Two weeks ago, Chicago Blackhawks ownership relieved GM Mike Smith from his duties, named Bob Pulford acting GM, and ordained long time employee Dale Tallon as the soon to be GM. Bill Wirtz followed this move by dismissing assistant general manager Nick Beverley, director of player evaluation Marshall Johnston, director of amateur scouting Bill Lesuk and amateur scout Joe Yannetti. These firings save the Blackhawks money and give them three fewer people they will have to pay during the possible lockout next year.
Beverley's assistant GM post was directly tied to Smith's, but the others, all Smith hires, were not managerial, but an integral part of locating the prospects drafted over the last three drafts. The Blackhawks say there will be no replacements for Johnston, Lesuk and Yanetti except for the fact Michal Dumas has been asked to move back up to his former job as chief scout.
Dumas headed the Hawk scouting department prior to Smith's arrival. Dumas was a Hawk draftee whose career was cut short by an eye injury. His scouting department produced few potential players and was archaic in terms of size and organization. This latest axing puts back to the good old boy network (Wirtz, Pulford, Tallon, and Dumas) which in the past produced few NHL players. It is also one person is replacing three.
Acting GM Pulford was a solid all-around player for Toronto in the 1960's and early 70’s and was brought in as a Hawk coach, then GM, and put out to pasture as a vice president in the organization until being reactivated as the temporary GM two weeks ago.
Six rookies remain on the Blackhawks roster heading into the start of the 2003-04 season.
Goaler Mike Leighton (1999, 6th rd.), drafted by former GM Bob Murray, starts the season as Jocelyn Thibault’s back-up. GM Smith pick Craig Anderson (2001, 3rd rd.) will be waiting for the call to flip-flop after each 20 games with Leighton, as Smith hinted would happen if Leighton falters.
Lasse Kukkonen, the Hawks fifth round pick this past year, has earned a spot on defense, based on his veteran-like play in camp. At 22, he captained the Finnish Karpat team the last two seasons. He adds a third Finn to a team that had none on its roster last season.
Mike Smith said the organization didn’t expect six rookies on the roster, but their play warranted spots on the club. Center Tuomo Ruutu (2001, 1st rd.), right winger Pavel Vorobiev (2000, 1st rd.), right wingerIgor Radulov (2000, 1st rd.) and left winger Travis Moen (2000, 5th rd.) are the other four rookies who made the team out of camp.
Moen is the biggest surprise. He was originally drafted by the Calgary Flames him out of the Western Junior Hockey league based on his 399 minutes of three regular seasons with the Kelowna Rockets. The 6’2” 208-pounder was chosen to be the next generation Hawk enforcer. The Hawks signed him to play in Norfolk last season on coach Brian Sutter’s recommendation when he saw him in the Flames evaluation camps. Moen’s presence may be temporary until WHLer Dustin Byfuglien (2003, 8th rd.) is ready for Read more»
The signing of the Chicago Blackhawks’
top prospect Tuomo
Ruutu yesterday brings them a step closer to finally reaping benefits from
drafts under GM Mike Smith. Drafted
ninth overall in 2001, Ruutu is the first player
in a decade
that the fans will be able to see a young player who they can be excited about.
The contract negotiations took a long time this summer, but with them finally
over, the question now is what Ruutu’s immediate impact will be on the team.
What does Tuomo Ruutu bring to the Hawks? Read more»
As Blackhawks prospect camp continues, the players seem a little more relaxed and focused, and in being so, look like better players in all cases.
Michal Barinka has caught up to the others, his stick work and shooting now equal to his fluid motion. His strong is very strong but so far errant, but in close he scores on the camp goaltenders like a forward.
There are considerations afoot to sign Vladimir Gusev, Alexander Barkunov, Olli Malmivaara, Michal Barinka and Lasse Kukkonen and assigned to Norfolk. Alexander Kozevnikov looks so good there are now discussions as to whether to sign him and send him to Norfolk as an 19-year-old with the option to call him up him to the parent club, instead of letting him sign and play junior Hockey in Val-D’Or as was Gusev.
Czech defender Petr Puncochar was a camp casualty, suffering a separated shoulder.
Jim Wisniewski continues to lead on the ice, explaining the drills to the others and passing the puck with authority. Teams seem to always find places for under 6 foot defenseman who pass like he does, but you have to wonder if he could handle the NHL forwards at his present size.
Speaking of size, or lack thereof, Duncan Keith continues to show how much he is a better skater than most in camp. He moves well enough to get to almost any on rusher, and engage. Can there be a place for another undersized Hawk defender, a la Pat Stapleton?