End may be near for Quenneville, Bowman
Playoffs. Or bust.
That pretty much sums up the message Blackhawks President and CEO John McDonough delivered a week ago at the United Center.
Acknowledging that last season "was painful," McDonough took absolutely no solace in the fact that starting goaltender Corey Crawford missed the final three-plus months of the season. In McDonough's view, that alone should not have derailed the Hawks.
That's a tough sell, though.
Losing a top-notch goalie is akin to losing a QB like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady or a baseball team losing two or three starting pitchers.
There's almost always going to be a serious ripple effect.
Looking forward, McDonough believes the 2018-19 version of his team has more than enough talent to return to the playoffs.
"Maybe this was a wake-up call that needed to happen. Internally the message has been sent," McDonough said. "We've discussed it on a regular basis. I have faith and confidence in all of these people.
"We're in the results business … and expectations since Rocky (Wirtz) took over are very, very high. The expectations for me this year is this is a playoff team. Put yourself in a position to make a run."
Bam. That pretty much sets the bar for the players, coach Joel Quenneville and GM Stan Bowman.
Last April, McDonough decided Quenneville and Bowman deserved another chance to help this franchise redeem itself. But how much rope do they have and are they feeling the heat?
"We're certainly thinking whether we're under the radar or not, after last year we have a lot of incentives internally, and expectations are still good," Quenneville said Friday when the Hawks opened training camp. "Our top guys I thought looked good. I like the way they handled themselves in the off-season and then going into camp."
The road to the playoffs only got tougher in the last few days when Vegas acquired five-time 30-goal scorer Max Pacioretty from Montreal and San Jose traded for all-world defenseman Erik Karlsson. Also don't forget that nearly every team in the Central Division made significant moves to improve and the Hawks will be without Connor Murphy (back) for the next eight weeks.
Oh, and it doesn't look like Corey Crawford will be ready for the season opener as he continues to rehab from a concussion.
It seems like Bowman must make a big move to try and keep up with the rest of the conference, but the GM said he doesn't like making "reactionary moves."
"Those typically don't go well around the league," Bowman said. "You have to do what makes sense for your team, the situation you're in. So, I don't believe in making a move just because two other teams made moves."
So are the Hawks a playoff team?
Possibly. But only if:
• Corey Crawford returns to form while starting 50-55 times.
• Brandon Saad becomes Brandon Saad again.
• Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook turn back the clock and play at levels worthy of their hefty contracts.
• Young players such as Nick Schmaltz, Alex DeBrincat, Erik Gustafsson and Jan Rutta all make significant strides.
• Someone like Dylan Sikura or Victor Ejdsell surprises with a 12-15 goal season.
If that all happens, the Hawks figure to compete for a playoff spot down the line. Those are a lot of ifs, though.
As for Quenneville's job security, I could see McDonough making a change if the Hawks get off to a putrid start or if they're something like 21-25-5 on Jan. 22. Right after that is the All-Star Game and the Hawks' bye week, which would give a new coach plenty of time to settle in.
Of course, Quenneville and the Hawks can make all of this speculation moot by doing one simple thing: Just win.
• Follow John on Twitter @johndietzdh