joel. We’ve given him a lot of pieces to work with and we’ll figure it out.”
Bowman wasn’t directly putting the heat on Quenneville after aggressively shoring up a championship team that already was in contention for a fourth Stanley Cup in seven seasons. But as mid-season acquisitions go, this year’s haul seems to be pretty Quenneville-friendly. Ladd and Weise in particular epitomize the element of versatility that has separated the Hawks from the rest over the past seven seasons: they have grinders who can score; and scorers who can grind.
The 6-3, 205-pound Ladd is a defensive minded left wing who skated with Dave Bolland and Kris Versteeg on the Hawks’ third line in the 2010 playoffs, and has scored 29, 28, 23 and 24 goals in the previous four 82-game seasons with the Thrashers/Jets (and was on a pace for 31 in the abbreviated 2012-13 season). He scored 17 goals for the Jets this season.
“We’re very optimistic,” Bowman said. “We know what Andrew Ladd can bring to the table. We’ve had him before. I think he’s grown as a player since we had him in 2010. He was a big part of that Cup. And if you look at his game, his profile — he’s become a captain of the Winnipeg franchise. He’s been their top winger for a number of years.
“So I think there’s a lot of things to be excited about. We’re trying not to look too far down the road. But I certainly think he’s going to add to that mix, wherever Joel decides to use him. He’s a player we haven’t had like that really since we let him go.”
The 6-2, 210-pound Weise is a Bolland-esque forward who got under the skin of Bruins forward Milan Lucic so badly in the 2014 playoffs that Lucic told him, “I’m going to [bleeping] kill you next year” in the handshake line. But like Bolland, Weise can finish when he gets the opportunity. He has a career-high 14 goals this season. And each of his five postseason goals in the previous two playoffs for the Canadiens was critical — including two overtime game-winners, a third-period game-tying goal and an all-important opening goal of Game 7 against the Bruins in 2014. The Canadiens were 7-0 in the playoffs when Weise scored a point.
“He’s got that intensity,” Bowman said of Weise. “He’s a really competitive kid. He’s got a lot of life and personality. He’s the kind of guy you don’t like to play against. And he was early in his career when we played against him with Vancouver in some of those playoff runs, you always noticed him there.
“I think he’s really grown his game over the past couple of years to where now you can count on him to score some goals and be a hard guy to play against. I think that’s the kind of player you really are going to rely on down the stretch. We’re really excited to have him come in and be a part of this group.”
Anything the Hawks get from the 31-year-old Fleischmann or the 33-year-old Ehrhoff is a bonus. Ladd and Weise are the key acquisitions.
“I think we got bigger. I think we got a little more sandpaper,” Quenneville said of Ladd and Weise. “Both are direct players. Going to the net is something we haven’t been that effective at this year — and there’s nothing wrong with net-front presence and having that ability.”
What remains to be seen is how well they fit in with their new teammates and acclimate themselves to Quenneville’s demanding system. Even Antoine Vermette, who looked like a perfect fit for a Quenneville team, was a healthy scratch to start the playoffs last year before becoming a key factor in the Hawks’ winning their third Stanley Cup in six seasons.
“I don’t think you ever know until a guy walks into a locker room or steps onto the ice,” Bowman said when asked how he knows a player will fit in with the Hawks. “You do your research on it and you have some ideas. You look at their style of play and attributes. A lot of times it matches up with what your coaches value.
“[In] Andrew Ladd’s case, we know what he does and he’ll be a fit. [Weise and Fleischmann], they have those attributes. They’re smart players; competitive players and they have a good skill set. I’m excited to see them on the ice.”
Ladd skated with Toews and Andrew Shaw on the top line in practice Saturday. Fleischmann skated with Teravainen and Andrew Desjardins on the third line. Both will play against the Capitals today at the United Center. Ehrhoff skated on the fourth defensive pairing with since-demoted Viktor Svedberg and is not expected to play Sunday. Weise has visa issues and is expected to join the team within a week, of not a couple of days, Bowman said. After Sunday’s game, the Hawks play Wednesday against the Red Wings in Detroit and Thursday against the Bruins in Boston.
For now, at least, Bowman appears to be done. “Most likely,” he said.
But he likes what he’s got. Not just skilled players, but players who will fit in with the Hawks.
“I think the one thing you have to also look at is just the chemistry of the group, and I think the one thing we’ve been able to do here is we’re bringing back a player in Andrew Ladd, who we’re very familiar with,” Bowman said. “It’s like he never left in some ways. I just had a chance to talk to him, and I think the familiarity with the surroundings and the players and the coaches, that’s not really too difficult to bring him back.
“And Fleischmann and Weise have both played together for a lot of the time. So, there’s some chemistry there. So, we’ll look at what’s out there. I’m sure there will be more discussions [about other moves], but I really like the way this team looks right now, and we’re excited to get on the ice and play.”