Hawks to-do list: fix power play, find No. 2 center
The Blackhawks have a number of issues to address this off-season, but two stand out above all else: the power play and finally landing a legitimate second-line center.
General manager Stan Bowman will take a third crack at building around his core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, failing in his first two attempts since the Stanley Cup win in 2010.
This summer's re-do must start with a quarterback for the power play, and a veteran to center the second line.
Marcus Kruger simply is not the answer as a top-three center. He didn't have a point and was minus-4 in the series against Phoenix. Kruger can't make plays, period.
Meanwhile, center Antoine Vermette was a difference maker for the Coyotes. Acquired at the trade deadline from Columbus for a second-round draft pick, Vermette scored 4 goals in the series and was a pain-in-the-neck matchup for the Hawks.
It may have been a different series if Vermette had been wearing a Hawks uniform instead of a Coyotes jersey.
Bowman said Wednesday that Kane proved he could play center this season, but Kane was knocked off the puck repeatedly in the playoffs and is an all-star at right wing. That's where he should be.
The power play was a disaster all season and scored just 1 goal in the six games with the Coyotes.
Hawks fans have grown tired of wondering how a team with Toews, Kane, Sharp, and Hossa could have such a rotten power play.
It starts with the lack of a quarterback who makes proper decisions and consistently gets shots through to the net. Seabrook and his big shot is fine, but neither Keith, Nick Leddy nor Johnny Oduya is the answer at the other point.
The power play also needs some new direction, and assistant coach Mike Kitchen might pay the price with his job for a unit that finished 26th during the regular season and couldn't flip the switch in the playoffs.
Head coach Joel Quenneville is loyal to Kitchen to the point that he balked when senior advisor Scotty Bowman tried to force Barry Smith, his guy from their days in Detroit, into the mix in the last month of the season.
Quenneville allowed Smith on the ice for practice for a time, but that ended when the playoffs started and Smith returned to scouting.
Stan Bowman didn't exactly give Quenneville and the power play a ringing endorsement when he met the media Wednesday.
"The results speak for themselves," Bowman said. "They were a huge disappointment this year. The power play was unacceptable; to have the caliber of players that we do and to not have it work. Ultimately we've got to improve that and that's really a question Joel's probably better able to answer.
"It's more of a coaching thing than anything," Bowman continued. "There's a lot of different ways to run a power play and to orchestrate it, and for whatever reason ours didn't work. We need to be better in that area. There's no doubt about that. It was a season-long struggle for our team and I think more than anything you lose momentum. More than anything you want to have it be a momentum-generator, as opposed to a momentum killer within a game."
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