The trade deadline day that started quietly ended with several flurries by Wednesday afternoon. But in the midst of all the swapping, and all the talking, the Chicago Blackhawks did a lot of listening, but not much moving and shaking.
The Blackhawks remained relatively quiet during the latest trade deadline, getting center Michal Handzus from San Jose on Monday, but just doing a minor-league deal on deadline day.
[MORE: Hawks acquire Handzus]
Considering what general manager Stan Bowman said on Monday, it wasn’t totally surprising. The Blackhawks, sitting atop the Western Conference with a 27-5-3 record (and 57 points), like what they’ve got, and Bowman had said several times it would take something that fit to alter things.
Obviously, he meant it.
“We did a lot of listening, there was a lot of talking leading up to today and even today. As you saw there was sort of a flurry at the end (with other teams trading), but there was nothing we were close on,” Bowman said this afternoon. "We’ve got a lot of depth at every position… which has been the strength of our team all year long. We have young players we have confidence in, others who are rounding into form that hadn’t played at the beginning but have shown well in Rockford recently.
“It’s our job to look around at what’s available but we have to ask: ‘Does it make us better?’” Bowman said. “To make a move just to make a move, we don’t believe in that.”
A few other teams in the Central Division made moves over the last few days. St. Louis traded for defenseman Jordan Leopold on Saturday defenseman Jay Bouwmeester on Monday night. The Columbus Blue Jackets were very active today, and claimed the biggest surprise move when they got right wing Marian Gaborik from the New York Rangers (in exchange for Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and prospect John Moore) and left wing Blake Comeau from the Calgary Flames.
Bowman said it wasn’t a situation where asking prices were too high for certain players.
“When we look at our roster we say, ‘Who are they going to replace?’ Especially on defense, we’ve been sitting a good player out every night,” Bowman said, referring to Sheldon Brookbank and Michal Rozsival, who have been playing very well. "That’s the strength of our team and it shows that way. Unless they’re way better than the players you have, we believe in the group we have here. You look at our group up front, we’ve had some injuries and our young players have stepped up and done a good job. That’s our depth. There was a lot of listening today, but we’re very happy with where we’re at right now.”
So the Blackhawks will go on with what they have. And players say they are fine with that.
“I saw Stan commented that we’ve earned the right to see what this group can do, and that’s a pretty confident thing to say,” said Patrick Sharp, who would return relatively soon from a shoulder injury. “That translates through the team. As a group we have great chemistry, we feel good on the ice together and we like to hear that. It’s nice to hear it from your GM, the one that makes those decisions. I don’t know if we needed to hear it; I think as an organization we feel that way. But it’s nice to hear it.”
A few other teams in the West made moves. The Blackhawks chose to go with what they’ve got. If it works, it’ll be considered genius. If not, well, it will be skewered. But the Blackhawks believe they have as good a chance as any team to win the Stanley Cup with what they have on their current roster and in their system.
They’ll find out soon enough.
“We look at it as a very strong team,” Bowman said. “You can never get ahead of yourself. There’s still a lot of work to do. We’re staying focused, and goal all along was to win the division. You do that, you get home ice; that’s our objective. Regardless of positioning and the points you have, you always want to play a high level of hockey. Coaches have done a good job of preparing guys to give top performances. We want to keep going.”