Blackhawks: Smith Speaks His First Words

By Bill Placzek

Today the Chicago Blackhawk management announced that Mike Smith would take the job of attempting to resurrect a franchise that is considered the laughing stock of the original six. Many felt he would only take the job if he was given complete control. It is still uncertain as to whether he will actually be the outsider given true power over the powers that be.(Mr. Potter a.k.a. Mr. Wirtz)

“I don’t have any real detailed plan. I think the initial process is simply to sit down with the people who work here and find out what they’re doing and get a sense of how things operate. I know there’s a challenge ahead of us, but in sports there is a challenge every day. To win and have a winning franchise you need good people and you need good people who are good players. Through it all, the bottom line will be we’ll have good people who are good players and good people in all positions within the organization.” Pulford retains the title of GM, but he claims in name only.

“He is (the GM),” said the 63-year-old Pulford. “He has all those duties. He has the power to make all the hockey decisions, trades, scouting, everything.

Smith promised little in the way of trades at this point, He said he was a very deliberate trader. He said he wasn’t as bad a Pulford, who Smith refused to even call when they were the GMs of Winnipeg and Chicago respectively.(He knew Pulford would never trade). He felt his biggest impact would be in the drafts of 2000 & 2001 where the Hawks have 2 #1s in each draft. He would start to evaluate the entire scouting process and personnel, though it remains to be seen if he will be able to send former Hawk alumni now entrenched, packing. It is clear that Moleken, though well liked, may return only if there is agreement between Smith, Pulford and Wirtz. Expect Smith to be on his own to reshape all the other parts of the puzzle, except exceeding the budget laid out by Mr. Wirtz.

Smith said that it was very fortunate that the ownership was able to finally have their own AHL farm club, because now they could actually be in complete control of the development of drafted players. He praised Bob Murray for finally convincing Mr. Wirtz of this. (I spent countless phone calls to Murray over the last five years, trying to sell him on the importance of it. Mr. Wirtz had a deal with Horn Chen, his business associate in Indianapolis, and Murray felt it difficult to tell his boss to cut the ties with his longtime friend) Smith said the draft would be the most important part of this cog. When you draft a player, he and his family,uncles and aunts would all bring their allegiance to the Indianhead as opposed to acquiring players who didn’t feel close because they were coming to their second and third teams.

All in all, the first comments by Smith were not revealing, except for he seemed to talk like a man on long journey. “Don’t expect to see a lot of player changes, at least not right away,” Smith said. “I’m not going to step in here in the next five days and try to make a statement and make trades or send some players to the minors.” When asked if he felt say a New Jersey was a model of what he wanted to accomplish, he said, “No actually Toronto was more my idea.” It would be very fortunate to be able to have over a half-dozen first rounders that were “home” picks as New Jersey does, but he thinks each season, we will see 3 or 4 new faces added to the starting line-up, each adding dimensions missing presently due to that lack of all around depth.

Expect 12 new players plugged in in the next three years. No rash drops, trades or management changes. All that was too soon, for the man who would be living in his office until he found an apartment in the city. In general, the Hawk’s fans were skeptical since the “changes” seen in past regimes all seemed to solve nothing. Let’s hope that in a year or two, fans would be singing,”We won’t get fooled again!”, from the old Who song. Unfortunately, we all seem to be more resilient then the teams ability to turn the losses into victories.