Rozner: What to call Blackhawks' plan? Good question

 
 
Updated 7/28/2018 6:13 PM
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  • Chicago Blackhawks' general manager Stan Bowman speaks to the media during the NHL hockey team's convention Friday, July 27, 2018, in Chicago

    Chicago Blackhawks' general manager Stan Bowman speaks to the media during the NHL hockey team's convention Friday, July 27, 2018, in Chicago Associated Press

Just so there's no misunderstanding, John McDonough has the Stanley Cup on his mind.

And, no, this is not breaking news.

During his time as Blackhawks president, the Hawks have cashed in three times and it's the only acceptable result for the hard-driving McDonough.

But the path to another Cup is littered with land mines and sinkholes, and after collecting cap space in the Marian Hossa deal, the Hawks are taking -- what appears to be -- a wait-and-see approach to this season.

"We spend a lot of time dissecting this and making decisions that will benefit us short term and certainly long term, but our first goal is to make the playoffs, make a deep run and hopefully win the Stanley Cup," McDonough said. "Stan (Bowman) has more latitude than he's had before with the salary cap and he's got some room to maneuver. I think he'll be very judicious as to how he uses that money.

"But we recognize what's at stake. We're the Blackhawks. We understand that. We understand that we have set the bar extremely high and the fans' expectations are very high."

So this is not a rebuild or a reload?

"People talk about reloading and refreshing. I want us to rewin is what I want us to do," McDonough said with a wry smile. "That message has been sent loud and clear, but with reasonable expectations.

"Our expectations this year are to be a playoff team, and then once you get in, be in a position to make a deep run.

"Stan has a lot of resources. I have a lot of faith in Stan and Joel (Quenneville), but we're all in the performance business, myself included."

It sounds as if the Hawks will hope for a good start, health from Corey Crawford, improved performance from Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad, and something from a group of young defensemen.

If that doesn't happen, the direction remains unclear, though one would suppose some form of rebuild or -- forgive the term -- reload.

But you'll not get the general manager to offer up a convenient label that gives a columnist an opportunity to frame it.

"We don't spend any time trying to characterize what it is," Bowman said at the Blackhawks Convention. "It doesn't help our team perform better if we have a really good title for it.

"We're focused on our team and starting the season well and building and trying to win. All this other stuff, it's not gonna make a difference what we call it. We've never once had a meeting where we discussed what to call it."

Understood. Just trying to get a feel for the direction.

"What drives me is winning," Bowman said. "We've had success in the past. We know what it feels like to win. We now know what the other side feels like. The desire is there more than ever. You want that feeling of lifting the Cup.

"But you can't just dream of that. There's so many steps before that. Ultimately, that's why we do this. That's why we're here this weekend, why the fans are here. We all want to win."

And so 2018-19 is about trying to win it all again?

"If you look at Washington, all I remember from a year ago is everyone said their window was closed," Bowman said. "They got beat three years in a row by the Penguins and they traded away some players and didn't make any additions to their team.

"And they won the Cup.

"Was their window open or closed? I would love someone to explain that one to me. It doesn't make sense the way the media portrayed their window.

"It doesn't do any good to try to script out the season. I don't find value in it. I get why you try, but hockey doesn't work that way. It's not a linear progression."

Yeah, just trying to figure out if that cap space is for this year if you get off to a good start, for free agents after next season, for RFAs, or if all possibilities are open for discussion.

It sounds like the first couple months will determine the direction.

"I can't predict it and we don't spend time trying to debunk all that because it doesn't get you anywhere," Bowman said. "Even if we came up with a well-reasoned plan, and everyone thought it was a great plan, it comes down to performing on the ice, on getting better every season.

"Nashville barely gets in and goes to the Final two years ago. There's always an air of unpredictability."

McDonough put it in simpler terms.

"Our top guys have to be our top guys," he said. "Our younger players need to take a step forward. Obviously, goaltending is critical and hopefully Corey is back and in a good position.

"Once you get in the (postseason) derby, you have a chance. We find ourselves in a different spot, for the first time in 10 years on the outside looking in, and we don't want to be there again."

As for what to call it as you look to the upcoming season, you're entirely on your own.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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