While he was not specific about what could be in store for the organization this offseason, Chicago Blackhawks General Manager Stan Bowman said Saturday that changes are in the works after the team was swept by the Nashville Predators in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
And the Hawks were not only swept. Chicago only had three goals in four games and were shut out twice, including a 5-0 whitewash in Game 2.
“It’s a complete failure when you measure it against the expectations that we have of ourselves,” Bowman told reporters about the early kickoff to the offseason. “We did not come even close to reaching the standard we have set over the years here. And that’s unacceptable.”
The first-round exit was the second in as many years for Chicago. They were clipped from the 2016 postseason by St. Louis. While the 2015-16 campaign was expected to see struggles after the Blackhawks traded away several key players that helped them win three Stanley Cups, Chicago was in position to make a deep run this year. Bowman moved to get Johnny Oduya back down the stretch, and the contingency of Blackhawks rookies were poised to pick up where the likes of Andrew Shaw, Patrick Sharp, and Brandon Saad left off.
It was not to be. Standing in their way was a Nashville club that dominated Chicago in the neutral zone in four straight contests.
In the regular season, forward Ryan Hartman, in his first full season with Chicago, potted 19 goals in 79 games and was expected to shine in the Cup run. Tanner Kero and Vinnie Hinostroza also skated the majority of the season with the big club after playing for AHL Rockford. Kero scored 16 points in the regular season and had four shots in four games against the Predators. Hinostroza, arguably one of league’s fastest skaters, only saw action in one postseason game.
Aside from the Dennis Rasmussen goal, Chicago got tallies from Toews and Kane, who had 55 goals between them going into Game 1. Thursday’s loss to Nashville marked the first time that a No. 1 seed was swept in the first round since 1994.
Coach Joel Quennville will be back for the 2017-18 season. Ted Dent is secure in his position in Rockford, so major coaching changes are likely not on the horizon. That leaves a host of possible roster moves that could see Bowman looking to move players elsewhere. That won’t be surprising. The GM had high hopes after the Cup-favorite Blackhawks finished the season with a 50-23-9 mark and the most points in the Western Conference.
“Any successes that we did experience this year are completely overshadowed by the abrupt ending to our season,” Bowman continued. “It’s not close to good enough for anybody. And I think it’s time right now to take a look in the mirror and face facts…. I am frustrated. I am angry. There will be change moving forward.”
Bowman said offseason changes will take shape in more than one way, and that Saturday’s press conference was not called to detail what moves the organization is planning to right the ship.
Chicago players also displayed their dismay. Goaltender Corey Crawford called the series “embarrassing,” while Kane said it was the lowest point of the season.
Bowman said offseason changes will commence according to the system he instilled when he first manned his post eight seasons ago. Bowman has instituted a system centered on player development and immediate success. It has paid off with Stanley Cup victories in 2010, 2013, and 2015.
According to insiders, the Blackhawks may lose forward Marcus Kruger and defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk to the Las Vegas Golden Knights by way of the NHL Expansion Draft. Brian Campbell may retire, while Oduya and backup goaltender Scott Darling are expected to sign elsewhere as free agents.
[Featured Image by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images]