Rozner: Blackhawks needed help and Bowman scored big

  • New Blackhawk Antoine Vermette, celebrating a goal for the Coyotes last month, is a No. 2 center who is great on faceoffs, kills penalties and is good on the power play.

    New Blackhawk Antoine Vermette, celebrating a goal for the Coyotes last month, is a No. 2 center who is great on faceoffs, kills penalties and is good on the power play. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 3/1/2015 8:28 PM

Take a deep breath, Blackhawks fans, your team has not given up the ship.

Following the loss of Patrick Kane last week for at least the regular season and probably two rounds of the postseason, there was concern that GM Stan Bowman would try to get by with what he had. But the Hawks needed help up front and on defense, and Bowman has addressed both without giving up anything off the roster.

 

The big acquisition is Arizona's Antoine Vermette. This guy is a heck of a hockey player, a 200-foot player who's great on faceoffs, kills penalties and is good on the power play.

He's a true No. 2 center and a name mentioned in this space two years ago, last winter, last summer and a couple of months ago when it became clear that Brad Richards -- not surprisingly -- would not be the answer.

You might remember the 32-year-old Vermette from the 2012 playoff series when he had 4 goals and an assist -- including 3 goals on the power play -- as the Coyotes took down the Hawks in six games.

The Hawks gave up a No. 1 pick and defenseman Klas Dahlbeck, who could not break into the lineup here, which you can argue has occurred far too many times with young players in Chicago the last few years.

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Nevertheless, the Hawks got the best player still available on the trade market and the guy they desperately needed, so high marks for Bowman in getting it done when everyone knew he was over a barrel.

"As a player, you want to play in meaningful games," Vermette said on a conference call from Phoenix on Sunday. "I'm excited about looking at the standings again. In Arizona, we haven't been looking too much lately."

The Hawks paid a big price for Vermette, no doubt. No. 1 picks are big in a cap-driven league, but the Hawks are built to win today.

They already have several young players who are years away from arriving here, and when the Hawks make their selections these days they generally target Europeans or young college players a long way away for a reason.

They go for higher ceilings and players further away. It's because of how they're constructed both on the current roster and cap wise.

They also paid a big price for defenseman Kimmo Timonen, a second-round pick and a fourth, which may become a second depending on how far the Hawks go this season and how much Timonen plays.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But this move could turn out to be just as big as the Vermette deal if Timonen -- who hasn't played this season for health reasons -- can be a top-four defenseman again.

Is that asking too much of a 39-year-old who hasn't played since April? Maybe, but he was worth the risk.

Timonen was a very solid, top-four type even as late as last season for Philadelphia, when he tallied 35 points in 77 games while averaging 20 minutes a game.

You might remember him from the 2010 Stanley Cup Final when he averaged 26:44 a game against the Hawks, part of a top four of Chris Pronger, Braydon Coburn and Matt Carle that played nearly every defensive shift for the Flyers.

If Timonen can play a top-four role here, it will make it that much easier for Johnny Oduya to return from injury and take up a spot in the third pair, where he's much more suited after a pretty ugly season to this point.

Up front, Vermette can make the second line a viable one again with Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg, and teams won't be able to key on Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad.

"I like a fast game and (the Hawks) play fast," Vermette said. "It's certainly something that should suit me well."

Teuvo Teravainen has looked much better at center -- his natural position -- between Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw, who looks much better on a wing, where he can bang, generally agitate and create turnovers, but it remains to be seen if Joel Quenneville puts Richards in the No. 3 center spot.

Richards was a nonfactor for the Rangers last year the deeper they got in the postseason and he certainly hasn't been as effective since Kane left the lineup, not that anyone would be after losing a world-class player from your line.

Regardless, it's been a good few days for Bowman, who needed to make something happen.

The GM has taken a lot of heat for his moves, or lack thereof, but he stepped up this time.

It's a shame they have dealt so many young players out of Chicago the last few years and received little or nothing in return, but a lot of that is due to the fact that the coach would not play some of them.

In any case, Quenneville has options now, and he likes options. He loves to mix and match and shake things up when the offense has gone quiet, and he's got that opportunity again with five natural centers in Chicago.

The Hawks needed this and Bowman delivered. Now it's up to the players and Quenneville to keep this season alive until Kane can return.

In a brutal Western Conference, that will be no easy task.

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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