I’ve read several pieces in the last 3 weeks singing the praises of Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman. Not necessarily with support for his latest moves, but spewing statements like, “There’s a reason he’s GM and you’re not,” and “He’s done a great job so far, we have no reason to doubt him.”

How quickly you forget. I, however, have not.

Let’s start by saying that there is a lot to like about the Blackhawks’ moves this off-season. We now have eight players on one-year deals, or in the last year of a multiple-year deal. Additionally, as of now, we have a full roster and $3+ million in cap space to play with. The combination of these factors means the Blackhawks have room to deal throughout the season, and plenty of options when the season is over. Credit Bowman for those moves, and also for the savvy signings of wingers Michael Frolik and Viktor Stalberg. That having been said, there is trouble on the horizon.

Stan Bowman is the 6th General Manager for the Chicago Blackhawks in what let’s call “recent history:” the period of time dating back to the beginning of Mike Keenan’s tenure as GM in 1990. The history of those 21 years has been one of ignorance and denial: foolishly squandering draft picks and free agent talent in favor of aging veterans, and eventually putting a team on the ice more suited to WWF cage matches than the speed and skill game the league was moving towards.

Essentially, a freshly-hired GM was given a chance to put a new type of team on the ice, then was abruptly replaced by Old Man Wirtz’ go-to guy, Uncle Bob Pulford, who turned the team into the Charlestown Chiefs all over again. This misguided and idiotic strategy resulted in some of the worst lineups ever seen in the Indian Head sweater, and the second-longest playoff drought in Blackhawks history.

Only the twin coincidences of Dale “Gilligan” Tallon’s appointment to the GM post and Old Man Wirtz’ death allowed the Stanley Cup Championship season in 2009-10. Had those two things not happened in the sequence that they did, we would not be where we are today.

How does this relate to Stan Bowman? Read on…

There were two patterns that were seen one season after another in the dark years between 1990 and 2005. The first was laying out the “wish list” of positional players to be acquired in the free agent signing season, then refusing to pay market price to acquire any of them. The second was refusing to negotiate on reasonable terms with restricted free-agents, and ultimately losing the services of talented players while the old bastard sat in his walnut-paneled office counting his beer sales revenue and muttering, “There isn’t a player alive who is worth a million dollars a year.”

So now we see Stan Bowman declaring openly and repeatedly in May of this year that he was going to acquire a big, tough center to play on the second line. That didn’t happen, and not only that, but Stan and Head Coach Joel Quenneville are both now spewing the transparent nonsense that going with Patrick Sharp as the second line center was the plan all along. That’s a demonstrable lie, and was done to put a better face on the fact that Stan refused to pay market price for the player he needed.

Then Blackhawks’ defenseman Chris Campoli files for arbitration, and we see the second pattern rear its ugly head. We have a restricted free agent asking the arbitrator for a salary he would likely get from another team (that’s the definition of “market price”, folks), and StanBow not only replaces Campoli with Sami Lepisto in a very public transaction, but puts the final nail in the coffin by announcing that he had stopped negotiations with Campoli’s agent! Once the arbitration award of $2.5 million was announced on Wednesday (a decisive win for Campoli), the Blackhawks walked away. Campoli is now free to sign with whomever he wants, and the Blackhawks will receive nothing in return.

This is the equivalent of drawing 4 cards, then laying your hand face up on the table, going all in, then folding. It’s been a long time since I saw such a stupid series of moves on the part of a team’s GM.

The way to handle this was to work multiple teams to trade either Campoli or Niklas Hjalmarsson, and once the trade was consummated, then go and acquire the replacement player. I know 6th-graders who can figure that out, but somehow it eluded Stan Bowman. It wasn’t as if Lepisto’s agent had multiple offers on the table and Stan had to rush to get him before he got snapped up. That transaction could just as easily have taken place on August 31.

Returning to the patterns from the dark years of this team is a sure-fire path to catastrophe. You must pay market price for players, that’s an immutable fact of sports-business. You must put experienced, position-dedicated players on the ice, or you’re going to miss the playoffs. You must negotiate in good faith with your restricted free agents, or you will lose talented players. And you must keep your cards close to your vest in all circumstances, or you may as well take millions of dollars out of the bank and set it on fire.

Stan Bowman’s rookie season is over, and he’s used up his get-out-of-jail-free cards. He’s fucking up, and it’s getting worse. We’re all too quick to make excuses for the lad, because of his father, and because of the team’s recent success. But this kind of thing had better stop, and quickly; otherwise we will all have a front-row seat as another in a long line of incompetent GM’s flushes the storied Blackhawks team down the shitter.