Chicago – On Wednesday at the United Center, Blackhawk players had exit interviews with the coaching staff and cleaned out their lockers. GM Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville were on hand to meet with the media as did some players. You could see the disappointment on the faces of all who spoke. It was an odd disjointed season in many ways.
Some Hawk fans are disgusted with another first round playoff exit and are looking for big changes. Quite a few have seen enough of Corey Crawford and are looking for different coaches and maybe a new GM as well. Others feel the team needs a few additions but nothing major and better days are to come. That’s the great thing about sports, everyone can have an opinion.
Back in the summer of 2010 many around the league thought the Hawks would keep Antti Niemi and most likely trade either Patrick Sharp or Dave Bolland. Some may remember Bowman called an impromptu press conference to say Sharp was not going to be dealt.
Hardly ever will a GM respond in that way over the summer. In this case it was a nice gesture to Sharp as he was about to get married. Sharp had heard the rumors and Bowman put his mind at ease and also stopped his own phone from ringing.
Earlier that summer a source told me the Blackhawk front office identified the following as their core and all would be back for the 2010-2011 season. I called the group the untouchable seven and they were; Bolland, Hossa, Kane, Keith, Seabrook, Sharp and Toews.
The chances of one of the core being traded are higher now than before, although still likely. My view is all will be back next season and when Blackhawk management mentions the core, those are the players they are referencing.
GM Stan Bowman – Joel Quenneville
My criticism of Bowman’s summer signings goes back for months. To take it a step further, Blackhawk pro scouting needs to improve as the so called “core” can’t do it alone. Bowman banked on Dan Carcillo and others to turn the personality of the Hawks into a tough team to play against. What actually happened is the Hawks became a tougher team for fans to watch as they had an inconsistent campaign.
Joel Quenneville didn’t have the best of years but roster issues made his job a more difficult task. Coach Q. wasn’t very flexible and it appeared at times he and the Hawks front office might be on different pages. There is no way to tell how much Quenneville had to do with some of last summer signings. Certainly he has more input than many head coaches and has the resume to back his opinions.
Bowman without question will be the Hawks GM come October, winning a Stanley Cup adds security, and Quenneville should be back as well. The head coaching leash on Quenneville could be shorter than in the past but he is not in a bad spot.
If the Hawks start off poorly, Quenneville could be reassigned to serve out the remainder of his contract. If Quenneville is stripped of his head coaching position and would want to leave Chicago he wouldn’t have to wait long for another job offer. Quenneville has his detractors but in a difficult season the players didn’t quit on him.
Bowman as well as Quenneville need to figure out a style of play for the Hawks. After listening to comments my feeling is they are somewhat conflicted. They both like the current team but realize changes need to be made. Bowman admitted the team is built to skate pucks over the blueline rather than to dump and chase. It could be time to acquire players who can do both.
The Blackhawks have a lot of high end talent but lack size and grit. There needs to be a blend, and Bowman and Quenneville must decide on a design and acquire players to fit into the group. Right now it is difficult to tell the extent of changes to come this summer. It wouldn’t be a shock if Bowman or Quenneville don’t yet know the exact course of action.
No doubt Corey Crawford must be better. His playoff performance reflected the entire season for the team. Crawford’s efforts were scattered, he held his own with Mike Smith until two soft goals in overtime of Game 3 and Game 4. Some will conclude Crawford lost the series because of those two softies.
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