Stan Bowman 'completely, completely disappointed' with Blackhawks

Stan Bowman 'completely, completely disappointed' with Blackhawks

Stan Bowman walked to the lectern with a note in his hand, a few things written down. It was unusual for Bowman to do so; his opening remarks are usually off the cuff.

But there was nothing usual about Saturday, a day the Blackhawks should have been hosting the Nashville Predators for Game 5 of their first-round series. Instead, the Blackhawks general manager was leading off the team's locker-cleanout day. It was much earlier than expected and he was predictably angry about it.

"I'm completely, completely disappointed. It's unacceptable to be where we are today," Bowman said. "I'm frustrated, I'm angry. This was a tough, tough loss for us all to take. Standing here April 22 is not the way we expected our season to end. And it's a complete failure when you measure it against the expectations that we have of ourselves. We did not come even close to reaching the standard we have set over the years here. And that's unacceptable."

Bowman used the word "unacceptable" numerous times, and understandably so. After a great regular season, the Blackhawks crashed and burned in the first round. Considering how poorly it went, Bowman said there will absolutely be changes this offseason.

"There will be change moving forward; change comes in many different ways. So the specifics of how we're going to change things into next year are not really meant for this forum. But I can promise you we need to be better," Bowman said.

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There has been plenty of change for the Blackhawks in every offseason, but usually that's been due to cap. This being due to poor performance is something they haven't dealt with in a while.

"I understand that they're upset. Going out the way we did was not acceptable and if Stan thinks we need a change, you know, we might need a change," Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "He's pretty good at what he's doing, so I guess we'll see what happens over the summer."

So how do you make changes on a team loaded with lengthy contracts, many of which comes no-movement clauses? It can be done, but it's up to finding a team with some cap room and a player who's willing to OK the deal. The Blackhawks have made that work before; in the summer of 2011 they traded Brian Campbell and Campbell's then-sizeable control to the Florida Panthers. But one way or another, be it with different players or a different attitude, the Blackhawks say they need to find what they lacked in these playoffs.

"It seems like Nashville had more bite and more aggression. In the playoffs you have to bring it and we didn't answer," Duncan Keith said. "I know I could've played better and we all could've played better. As a team you have that aggressiveness and energy and bite and pushback. Just seemed like it wasn't there."

One area that won't change is at coach. Bowman said, "Joel [Quenneville] is our head coach. He will continue to be our head coach. And Joel and I are going to work together to make sure that this never happens again.

Outside of that, however, it sounds like the Blackhawks will take a thorough look at things this summer, reassess and see what they can do to be better. The Blackhawks thought they were in good shape heading into the playoffs. But their lack of performance there, proved otherwise. Anything they accomplished in the regular season seemed worthless.

There's no doubt the Blackhawks will look long and hard at things this offseason, which came a lot faster than anyone expected.

"I guess anger is probably as good a word you can express with where we're at and how I feel. After the game, you had a sense over the last couple of games and series that it was one of those, whether frustration or whatever word is a negative connotation that jumps out, explains where we're at and how we're feeling," Quenneville said. "Figuring it out is the process now."

What's done and what lies ahead: Five thoughts on the Blackhawks

What's done and what lies ahead: Five thoughts on the Blackhawks

The end came quicker than most of us expected on Thursday night when the Blackhawks were swept by the Nashville Predators, their second first-round exit in as many seasons.

Where do the Blackhawks go from here? General manager Stan Bowman, coach Joel Quenneville and Blackhawks players will address the media on Saturday as part of their locker clean-out day. Before they do, a few thoughts on the abrupt end of this season and the look ahead.

1. Quenneville taking the blame is wrong. Quenneville said it was on him that the Blackhawks didn't reach the necessary level in the postseason, that he didn't find "whatever buttons you have to push." As a coach he's responsible for finding the right combinations, for recognizing a player's strengths and weaknesses and adjusting accordingly. But when it comes to realizing it's the postseason and you've got to play that much better? That's on the players. These are grown men with very robust annual paychecks that serve as reminders on how they're supposed to play, especially during the postseason. Quenneville is responsible for certain things. Making sure a player's appetite to win is there in April is not one of them.

2. It wasn't about the goalie. There are still a few (albeit very few) who think if Scott Darling would've been in net at some point against the Predators, there would've been a different outcome. Well, we'll apply the same logic there as we did with Corey Crawford: Unless the Blackhawks' goaltenders were going to score some goals themselves, it didn't matter. Crawford wasn't the problem. Out of this four-game mess, he was probably the most consistent player. You get a slight argument on Game 3, but not much past that. The Blackhawks scored three goals in four games. They had more goals in the first game of this series two years ago.

