Rozner: Blackhawks not only team in West making moves

  • The acquisition of Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk six weeks ago has made the Minnesota Wild a formidable foe in the West.

    The acquisition of Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk six weeks ago has made the Minnesota Wild a formidable foe in the West. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 3/2/2015 10:59 PM

If you had asked Western Conference general managers a week ago, most would have said what they did back in October. That the road to the Stanley Cup still goes through Chicago and Los Angeles.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the NHL trade deadline.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Kings, who had been the hottest group in the league, lost three in a row and are hovering near a playoff spot, and, of course, the Blackhawks lost Patrick Kane.

And that gave several teams in the West the belief that this thing might be wide open.

The Hawks did well in acquiring Antoine Vermette, Kimmo Timonen and Andrew Desjardins, adding a two-way center, a depth defenseman and some size and edge to the lineup, while giving an energy boost to a team that was lifeless even before the Kane injury.

That doesn't include Trevor van Riemsdyk, who shouldn't be too far away from a return to Chicago, not to mention Johnny Oduya and eventually Kane.

In the meantime, GM Stan Bowman said the Hawks can't worry about surviving long enough for Kane to arrive and save the day in the conference finals.

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"Right now he's not an option for us, and we have to focus on the guys that are here," Bowman said. "The guys that are here are hungry to make a charge and we certainly want to keep winning so that Patrick can get back on the ice, but you have to focus on what's here and the guys that are ready to play now.

"Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup, so obviously the timing for that, Patrick would be back. But we don't want to think too far ahead. We have to plan for the stretch drive and push for the playoffs, but the focus is right now.

"That's the mentality you have to have."

As for reported trouble among the squad, Bowman insisted there's no truth to any of it.

"I've never had a more unified group," he said. "I'm with these guys a lot, at home and on the road. We've never had more cohesiveness."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

They'll need to be together and fighting for one another as the West -- which is always a brutal postseason test -- did not get any easier the last few days with teams trying to close the gap.

Anaheim had the most interesting week of any team that poses a threat to the locals, adding two skilled forwards in Jiri Sekac and Tomas Fleischmann, and defensemen James Wisniewski, Simon Despres, Korbinian Holzer and Michael Sgarbossa, with the very talented Sami Vatanen (lower body) about three weeks away from returning.

The Ducks needed depth on defense, and Wisniewski immediately improves their power play.

Minnesota is the most dangerous team in the league that nobody wants to play right now, having soared into the final playoff spot. The big move six weeks ago was acquiring goaltender Devan Dubnyk, which has completely turned around a season that was going nowhere.

They added depth in Sean Bergenheim and Jordan Leopold and potentially a huge piece in Chris Stewart.

He is big and fierce and has top-six ability, having led the Blues in scoring just a couple of years ago. If he wants to play and he's in the right situation -- he's playing for a contract, by the way -- he could be a monster, though you never know what you might get with Stewart.

Winnipeg gave up nothing to get Jiri Tlusty and Lee Stempniak and last month picked up highly regarded defenseman Tyler Myers and winger Drew Stafford in the Evander Kane blockbuster.

The Jets are big and mean and fast. If they can stay out of the penalty box, they will not be fun to play in the first round.

With little room to maneuver, the Kings added an underrated defenseman in Andrej Sekera at the heavy price of a first rounder and Roland McKeown. Still, a solid addition for Los Angeles.

Nashville made their big deal a few weeks ago, picking up Mike Santorelli and Cody Franson, so they didn't feel the need to do anything the last couple of days.

St. Louis added defensive depth and insurance with Zbynek Michalek and Robert Bortuzzo, but Michalek is out with a concussion for the time being. Bortuzzo gives the Blues some anger on the blue line.

So the Hawks may not have had the best trade deadline in the West, but they did add some desperately needed pieces, and they have six weeks to get it back together in time for the postseason.

They seem destined to face the Blues again in the first round and that will be a nasty battle, and the only certainty is they are better today than they were after losing Kane last week.

Now they've got to show it on the ice.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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