Chicago Blackhawks, 2009-present
Central Division Title, 2009-2010
Playoff Appearances: 2010-2012
Stanley Cup Finals Appearance: 2010
Stanley Cup Victory: 2010
Stan Bowman is a young GM in a hurry. In his first season as an NHL GM he helped end the Chicago Blackhawks 49 year Stanley Cup drought and, in so doing, entered the top fifty ranks according to my rating system.
Since then he has added to his success. Although the Blackhawks have not repeated as Stanley Cup champions they have remained competitive albeit in a rebuilding mode after Bowman had to purge the team’s ranks in order to get under the salary cap after winning the 2010 Stanley Cup.
According to my rating system, Bowman ranks 12th in career value among all active NHL GMs (between Ottawa’s Bryan Murray and Buffalo’s Darcy Regier) and, even more interestingly, he ranks 4th (between Pittsburgh’s Ray Shero and San Jose’s Doug Wilson) in Average Season Rating.
Furthermore by my calculations Bowman is presently the third best GM of the 2010s and is the tenth best GM of the 21st century (between Brian Burke and Pierre Lacroix).
Stan Bowman has the DNA for greatness. He is the third child of hockey coaching immortal Scotty Bowman—the greatest NHL coach of all time. He got his name Stanley because he was born in 1973—the year of his father’s first Stanley Cup win.
He spent most of his childhood growing up in the greater Buffalo area (when his father was head coach and GM of the Buffalo Sabres). He attended the University of Notre Dame and graduated there in 1995 but it wasn’t until 2001 when Stanley Bowman sought a career in the hockey world when he joined the Chicago Blackhawks as a special assistant to General Manager Mike Smith.
Bowman’s early work with the Hawks involved him dealing with the team’s budget (one of Bowman’s degrees from Notre Dame is in finance) and tracking player movement and evaluation.
It didn’t take long for Mike Smith, Bob Pulford, and later Dale Tallon to see Bowman’s potential.
By 2005 he was promoted to Director of Hockey Operations and two years later he became Assistant General Manager to Dale Tallon.
In 2009 Dale Tallon lost out in an internal power struggle within the Blackhawks organization and was removed as general manager thus clearing the way for Stan Bowman to ascend to the job.
When the Chicago Blackhawks won the 2010 Stanley Cup, Scotty Bowman became the youngest NHL general manager to win the Stanley Cup. Bowman managed the team but it was Dale Tallon who built the 2010 Stanley Cup champions. When Bowman took over the pieces were already in place and the head coach (Joel Quenneville) needed to lead the team was there too.
The team Dale Tallon put together did not remain so for very long. The Blackhawks faced serious salary cap issues; what followed can be described as a blood purge to free up cap space. Bowman unloaded a good portion of the Hawks front line strength in three major trades: two to Atlanta and one to Toronto.
Even more significantly the Hawks lost goaltender Antti Niemi to San Jose thus leaving a weakness between the pipes that has not yet been adequately filled (Corey Crawford has been slow in developing as an NHL goalie).
Since then the Hawks have remained competitive but have suffered two consecutive first round losses in the playoffs. Also the Blackhawks first round draft picks chosen by Stan Bowman have not yielded instant dividends for the team like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane did under Dale Tallon.
The question that remains is this: can Stan Bowman emerge as a team builder in his own right? Does Bowman have the inner vision to handpick future Stanley Cup champion talent and retain it or will he rest forever on the laurels of 2010?
For Stan Bowman the 2012/13 NHL season is a test to see if the Hawks can regain primacy in the Central Division and recapture the playoff magic that was 2010.
The Hawks are a young, raw team with enormous potential and upside. The challenge for Stan Bowman is whether he can harness it and focus it and get it to produce big time?
(My next column will feature Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray.)