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3. Don't look to the past anymore. On paper, both the Brian Campbell signing and Johnny Oduya re-acquisition looked like good ideas. Neither cost much. Neither were expected to be the go-to guys. But neither ended up being what the Blackhawks needed. This is the fourth time since 2013 the Blackhawks have brought back guys from previous Stanley Cup teams (Campbell, Oduya, Andrew Ladd and Kris Versteeg), but the moves usually didn't bring the desired results. It's great to think you can recapture the magic with former players, but years go by and times change.

4. Be ready for changes. Don't expect front-office changes. What Bowman and Quenneville have done over the past few seasons is tremendous, especially in the salary-cap era. While this result is shocking and beyond disappointing, it's not reason enough to start dismantling the brain trust. Roster changes, however, won't be a surprise. They never are with this team. It would be a surprise if either Oduya or Campbell are back. Do they consider moving a bigger contract? Maybe, but that depends on having a willing trade partner and the player (likely) having to OK it. But the Blackhawks have to start looking forward more.

5. Take heart in the future. The Blackhawks got a glimpse into what the next generation can bring this season, and most of it is good. Ryan Hartman had an outstanding rookie season. Nick Schmaltz had the growing pains that accompany a player making the jump from college straight to the pros, but the skill is there and he should keep developing. Tyler Motte was outstanding at the start of the season. If he can reach pre-injury levels again this fall, he'll be valuable. Let's not forget Alex DeBrincat, who put up an astounding 127 points and set and/or tied a few Ontario Hockey League records with the Erie Otters this season. He's been great in the playoffs, too, with 22 points through 11 games.

Blackhawks know what they need in Game 2 vs. Predators: 'Our intensity has to go up'

Blackhawks know what they need in Game 2 vs. Predators: 'Our intensity has to go up'

Being down 1-0 in a series isn't ideal, but the Blackhawks aren't sweating it. Still, if they want to grab a split heading to the Nashville portion of this series, the Blackhawks will have to play much better than they did on Thursday.

Dennis Rasmussen will make his NHL postseason debut and Ryan Hartman will be back on the top line as the Blackhawks host the Predators in Game 2 of their first-round series on Saturday night. The Blackhawks didn't mount much of a net-front attack in Game 1, a situation exacerbated by the Predators' strong defensive game – they blocked 26 shots.

"Our defensemen did a nice job of trying to tie up sticks or get stick on puck. That'll probably hold true the rest of the series: we'll have to play them tight defensively," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. "They're an offensive group that's dynamic and been together for a while – at least the core has – and they're capable of generating a lot of offense. That leads itself back to playing good defense. We did it well in Game 1 we're going to have to do it well tonight."

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The Blackhawks will have to fight to get past the Predators' defense, which stifled them in Game 1. Their overall game, however, needs to be better.

"I think just our level of intensity has to go up. Be harder on pucks," Brian Campbell said. "Obviously getting pucks to the net and creating traffic and havoc. those are the keys that come with desperation."

The Blackhawks have been here, done this before in series, although it's been a while since they've trailed 1-0 when starting a series at home. Going back to 2009, here's how the Blackhawks have fared in postseason series when losing Game 1:

Year   Opponent     Game 1          Series result
2016              @STL             L 1-0 (OT)    Lost series in 7
2015              @ANA            L 4-1              Won series in 7
2014              @STL             L 4-3 (3OT) Won series in 6
2012              @ARI             L 3-2 (OT)    Lost series in 6
2011              @VAN            L 2-0              Lost series in 7
2010              NSH                L 4-1              Won series in 6
2010              VAN                L 5-1              Won series in 6
2009              @VAN            L 5-3              Won series in 6
2009              @DET            L 5-2              Lost series in 5

Concern? Yes. Panic? No. But the Blackhawks will need veterans and postseason rookies alike to mesh.

"I feel we have a lot of great leaders who have been around a long time. It helps the young guys, me included, who haven't played a lot of playoff games," Rasmussen said. "We've had some talks here. We're still calm and know what to do out there. We have to bring some more traffic at the net, create more shots and better chances. Hopefully we can do that tonight."

Meanwhile on the injury front, Andrew Desjardins has not started skating yet but coach Joel Quenneville said the forward is "pretty close" to doing so.

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Chicago Blackhawks
Forward lines
Ryan Hartman-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Nick Schmaltz-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa
Dennis Rasmussen-Tanner Kero-Jordin Tootoo

Defensive pairs 
Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Johnny Oduya-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Corey Crawford

INJURIES/ILLNESS: Michal Rozsival (facial fractures), Andrew Desjardins (lower body).

Nashville Predators
Forward lines (projected/Predators had optional skate)
Filip Forsberg-Ryan Johansen-Viktor Arvidsson
Kevin Fiala-Mike Fisher-James Neal
Pontus Aberg-Calle Jarnkrok-Craig Smith
Cody McLeod-Colton Sissons-Austin Watson

Defensive Pairs
Roman Josi-Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm-P.K. Subban
Yannick Weber-Matt Irwin

Pekka Rinne

INJURIES/ILLNESS: Colin Wilson (lower body).