The trade deadline came and went Wednesday with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman giving the group he has a vote of confidence by doing nothing of significance.
Now the pressure is on Hawks coach Joel Quenneville and his players to get the job done in the playoffs with a roster that many believe is good enough to win the Stanley Cup for the second time in four years.
“Well, that’s the motivation here,” Quenneville said. “I think all year long we’ve played to put ourselves in a position where that’s what we’re competitive for, and that’s what we’re looking to try and achieve. We’ve liked our team all year and we want to make sure we go into the playoffs on a real positive note here.
“You don’t want to look any further than getting there and then you look at one opponent. We like our team in a lot of areas. The chemistry has been good with our group. The combinations up front have been pretty predictable every game as to what we’re getting out of them. The back end has been better than it’s been in the past and the goaltending has been real strong.”
Trading a fourth-round draft pick to San Jose for center Michal Handzus on Monday turned out to be Bowman’s only move involving NHL talent leading up to the deadline.
“We were focused on getting a center and we got Michal and we’re excited about that,” Bowman said. “We’ve got a lot of depth at every position, which I think he been the strength of our team all year long.”
Bowman thinks this is a roster good enough to contend for the Cup. The Hawks are 27-5-3, so it would be hard to argue it isn’t.
“We believe in the group we have here,” Bowman said. “I think we look at it like we’re a very strong team. You can never get ahead of yourself and there’s still a lot of work to do, but our goal all along was to win the division. We said that from Day One and when you do that you get home ice in the first round and that’s our objective.
“We want to finish as high as we can in the standings and keep playing a high level of hockey.”
Marian Hossa said it’s up to the players now to show management they are deserving of the support.
“We are a confident group in this dressing room,” Hossa said. “The team proved we are doing something special this year. It’s a tight group and full of confidence. We’ve had a great run so we’ll see how we are towards the end of the season. We’ve done lots of good things so far.”
Bowman said he never really came close to pulling the trigger on a major trade before the deadline other than swapping minor-league winger Rob Flick to Boston for center Maxime Sauve, who was with Providence in the American Hockey League.
“We did a lot of listening,” Bowman said. “There was a lot of talk and as you saw there was a little flurry (of trading) at the end there, but nothing we were close on. You have to listen. It’s our job to look around what’s available, but we have to ask ourselves the question: Does it make us better? To make a move just to make a move, we don’t believe in that.”
Bowman mentioned defenseman Steve Montador and winger Rostislav Olesz as two players who still could figure into the team’s plans down the stretch. Both are rehabbing injuries at Rockford.
“Montador and Olesz are back and playing really good hockey,” Bowman said. “I would venture that there no team that has two guys like that in their American League affiliate that have been NHL players for years. You add them to our young players and we’re probably 16-17 deep at forward and 8-9 on defense. You need that as the stretch run comes.”
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