The Chicago Blackhawks are off for three days, and the sports landscape in this city has been taken over by the opening day of free agency for the NFL.
Chicago's football team, The Bears, made a few splashes, signing tight end Martellus Bennett and left tackle Jermon Bushrod. They were introduced today at a press conference at Halas Hall by GM Phil Emery, and a question came to mind listening to him introduce his two new players:
Just who is the best General Manager currently helming a major Chicago sports franchise? There are a lot of relatively inexperienced guys handling teams in the city, so it actually is a more intriguing question than it would have been even last year, when Kenny Williams was handling things for the White Sox.
When one really looks at the potential candidates, there really is only one that truly stands above the others, and that is Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman. The championship that this franchise won in 2010 can rightfully be attributed largely to the efforts of Dale Tallon, but after that title, this team has Bowman’s fingerprints all over it.
You have the draft picks that are starting to excel for the Hawks, including guys like Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw. You have trades like the Nick Leddy and Kim Johnsson for Cam Barker swap that have improved the team dramatically. You have a team that managed to stay competitive even after the depth-gutting trades after the 2010 Cup win, thanks in large part to Bowman’s willingness to keep key players in the fold. Finally, there is the continued expectation of excellence even during a serious rebuild that you can attribute to Bowman’s mentality in running the team in conjunction with Team President John McDonough and owner Rocky Wirtz.
The other GM’s in town simply can’t match those accomplishments. Yes, Emery has brought in a coach that is widely praised, but the process of turning the Bears into a perennial contender has just begun, so evaluating him is probably unfair. The Cubs are showing signs of life with new minor league talent, but Jed Hoyer is leading a team that lost 101 games last year, so it can’t be him. Rick Hahn finally took over the White Sox from Williams, and they haven’t even played a game under his guidance. Finally, Gar Forman has hired a great coach in Tom Thibodeau, but he has also failed to get the team to a point to be able to overcome the obstacle that is the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference.
Judging by the collective inexperience and some degree of failure of this group, it is almost a foregone conclusion that Bowman is top dog in the city. That could absolutely change in the near future, depending on how the Sox, Cubs, and Bears fare in their building efforts, but as of right now, the debate is pretty much settled.