Stan Bowman, Vice President/General Manager of the Blackhawks, has enacted several personnel maneuvers—draft choices, trades and free agent signings—to build the roster that brought the team to the ongoing Stanley Cup Final. He recently provided an extended interview with chicagoblackhawks.com.
Verdi: You mentioned Brandon Saad earlier. How is it that you were able to draft him in the second round, 43rd overall, in 2011?
Bowman: He has an October birthday, so he just missed the previous year’s draft by about a month. If he had been drafted then, he would have been a really high pick. Very well-regarded. But he got injured in December at Saginaw, after a great start, and kept playing but wasn’t that productive. He could have taken time off. He dropped in the draft as a consequence, but we didn’t forget what he had done. We were fortunate to get him in the second round. Lucky.
Branch Rickey said, “Luck is the residue of design.” Surely your drafting of Saad meant doing some homework.
We talked with his coaches to find out everything we could about him. And he has surpassed our expectations, fitting in the way he has.
Did you get “lucky” again with Andrew Shaw? You drafted him in the fifth round, 139th overall, in 2011 after he got passed up in two previous drafts.
We projected him to be a feisty, smaller version of Brandon Bollig. Andrew, too, has surpassed what we envisioned for him. He’s obviously become more than a role player.
Two drafts of 210 picks each year. Seven rounds, 30 teams. That’s 420 plus 139 equals the 559th selection. And he’s now standing in front of the net with guys twice his size.
We’ve kind of changed our philosophy. There’s a stigma if you are eligible to be drafted at 18, then aren’t drafted and go back to junior hockey. Even if you have a good year the next year, the stigma is that, well, yeah, but he’s a year older than the other guys. Or two years older than guys who are 17. So Shaw, who had a good year when he was 20, was dealing with that idea that he was older than everybody else he was playing with and against.
You bucked the trend, then?
Well, if a guy is good, he’s good. Marcus Kruger, same thing. He went through one draft. He was 19, not 18, when he was picked. We don’t care about a guy’s birth certificate. We saw both Shaw and Kruger as NHL players. They’re still very young.
Are the Blackhawks alone in this philosophy?
I don’t want to say we do it exclusively. But we were one team willing to draft older guys. We put Shaw in the American Hockey League and he was so good that we had to sign him to an NHL contract. He came to Chicago right away and never looked back. He’s fearless, he’s been told he’s too small, and he’s got a chip on his shoulder. Very competitive.
You were not in the final three candidates for general manager of the year. Yet your team is in the Stanley Cup Final again. Does that bother you?
No, not really. I’m not going to say I don’t care, because that diminishes the award. It might be similar to coach of the year. Maybe voters look at those who had the farthest to go. If you aren’t with a good team, and you make great strides, maybe that’s a factor. Now, that said, Ray Shero of Pittsburgh won the GM award. The Penguins are good, and he made a lot of transactions, particularly at the deadline. You can’t say he doesn’t deserve it.
But you made transactions too, although more subtle.
Yes, and not all transactions are acquisitions. We re-signed Ray Emery, Johnny Oduya and Daniel Carcillo before they became free agents. People might think, well, we already had them. But they could have gone on the market and we didn’t want them to. Michael Frolik we signed to an extension last summer, and he’s been a valuable player. Some moves you make don’t get much recognition, which is fine.
Like Michal Rozsival?
We signed him as a free agent in September, but it was just before the lockout. So that didn’t get much notice, either. And Michal Handzus, whom we acquired just at the trade deadline. If we don’t get a lot of fanfare over certain moves we’ve made, that doesn’t bother me. As long as the people we acquire fit in, which they have.
It’s not me. Ultimately, I have the final decision. But what we have here is a tremendous staff, coaches and scouts—pro and amateur. They work hard, and we do our best to gather information and make the right decisions.”
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